The MD of Bighorn administration building in Exshaw.File Photo/Rocky Mountain Outlook

The MD of Bighorn received a passing grade acting on recommendations from a 2022 governance audit.

Out of 41 recommendations, administration reported the MD has started on all of them and marked more than half complete.

“I think it’s important to be accountable on all the information we’ve been trying to collect on how we can do a better job here,” said Reeve Lisa Rosvold at a Jan. 30 governance and priorities committee meeting.

“I think it’s really awesome that we have worked really hard as council and with the administrative team to work through this list and it’s definitely part of our council’s success story for this term.”

The audit, completed by consultant George Cuff & Associates Ltd. at the request of the MD, reported council and administration appeared to be “caught in a significant cultural shift” at the time.

The 2021 municipal election saw two councillors, including then Reeve Dene Cooper and Erik Butters retire after a combined 30 years in public office. Former councillor of 19 years Paul Ryan also received fewer votes than new councillors Jen Smith and Joss Elford, who were elected to represent Ward 1. Elected for Ward 4 was Rick Tuza and acclaimed for Ward 3 and Ward 2, respectively, were Paul Clark and Rosvold, who was appointed reeve.

Clark and Elford have since resigned and Alice James was acclaimed in a byelection for Ward 3 in June 2022 and Steve Fitzmorris was elected for Ward 2 in October 2023.

“The former ways are unacceptable to the new council and the administration leadership appears caught in the whirlwind of new ideas,” the 2022 governance audit report stated. “This new council is portraying a different agenda than past councils; a different vision if you will. However, we suggest that not much will change (that needs to change) unless council and administration come to grips with the essence of their roles and their current relationships.”

Several recommendations from the report reference the CAO and oversight of the role, its relationship and responsibilities with respect to council, and administration and council working to build trust within the organization and community.

At a special meeting of council in October 2022, a month before the Cuff report was released, the MD removed its CAO of five years Robert Ellis. It appointed then director of finance Shaina Tutt as acting CAO, then Frank Besinger as interim CAO, and later, Tutt assumed the role full-time.

The audit suggested a succession policy be developed for the position as well as adopting a council-CAO covenant, urging both parties to clarify their relationship and commit to fulfilling their respective roles appropriately.

“This speaks to the need for an improved understanding of the role of the council and CAO and the anticipated treatment of that role by the reeve and councillors,” it stated.

A covenant was signed in July 2023 by Tutt, Rosvold and Couns. Rick Tuza, Alice James and Jen Smith, and endorsed under the CAO’s contract.

“We’ve worked really hard at improving how we approach governance and we have been very successful in developing a positive relationship between CAO and council, and the adoption of the CAO and council covenant I feel is a great success on both sides of the table,” said Tutt.

“I look forward to continuing to work on this as an active item.”

The report also highlighted the need for the MD to address staffing deficits and its organizational structure. It noted the absence of a human resources role is an issue for staff who may need to report personal issues and feel reluctant to report such matters without someone wearing an “HR hat.”

The MD is acting on the recommendation and currently hiring for a human resources and payroll coordinator, who would report to the director of corporate and community services.

The audit also recommended the CAO request an HR plan be developed that outlines the CAO’s projections for each department’s needed staff, updated annually. This is marked as a work in progress with the MD still searching for a candidate to fill the HR role.

Tutt noted several actions still in progress, or marked as in progress, will by their nature remain ongoing.

For transparency, Rosvold suggested those that are expected to remain ongoing be marked for clarity. She pointed to one recommendation that council and administration work to improve morale and “creating a new culture” in the workplace as one example.

“We’ve set that as complete but it’s also ongoing, so I just think that if we were to review this again it would be good to have [a list] highlighting where we’re always going to be working on it,” she said.

By Jessica Lee, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Feb 15, 2024 at 16:52

This item reprinted with permission from   Rocky Mountain Outlook   Canmore, Alberta

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