A divided Rocky View County (RVC) council voted 5-4 to appoint Al Hoggan as the County’s new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) during a regular meeting Dec. 11, despite concerns regarding a preliminary review recently undertaken by Municipal Affairs (MA) in Kneehill County – where Hoggan served as CAO from 2013 until he announced his resignation Oct. 17.
Kneehill County was informed Oct. 30 of MA’s decision to proceed with a preliminary review, investigating concerns identified by a petition signed by approximately 1,100 residents from a population of 5,000.
Paul Devos, the representative of the petition, said Kneehill County residents questioned the municipality’s decision-making process and the “my way or the highway” climate created by Hoggan.
“We felt that a lot of the decisions being made by council were being completely steered and orchestrated by the CAO, and we felt there was not enough opportunity for constituents and residents to weigh in on some of the decisions that they were making,” he said.
Although RVC issued a press release Oct. 17 announcing Hoggan’s appointment, the Municipal Government Act (MGA) mandates a resolution from council before the employment is official – requiring a majority vote. In a motion to table the appointment, Coun. Kevin Hanson said the information council has been made aware of since that time could impact RVC’s credibility if the appointment is approved.
“The information is serious, and a decision will be made by MA in the coming month,” he said. “As such, I’m asking my colleagues, can we not hold off until then, to make sure Mr. Hoggan is clear and rest assured that we have done our proper due diligence?”
After his motion was defeated 5-4, with Reeve Greg Boehlke, Deputy Reeve Al Schule and Couns. Mark Kamachi, Kim McKylor and Daniel Henn opposed, Hanson raised concerns with the hiring process.
The majority of MA and MGA hiring procedures were followed when Rick McDonald was hired as interim CAO, according to Hanson, but not for Hoggan’s appointment.
“Somehow, we failed to follow this process with our search to fill the permanent CAO’s position,” he said. “For some reason, the reeve sought to shortcut the process and instead of working through the personnel recruitment firm…who we had contracted for our recruitment search, and instead of working with our council’s employment lawyer, decided over the course of a weekend to offer the candidate the position in an overly detailed offer letter, without a resolution of council.”
Under the leadership of the interim CAO, Kamachi said, council did its “due diligence” – interviewing as a council and choosing potential hires. However, McDonald admitted the “normal process” would have seen a council resolution prior to entering an agreement with the selected candidate.
“Generally speaking, those agreements, those negotiations, are subject to council approval. That approval is what we’re asking for today,” he said. “Are we a little bit behind? Could be…we probably should have had a resolution earlier, but today, we can address that matter and move forward.”
Boehlke said he felt the proper procedure had been followed in hiring Hoggan, but acknowledged council “forgot” to pass a resolution before the contract was signed. He maintained nothing untoward occurred during the hiring process, that no shortcuts were taken – and added news of MA’s review of Kneehill County broke after Hoggan made the shortlist for the position.
“Frankly, anybody with common sense knows the reeve or any one councillor can’t run off and hire a CAO on their own,” Boehlke said.
Recent conversations with both Hoggan and Kneehill County’s reeve have confirmed for him that the right choice was made, Boehlke added.
“I’ve discussed it with Hoggan,” he said. “I asked him directly, ‘Is there anything we should know about here?’ and he said, ‘Absolutely not.’ I said, ‘You are aware that if there is something that comes up that points to you and there’s a problem, you don’t have a job. You’re dismissed without any remuneration.’”
Ultimately, Hoggan’s appointment as RVC’s CAO was confirmed by a vote of 5-4, with opposition from Couns. Crystal Kissel, Hanson, Wright and Gautreau.
Hoggan assumed the office Dec. 17 – and in the meantime, MA will continue its preliminary review in Kneehill County. In an emailed statement to the Rocky View Weekly, Jennifer Burgess with MA said the investigation will involve examining municipal documents and conducting interviews with councillors, the CAO and petitioners, which were scheduled for Dec. 6 and 7.
“We take the inspection process very seriously – there are a number of steps to go through before we begin a formal inspection,” the statement said. “With Kneehill County, we’re at a preliminary stage of this request – there hasn’t been a formal inspection ordered at this time.”