Saanich CAO subject of conflict investigation in former role

Saanich council says it was aware of the investigation when Andy Laidlaw was hired

District of Saanich chief administrative officer Andy Laidlaw was investigated over an allegation of conflict of interest in November of last year when he filled the same role for Campbell River.

Lawyer Richard Grounds conducted the investigation for Campbell River but no action taken as a result of his report has been made public.

Campbell River announced in January that Laidlaw was retiring, with Saanich council hiring the CAO on an interim contract soon after. Saanich launched its newest hiring campaign to replace Laidlaw on July 14, retaining the services of Boyden executive hiring agency.

Current Campbell River Mayor Andy Adams said he is bound by confidentiality agreements and that this issue involves “in-camera” information that will not be released to the public.

“The mayor (Adams) is correct, my retirement was my decision,” Laidlaw said. “I enjoyed my time in Campbell River and believed I left on good terms with the mayor and council.”

Laidlaw must have been referring to the current mayor because he said he didn’t have such a good relationship with the previous mayor.

“I acknowledge the final three years was difficult as the relationship between the mayor and the rest of council was dysfunctional in that he would not accept direction from council,” Laidlaw said.

In a press release, Saanich council made a point of clarifying that they were in fact aware Laidlaw was subject of a conflict of interest investigation when they hired him.

“We wanted to be totally transparent about how the appointment of our current CAO (Laidlaw) was done,” said Coun. Susan Brice. “We’ve been very, very pleased with the service of (Laidlaw), and any of the issues related to his appointment in Campbell River we were aware of. That occurrence was not considered a (holdback) from hiring Mr. Laidlaw, and we’re pleased that we did.”

Adams did say that the decision to retire was made by Laidlaw and was not connected to the Grounds report. Adams wouldn’t say anything more about the report but he did emphatically endorse Laidlaw and the work he did for nearly four years for the City of Campbell River.

The investigation centred around Laidlaw’s business relationship with a consulting firm, Jerry Berry Consultants Inc., which provided services to the City of Campbell River. The investigation was to look at whether Laidlaw was paid for services he provided to Jerry Berry in circumstances where he had a role in awarding city contracts to Jerry Berry Consultants Inc.

Former Campbell River mayor Walter Jakeway said the investigation report was delivered to him and his council for a brief look at a meeting after last November’s civic election, but because the newly elected mayor and council was taking office shortly afterwards, the report was taken back from the “lame duck” council to be given to the new one.

 

“The previous council saw it for one hour (in) the two weeks between the election and the new council taking office,” Jakeway said.