Town hired ‘best candidate’ despite nepotism concerns

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

The hiring of the CAO’s son caused quite an uproar at the Town of High Prairie’s meeting Feb. 13, but council is standing firm behind the decision saying he was the best candidate for the job.

And, more importantly, CAO Bill McKennan kept himself away from the interviewing and hiring process.

Lori McKay was first to ask questions and heard in fact the hire was the CAO’s son.

“That is nepotism,” she told council adding it was also bad optics.

“Why was a family member hired instead of other candidates?” she asked.

“The optics don’t look good,” she added, repeating herself.

She was also concerned that the CAO would have influence in the decision.

Mayor Brian Panasiuk supported the hire.

“People in small towns are often related,” he told McKay and the gallery.

Later, Ron Shunter also questioned the hire.

“We need to talk about the Town’s hiring practices,” he said, adding he was concerned that the CAO’s son was placed in a financial role (accounts payable and development clerk), which he described as “not right.”

“The hiring practices warrant some additional discussion,” he added.

CAO McKennan asked the public to refrain from personal attacks. Panasiuk assured the gallery the CAO’s son was the best candidate, adding he scored very high in the hiring appraisal process.

“For the Town we want the best candidate,” said Panasiuk.”

But Shunter replied the very presence of the CAO might have influence over the hiring decision.

“You don’t think they (Town staff) won’t hire the CAO’s son?” he asked.

South Peace News reached out to McKennan about the hire last fall after receiving several phone calls. McKennan responded in an email Sept. 6.

“Due to recent staff turnoff (turnover), numerous positions have been advertised. A family member of myself (my son) had applied to one of these positions (accounting and development clerk). Given that I was aware that he may be applying, I excluded myself totally from the process. The interview questions, process and interviews were concluded by the manager of roads and Shanda (Dumont), with no knowledge or involvement by me. To my knowledge three candidates were interviewed. This position will be back filling the accounts payable role Shanda had been performing. Shanda will be directing, training, and supervising the accounting and development clerk. This new position (accounting and development clerk) is the consolidation of two former positions of accounts payable and development clerk.”

Later, Dan Vandermeulen replied the Town should have brought in an independent party to help with the hire.

“This is very poor optics,” said Vandermeulen, added the hire undermined public confidence.

Later, Darcy Foster spoke. He also called the hire nepotism.

“It’s embarrassing,” he told council.

McKennan added near the end of the meeting that his son was “by far the most qualified candidate” among all applicants.

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