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.”