Letter: Termination of Two MNBP Staff Without Cause – Consider These Important Facts Before Completing Your Ballot

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Since April 7, 2020, we have been biting our tongues regarding the timing and termination of two staff members without cause. Given the recent events (Deputy Mayor Debbie Myles Violated Code of Conduct – Fined a Month’s Pay) we can no longer bite our tongues. 

Consider these important facts before completing your ballot on October 19th.

Terminations without cause were executed by Council (the CAO had resigned) shortly after Cheri Hofstrand’s mother, Deputy Mayor Myles (who will be referred to as DMM) had brought “negative” attention to Council with her inquiry to the Integrity Officer.

For more details regarding this inquiry go to https://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/news/local-news/integrity-commissioner-clears-nbp-council-members-in-code-of-conduct-investigation

Council Meeting Agenda April 12, 2021 includes the full Report of the Integrity Commissioner.

We can speak with confidence regarding one of the two terminated employees, Cheri Hofstrand.

Cheri had worked for the Municipality for over 12 years. At the onset of the pandemic, Cheri was terminated without cause by Council during a time when the CAO position was vacant. One can ponder the timing when the new CAO was assuming their duties 13 days later. At the August 8, 2022 meeting, attendees would have heard Mayor McIver say the “CAO is our employee”. Why did Council execute two terminations on April 7, 2020, when the CAO’s position was vacant? In the normal course of operations, Council would not be involved in employee terminations.

Prior to termination, Cheri’s most recent performance review stated she performed at successful or high achiever levels in every category. She completed her Diploma in Municipal Administration. Cheri received a mark of 98% on the Human Resources component and a cumulative course grade of 82.5%. Cheri completed her OACA Primer on Planning Course and had recently completed her Parliamentary Meeting Protocol Course.

In the January 27, 2020 minutes “Mayor Mclver congratulated Mrs. Hofstrand on her accomplishment noting that the Municipality is pleased to see staff advance themselves”. 

Cheri received an e-mail from Councillor Megan Myles on January 24, 2020… three days before the complaint by Cheri’s mother was made public.

“Hi Cheri, Just read about you completing your PMCP course with 97%! Way to go! I haven’t forgotten our conversations from the fall. I would love to see a full HR review, with updated performance review procedures & employee engagement surveys, so l’ll continue to advocate for these things! Have a good weekend, Megan”. 

Councillor Megan Myles was quoted (Agenda April 12, 2021 item 22 page 14) “I became aware of the performance issues with Ms. Hofstrand and the tenuous relationship with the former CAO soon after being elected…” This comment is neither founded nor supported. Cheri’s performance reviews did not document these performance issues. 

Taxpayers’ funds were used for these terminations which included severances, legal fees and training three staff before filling Cheri’s position. The amount would likely be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The personal cost to staff and their families and lost friendships, as staff were instructed by Council not to contact Cheri, can’t be quantified.

Coincidentally the January 27, 2020 agenda included the inquiry to the Integrity Commissioner, by Cheri’s mother (DMM), asking “is it appropriate for the CAO and members of council to attend a free dinner and free Attack hockey games with free food and drinks, from a company who is doing consulting work for the Municipality”. The CAO resigned January 27, 2020.

Recently Council decided to follow the Integrity Commissioners’ recommendation regarding the complaint brought against DMM. Previously Council had given Councillor Mielhausen a “pass” for an infraction serious enough to be brought before a judge. (See the Agenda and Minutes of December 13, 2021)

Following the August 8, 2022 meeting, a Councillor was questioned regarding the difference in the application of the Integrity Officer’s recommendations regarding Councillor Mielhausen and DMM. The response was that DMM had brought this on herself and that it was “just a hockey game”. It appears that DMM was held to a different standard than Councillor Mielhausen because of the complaint she had brought to the Integrity Officer in January 2020.

As publicly elected officials one would expect members of Council to be capable of setting their personal feelings aside. Allowing personal feelings to interfere with Municipal decisions has the potential to negatively impact both staff and taxpayers, not only on a short-term basis, but also on a life altering basis.

Our current Mayor is a Bruce County Council member. This article describes Bruce County Council’s conduct as atrocious https://www.bayshorebroadcasting.ca/2022/02/07/judge-condemns-bruce-county-conduct-as-atrocious-finds-southampton-rectory-property-purchase-in-breach-of-trust/

Respectfully submitted,

Wayne and Angie Myles