Former Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly (left) and Westlock County Reeve Bud Massey Photo: Westlock News
Former Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly (left) and Westlock County Reeve Bud Massey Photo: Westlock News

Former Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly has been hired as the Chief Administrative Officer for Westlock County, Alberta, the Westlock News reports.

The town of Westlock is about 85 kilometres north of Edmonton, and has about 5,000 people, the county Reeve, Bud Massey, told the Examiner today. (A reeve is the equivalent of a mayor.) He said the entire county has just 7,000 people.

The politicians in such a small county all have day jobs, and so it was difficult to reach the councillors for comment. Their listed phone numbers are for their homes or businesses, and my first five calls went unanswered. But Councillor Mel Kroetsch answered, and we discussed Kelly’s hiring.

Kroetsch told me that Kelly will be paid $140,000 annually. I asked Kroetsch how Kelly’s past involvement in financial scandal played into the council’s decision to hire Kelly, but Kroetsch didn’t know what I was talking about. I patiently explained both the concert scandal and the Mary Thibeault estate scandal to Kroetsch, and he asked intelligent and good questions, seeking details like how the city could have a moribund bank account that no one knew about, and how and when the Thibeault heirs were paid.

After a lengthy conversation, I emailed Kroetsch various documents related to the the scandals, including the auditor general’s report on the concert scandal and my own investigative piece that revealed Kelly’s problems with the Thibeault estate.

Before I called him, Kroetsch knew nothing about those issues at all. He had never heard of them.

Five minutes after I got off the phone with Kroetsch, Massey, the county reeve, called me back.

“I thought we had hired a competent individual,” Massey told me. “But with all the phone calls I’ve gotten today, I now know we hired a celebrity and a competent individual.”

I asked Massey about Kelly’s financial scandals, and he said “we had been notified. We knew about the concert scandal and the problems with the will. But I’m reluctant to use the word ‘scandal.’ I refer to them as issues. After 26 years of public service, anyone would have a couple of issues.”

How is it, I asked Massey, that your council was informed about the issues, but Mel Kroetsch didn’t know anything about them?

“I think Mr. Kroetsch just didn’t want to talk about them, and preferred to let the county reeve be the media person,” he said.

Well, no, I said. I was just on the phone with Mr. Kroestch for half an hour, and we discussed the issues in detail, and he said repeatedly he had no idea about these issues. He asked me to email him information about them, even.

“Well, I’m not going to contradict a councillor,” said Massey.

Massey said that the former CAO had retired, and the county hired James R Craven and Associates, a BC firm, to head hunt a replacement. Over 100 people expressed interest in the position, said Massey, and “we had 60 excellent candidates, with four finalists.”

Massy said that Kelly will usher in “a new era of change.”

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. Considering the short life span of CAOs, and the epidemic levels of dysfunction in small town Alberta government, Mr. Kelly will probably not be around in Westlock for very long. It also appears Mr. Kelly does not have very good negotiating skills. $140,000 seems to be on the low side of the average for CAOs in Alberta. Tim, you may be interested in this link:
    It shows the list of all Municipalities in Alberta in the last couple of years that have been inspected by the Province for dysfunction.

  2. You are a good sleuth Tim, keep up the good work and don’t let up, there is always more to these ‘issues’ than meets the eye.

  3. Crime is not a crime when it’s a white collar crime. We’re only aware of the “issues” that were publicized. If the province had established a public commission to investigate, we could be aware of many more such issues.

  4. I’m torn about this. I’m not a Peter Kelly fan, I thought he was a fine small town mayor (before amalgamation) but sadly over his head in a bigger pond. On the one hand, I’m thinking this is verging on persecution, because really is it our business what he’s doing now that he’s no longer in the public eye?
    On the other hand, I don’t believe he’s ever paid, or is even truly sorry, for his most offensive crime, that of the abuse of trust in the will issue. And I think for the most part, second chances should be given–IF someone has paid their debt and shown remorse, and Kelly hasn’t met that condition, so why shouldn’t his past catch up with him. I’m on the fence.
    I do find it interesting that apparently the Westlock County Reeve and his council have communication issues–I’m sure Kelly will fit right in.

  5. Peter Kelly has found a kindred spirit in Bud Massey, the County Reeve. Little wonder Councillor Mel Kroetsch was not informed; he would have asked questions about the potential and/or selected applicant, as would any conscientious councillor. Don’t we average folks mentally question and evaluate key public announcements, ones in which we have even minimal involvement?

    Mr. Kroetsch, taken off guard, asked these two vital, relevant questions of you:

    (1) How could a municipality have an opaque bank account [oversight? complicity? incompetence?] and (2) how and when probate heirs were paid [speaking to Kelly’s fulfillment of legal and ethical responsibilities].

    As water finds its own level, so, obviously, do failed, corrupt politicians. Am sorry for the collegial betrayal Mr. Kroetsch (and possibly other councillors) must feel, but doubt he’ll accept the situation passively or quietly.

    Bud Massey deserves censure. He owed consultation and transparency to his Council. Autocrats are a vanishing species.

  6. Is there to be no mercy for Mr. Kelly . .. surely he deserves a second (third) chance. My question,”Given how long he was mayor, does he not get a pension? If he does then he obviously needs even more money or is he just up to a challenge.?”

  7. Mr. Kelly will bring world-class service to the tiny community. I bet they can’t wait for their first big outdoor concert!