South Peace News
The Town of High Prairie and former CAO Sherry Poole have reached a settlement over her termination.
“There was a payout,” said Mayor Brian Panasiuk at council’s July 26 meeting.
“I don’t know what the legal costs were,” he added.
High Prairie resident Michelle Strebchuk asked council what the payout was during the public delegation portion of the meeting prompting Panasiuk’s disclosure.
After the meeting, South Peace News also requested the payout and/or settlement.
“WRT [with regard to] the settlement paid to Ms. Poole, I have been advised that we not disclose the settlement at his stage, and request a formal FOIP [Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy] request before releasing the information,” writes Interim CAO Hermann Minderlein in an email July 27.
South Peace News submitted a FOIP request to the Town of High Prairie before noon July 28 but had not received a reply at the time of office closure the next day before the July 30 to Aug. 1 long weekend. The request was for the cost of the settlement, cash and/or otherwise.
The Town has plenty of time to abide by the request. The Government of Alberta’s website says, “Public bodies [in this case, the Town of High Prairie] has an initial time period of 30 calendar days to respond to a FOIP request, but may take additional time as may be allowed by the FOIP Act and/or the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.”
Minderlein disclosed none of Poole’s legal costs were paid by the Town. As for the Town’s legal costs, he said they would be disclosed.
“I cannot confirm our precise costs until we receive our invoice for those services,” he wrote.
“I will provide the exact figure once we receive that invoice.”
Council’s hiring and subsequent firing of Poole has stirred anger in the community and prompted council to reverse its decision after several citizens appeared as public delegations demanding answers.
On June 14, councillors Donna Deynaka, Sacha Martens, and Judy Stenhouse opposed the hiring of Poole while Panasiuk, and councillors John Dunn, Waikle, and Theresa Yacyshyn approved. At the meeting Martens brought forward inaccuracies on Poole’s resume. At least two were confirmed by South Peace News. Poole did not respond to the inaccuracies when provided a chance and still has not.
At the June 28 meeting many citizens appeared before council upset with the decision and voiced concerns.
“I think we’ve heard the message,” said Panasiuk told the delegations.
Council subsequently held several special meetings to deal with the matter including June 27 where Stenhouse made a motion to rescind the offer to hire Poole but defeated. A recorded vote was not requested.
However, a fourth special meeting since June 14 was held June 30 starting at 11 a.m. and ending at 11:38 a.m. Motions did arise from the meeting. In a recorded vote requested by Martens, the motion read: “That written notice be given to Sherry Poole pursuant to the Municipal Government Act of council’s intention to terminate her employment and appointment as the [CAO] due to the false information contained in her application and corresponding impact on the Town’s reputation and her ability to succeed in the role of CAO.”
The vote was unanimous and clearly indicated the reason involving errors on Poole’s resume. It was a complete about-face from the four who previously voted to hire Poole. It took them 16 days and several special meetings to change their minds.
Council also made a second motion at the meeting. They agreed to a fifth special meeting July 4 “to discuss negotiations” regarding Poole’s termination. It was supposed to be Poole’s first day of work.
The first motion was the appointment and probationary period of Poole made June 14 be terminated effectively immediately. The vote was unanimous.
The second was Panasiuk be authorized to work with legal counsel to finalize details of Poole’s termination. The vote was unanimous.
The third was council direct administration to bring back three ‘head hunter’ proposals to council for consideration. ‘Head hunter’ is the term given to organizations which research potential CAO candidates. Only Waikle opposed.