UPDATE: Saanich CAO Paul Murray out, councillors oppose actions taken by Mayor

Mayor Richard Atwell met with Murray prior to official appointment Dec. 1 to discuss Murray's departure

  • Wed Dec 17th, 2014 5:00pm
  • News

Saanich’s top bureaucrat is no longer an employee with the municipality in a move that will cost taxpayers nearly half a million dollars.

The announcement was made last night at the start of a public hearing and circulated in a press release this morning (see below). Murray’s total compensation package comes to $476,611, including nearly $56,000 in accrued vacation time.

“The newly elected Mayor and Council of the District of Saanich together with the District’s Chief Administrative Officer have mutually agreed to end their relationship effective December 16, 2014,” the release states. “As this decision involves confidential information regarding personnel, no further comment will be made.”

It was also revealed that councillors unanimously passed a motion at a Dec. 8 in-camera meeting to state that they “do not support actions taken by Mayor Richard Atwell whether as Mayor-elect or Mayor, with respect to he ongoing employment of Paul Murray.”

Atwell said that motion refers to a conversation he had with Murray as Mayor-elect.

“It was a very short conversation done in my office. I invited him in for a discussion about moving on and that started the proess of him thinking about leaving. Council looked at it and decided they would negotiate his departure,” Atwell said.

“Where council has difficulty is I made this initial contact with Mr. Murray as Mayor-elect, and I think they expected that to come to council first,” he said.

Atwell said the $476,000 severance package will be paid out of several funds, but couldn’t immediately provide specifics.

“$55,000 of that is accrued vacation,” Atwell said. “There doesn’t seem to be a limit to how much vacation a senior manager can accrue.”

When asked about the unanimous councillor motion opposing his actions, Atwell said he sees himself in an oversight role within the municipality, and that voters gave him a mandate for change at the ballot box.

“That means getting new ideas into the organization. A new CAO will be able to implement some of those ideas that I campaigned on.

“There will be councillors interested in maintaining the status quo … but change is often difficult and there are costs to moving forward,” he said.

Finding a replacement for Murray will take place over the next four to six months, and an interim CAO is expected to be appointed soon, Atwell said. Senior staff have been handling Murray’s workload since he took vacation last week, Atwell said.

On Tuesday, a memo signed by Atwell and councillors was distributed to Saanich staff which committed council to working “as a cohesive team” despite the recent upheaval.

“Council commends you for your ongoing commitment and dedication to Saanich and our citizens and appreciates your patience during this time of change,” the memo states.

editor@saanichnews.com

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FULL RELEASE:

Media Release

For Immediate Release December 17, 2014

Staff Announcement – Mr. Paul Murray

Saanich, BC The newly elected Mayor and Council of the District of Saanich together with the Districts Chief Administrative Officer have mutually agreed to end their relationship effective December 16, 2014. As this decision involves confidential information regarding personnel, no further comment will be made. The District thanks Mr. Murray for his service, and wishes him every success in his future endeavours.

At the December 8, 2014 in-camera Council Meeting the following motion was supported unanimously by Councillors:

That Council does not support actions taken by Mayor Richard Atwell, whether as Mayor-elect or Mayor, with respect to the ongoing employment of Paul Murray as Chief Administrative Officer of the District of Saanich.

This in-camera meeting was the first opportunity for the entire Council to discuss Mayor Atwells actions regarding the employment of Mr. Murray. Council through the above motion raised its concern and objection to the activities and the process that was undertaken by the Mayor without knowledge or agreement of Council. The actions taken by Mayor Atwell left Council with no viable options other than to proceed to end the employment relationship with Mr. Murray. Council is also concerned about the financial impact the Mayorsactions have had on the citizens of Saanich a total payment of $476,611 (inclusive of accrued vacation of $55,448). This equates to 0.50% of taxation money that cannot be used for other initiatives of the municipality.