Mayor Greg Dionne said that he doesn’t have the “hit list” that’s rumoured, but there is one individual he’s out to get.
Ever since Robert Cotterill was abruptly released from his contract as city manager on Sept. 9, someone has been contacting out-of-scope city employees with a rumour that they’re on a “hit list” of people the city’s elected officials are aiming to fire.
“I want that person,” Dionne said of the instigator, adding that this person is giving undue stress to city employees and their families. “To me, I think that’s the cruelest, meanest thing to do to anyone.
“The vicious cruel rumours in our community like that is not acceptable to me … I think that’s awful. That’s not the way to do business. That’s so unprofessional.”
On Tuesday, Chris Cvik, whom city council put in place as interim city manager during Monday’s city council meeting, announced the release of community services director Greg Zeeben.
This exacerbated the rumours, Dionne said, prompting him to write a memo to city employees that there is no pre-meditated hit list of employees he wants gone, and that he’s seeking the person responsible for the rumours.
The letting go of Cotterill, Zeeben and last year’s release of economic development and planning director Joan Corneil, were isolated incidents, Dionne said, adding that he can’t say for certain whether more employees will be released.
“I can’t say ‘no,’ strictly because we have over 600 employees, but that will be totally on performance. It won’t come off a hit list,” he said.
“Council did and never will have a hit list. That just doesn’t make any sense. We don’t like you -- you’re gone. Why would we put you on a list?”
Although Zeeben’s release wasn’t made official until Tuesday, his seat was vacant during Monday’s city council meeting.
“I was part of the negotiations early with Greg Zeeben to see if I could straighten out the issues, because there were a few issues -- not just one,” Dionne explained.
By Friday, Dionne left the negotiation, leaving things up to the acting city manager.
The city’s elected officials have only three direct employees that are under their employ – the city manager, city solicitor and city clerk.
My goal is to hopefully find someone with council, in Saskatchewan, so we’re going to only advertise and do our search in Saskatchewan. Mayor Greg Dionne
Everyone else, including Zeeben, operates under the city manager.
But, Dionne notes that city directors are required to work directly with city councillors.
“If that interaction does not work, then council of course leans on the mayor, and the mayor meets with the city manager,” Dionne said. “If they can’t correct it, then action is taken, and that’s what we did.”
“What saddens me is I was really looking forward to working with Greg Zeeben, because he really does have some good ideas and I believe he can still add value to the city, but unfortunately we could just not work it out.”
No single incident resulted in either Cotterill or Zeeben’s dismissal, Dionne said.
“It was an ongoing conflict,” he said. “It wasn’t something that blew up overnight, where we had a secret meeting and put a list together. It just finally came to a head, and enough was enough, and we decided to move on.”
City recreation manager Jody Bolay has been appointed acting community services director, Dionne said.
When it comes to filling the city manager and community services director positions, Dionne said that the city will look closer to home than they have in the past.
“My goal is to hopefully find someone with council, in Saskatchewan, so we’re going to only advertise and do our search in Saskatchewan,” he said. “Do we have to go outside our organization to fill these two positions?”
Also under consideration is a restructuring of the community services director position, Dionne said, noting that with the position vacant the city has the opportunity to look at restructuring it.
Zeeben left city hall with a severance package, which Dionne declined to share the specifics of on Tuesday. According to the city’s 2011 payroll figures, Zeeben’s salary was about $115,000.
Cotterill was released with 11 months’ salary, costing the city approximately $170,000.