Process to replace Cobourg’s CAO

When CAO Stephen Peacock went on medical leave, Ian Davey was named as Interim CAO but only for 6 months.  Human resources was then asked to report on the options to hire a replacement and that report was provided at Tuesday’s C.O.W. Council meeting.  Although Stephen is on “medical leave”, any replacement would be on an “extended interim basis” for 24 months.  This implies that Stephen is not expected to return to work for at least 2 years.  The options are pretty much what you’d expect for any recruitment to a senior position – Council is expected to “provide direction” to staff on which option to use, presumably before the 6 month period is up.  When asked, HR Officer Melissa Henke said that 3 to 6 months would be about the right time required to go through the recruitment process.  Susanne Séguin seemed to prefer to wait 3 months before deciding – “so we can see how it goes”.

Stephen Peacock; Ian Davey
Stephen Peacock; Ian Davey

In addition to the implication that Stephen won’t return for at least 2 years, another fact is that Stephen told me earlier in the year that he planned to retire by the end of 2019. He talked of spending time on his farm.  I can’t see him returning at any point so these recruitment options are really for a new long-term CAO.

Five Options

See the report in the link below for full detail but here is a summary with benefits and drawbacks for each option.

Option 1 – Hire an External Search Firm
Benefits are specialized experience and knowledge in hiring senior executives in the public sector and provides strategies such as referrals, direct contact, company database of past recruitments.  Expert experience in leading the recruitment and hiring process.
Drawbacks are a cost of $25K to $30k plus lost time while getting three quotes.

Option #2 — Conduct the Recruitment Process Internally
Benefits include low cost and that Human Resources staff, in conjunction with Town Council, have knowledge and understanding of the corporate culture and the specific knowledge, skills and experience required.  It would also save time.
Drawbacks to consider: the number of applications may be limited and internal resources are limited.

Option # 3 — Hire a Consultant (Expert or HR) to assist Council in Hiring the Chief Administrative Officer
As in option 2 but with a consultant assisting Council directly.
Benefits – slightly lower cost than option 1 and less time required from councillors
Drawbacks: the exact cost is not known since no quotes have been obtained.

If option 1, 2 or 3 are chosen, Melissa recommends that Council appoint a CAO Hiring Committee comprised of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and a Councillor.

Option #4— Maintain Status Quo — Extend the Current Interim CAO role for a defined period and postpone hiring until a later date.  That is, keep Ian Davey in the role and put off hiring for a permanent position.

I am unable to decipher what the benefits and drawbacks of this option are – see the full report available at the link below.  It makes me wonder if there is hidden information.

Option #5— Do Not Hire a CAO
There is no legal requirement to have a CAO, only a Clerk and a Treasurer.  (Although Melissa does not mention it, I note that Port Hope does not have a CAO, just Department Directors.) The obvious drawback is the extra work load this would place on councillors.  There would also be less overall direction and some re-organization would be required (I understand that currently the Fire dept., human resources, economic development and communications report directly to the CAO).

If options #4 or #5 are selected by Council, Melissa recommends that Council hold a closed session meeting to provide direction to staff “as the discussion would include personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees and labour relations or employee negotiations.”  I can guess what this means but it would be a guess not fact.

There is a lot of fuzziness in these recommendations and there will no doubt be a lot of behind closed door discussions involving employment issues which are understandably not public.

Meanwhile on the surface of it, Ian Davey has two jobs.


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4 years ago

Would I be correct in assuming that “medical leave” is financially better than “retirement”?

Miriam Mutton
4 years ago

News at 89.7 Northumberland recently reported that the Port Hope budget review is including discussion of hiring a CAO.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Miriam Mutton
4 years ago

Local CAO positions are dynamic. Prince Edward County fired their CAO and has hired a Toronto consulting firm to search for a replacement. The City of Belleville fired their CAO in June and hired a replacement in July. Brighton fired CAO Watson (formerly of Cobourg) and replaced him in February. Cramahe terminated their CAO in June and appointed an interim CAO. In July the CAO for the Municipality of Trent Lakes resigned.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
4 years ago

I would vote for option #2 and give it a few months? I’d like to think that Ian Davey may be able to handle things, till the New Year? From what Ken has said, I take it that this is a very important job and possibly a very ‘high stress’ posistion?