Council stands firm on CAO hiring

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

The Town of High Prairie is standing firm on its decision to hire Sherry Poole as its new CAO despite several citizens who voiced opposition to the hire at its June 28 meeting.
Several citizens also warned council of possible repercussions – all of them negative – if they did not change their mind, and alluded to the errors in Poole’s resume.
Council agreed to hire Poole starting July 4 by a 4-3 vote at its June 14 meeting. Mayor Brian Panasiuk, and councillors John Dunn, James Waikle, and Therese Yacyshn voted in favour while councillors Donna Deynaka, Sacha Martens and Judy Stenhouse opposed.
In all, 23 attended the meeting, many speaking against the decision. Not one spoke in favour.
Delegate Tammy Kaleta called Poole’s error in employment history at the former M.D. of Big Lakes as “padding the years” adding “it has nothing to do with anything other than integrity. I knew Sherry had only been here for two months.”
Poole has still not responded to requests from South Peace News explaining the errors. The second error occurred regarding employment history at Vulcan Country.
Michelle Strebchuk also appeared. She asked council if an applicant could not fill out a resume without making errors, how could they manage a municipality? Strebchuk also expressed concern over Poole’s published remarks toward Martens, who first disclosed the errors before council’s vote.
“Throw a councillor under the bus” was how Strebchuk described Poole’s comment, while commending Martens for researching the matter.
Linda Cox expressed concern over the hiring process. She said there were multiple rounds of attempts to hire a CAO. The first time, no suitable candidate was chosen. The second time, Cox said, Poole did not apply but her resume was taken from the first list of candidates.
At the meeting, no member of council disputed Cox’s claim.
It was also revealed that Martens did apply for the CAO position in the first round of resumes, but not the second.
Seesee Mouallem, co-owner of Boondocks Grill, also expressed concern over the errors in the resume.
“If I’m sending in a resume for a CAO, it better be damn perfect,” she told council.
Mouallem added she did not want her tax money used for payouts if the worst occurred.
Later, Strebchuk appeared again and asked for Poole’s salary but Panasiuk refused to disclose any details of her pay.
However, the Town of High Prairie had already gave an indication of Poole’s salary to South Peace News. In an email June 24, interim CAO Brian Martinson responded to rumours of Poole’s salary being close to $200,000.
“I can assure you that the new CAO’s salary in the contract is within the Town of High Prairie’s pay grid,” wrote Martinson.
“The grid for the town manager/CAO position is from $121,674 to $145,538.”
Before the meeting, Strebchuk approached the mayor and all councillors about the issue on social media.
“We, the people, ask that you repeal the motion [to hire Poole]. You are elected to do the will
of the people. Listen to your citizens.”
Only Dunn replied and clearly responded on behalf of council and not himself with the use of the word “We”.
“We made our decision based on information gathered from her references, the work that she has accomplished in the past 10 years. . .I am concerned that people have chosen to not to look at what she can do and have focused on rumours of her past and mistakes she made in her resume. Take some time to consider all the information.”
It was the first public acknowledgement of mistakes on the resume made by Dunn, Panasiuk, Waikle or Yacyshyn.
Strebchuk questioned the mistakes and expressed concern over Poole not addressing the errors when asked.
“Once again, I will take ongoing success over a 10-year period over errors on a resume,” wrote Dunn.
“The individual needs to be given the opportunity to show her skill set without bias. Unfortunately, she has not been given that opportunity,” he added.
Council did go into closed session to discuss the matter after the delegations left. Strebchuk wrote on her Facebook page she was promised the issue would be addressed after the closed session June 28.
South Peace News also reached out to all members of council for comments after the meeting regarding the delegations but did not receive any replies for publication. South Peace News also asked if council was standing firm on its decision to hire Poole and the reasons why and received no answer.
The announcement of Poole’s hiring posted on the Town’s website was not removed as of July 3, the day before she begins work.
After Cox’s appearance as a delegation, Panasiuk replied.
I think we’ve heard the message.”
Earlier, Cox warned council telling them were placed under administration by the Alberta government previously.
“It will happen again.

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