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County ‘ends relationship’ with CAO

James Hepburn

Effective immediately, James Hepburn is no longer Prince Edward County’s Chief Administrative officer.

“The relationship has ended,” said Mayor Steve Ferguson, Monday afternoon, shortly after the announcement was made by the municipality.

The reason for the departure is not being discussed “on the basis of confidentiality and respect for all parties,” the mayor said. He was clear, however, there was no criminal activity related to the announcement.

“There is nothing nefarious about this,” said Ferguson. “We want to be respectful of all parties and certainly wish James all the best going forward.”

Hepburn has held the position for the past four years following the departure of Merlin Dewing in 2015. Dewing was fired by council after three-and-a-half years because his “leadership approach no longer aligns with the vision of the current council.”

Stating he would not go into the specifics of Hepburn’s new three-year agreement signed in May 2018, Ferguson stated the municipality learned a lot from Dewing’s departure.

He said taxpayers will not be on the hook for the remainder of the approximately half a million dollar contract. Hepburn had been earning about $175,000 annually. Dewing’s last salary was more than $234,000.

“A lot was learned from Dewing’s contract and precautions were taken to make sure that any contract with any employee with Prince Edward County would not expose the taxpayer to liability,” said Ferguson. “Council took steps to ensure that the municipality would not be exposed in that way again in any employment agreement.”

The CAO role is the highest administrative position within the municipal structure and provides administrative oversight to the corporation. Hepburn has held a senior management position since starting with the municipality in October 2008.

“We appreciate the contributions James made to the municipality, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavours,” said Ferguson.

The municipality will begin the search for the next chief administrative officer immediately.

“My focus and council’s focus is to locate the interim person and make sure staff is supported, our residents and businesses are supported; leading to the appointment of the most qualified person that we can identify through an extensive job search…It may take time; it may not take time. We want to deal with this as soon as possible.”

“We are confident the municipality will continue to run smoothly during this transition.”

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  1. Michelle says:

    Well there are only a a handfull of locals if that left on Council.

  2. Emily says:

    He led Council thru the intense budget process and provided invaluable guidance. One might feel used in retrospect.

  3. Chuck says:

    James provided great financial guidance to Council. He deserved better.

  4. Dave says:

    I like James and I am sure he was trying to do the “right thing” but politics got in the way.

    The “friends and family” system of county employees has to stop. That is why they can’t lay anyone off, they won’t get re-elected if they do!

    PEC is totally over staffed. You don’t need a consultant to figure that out.

  5. k.b. says:

    He understands local politics. He is of, and from the County. He understands economics, diversity and needs in this ever-changing landscape. He has integrity. I hope he considers running in the next election.

  6. Steve Staniek says:

    Susan says:”I feel the Mayor needs to come clean on this move. We can’t fire CAO’s after every election. Public doesn’t need the dirt but we need transparency, which our Mayor campaigned upon.”

    Political “transparency” in the County would be a long overdue, revolutionary change that would liberate the hearts and minds of those who want to live here, ETHICALLY. How can you possibly expect PEC government to suddenly change it traditional culture of political darkness, wake up to the truth about its real role in Canadian history, and become transparent. Transparency is not known in the County.

  7. Mike Rodgers says:

    Speaking to a county employee recently he was wondering what the extra snow plow drivers they hire will do in the summer. He said it was hard enough to find enough work for the present employees. Either over staffed or poor management, you make the call.If there is a problem with over staffing at the bottom of the pile, the top of the pile is likely worse. Efficiency experts would either confirm or deny our thoughts.

  8. james says:

    And wasn’t what Mike Rogers outlines actually Mr. Dewing’s mandate? When he tried to implement that mandate, Mr. Dewing was fired — at the taxpayers’ extreme cost which Shire Hall refuses to reveal.

  9. Fred says:

    Merlin Dewing did just that for the County. He then got fired and they rebuilt particularly Economic Development.

  10. Mike Rodgers says:

    Right on the mark MI
    Typical government, upper management empire building to justify salary increase. This county needs a efficiency consultant to come in do a study of the workforce from top to bottom, then follow their recommendations. This what the private sector does every 10 years or so to see if they are top heavy or light then react accordingly.

  11. MI says:

    Is this really the only way they can deal with the salaries in Shire Hall? How many people does Economic Development employ while having no money for significant events in the County? All spent on salaries?

  12. Susan says:

    I feel the Mayor needs to come clean on this move. We can’t fire CAO’s after every election. Public doesn’t need the dirt but we need transcparency, which our Mayor campaigned upon.

  13. Michelle says:

    Another dark day on the reputation of Shire Hall. This has happened to far too many good employees. The Mayor needs to provide taxpayers with some reasoning without jeopardizing any legal action which could follow.

  14. Gary says:

    So the last 2 councils shortly into their terms have dismissed CAO’s back to back. And contrary to the County saying it will not cost taxpayers, I say nonsense! When you dismiss a top employee there are always costs associated. Bigger question is why we cannot keep skilled Managers and why we are so corporately weak at the leadership level.

  15. james says:

    If there is no criminal activity concerning Mr. Hepburn, then why even suggest the topic? Could we be making this suggestion to cover someone’s butt, especially after ignoring Mr. Hepburn’s advice not to put into place a support programme for beginning farmers and then in addition, transferring some farm taxes onto non-rural taxpayers?

    Merlin Dewing was hired in part to get County expenses under control along with organising a structure for County business. When he made moves to enforce this, an employee complained to a councillor who started a successful action to fire Mr. Dewing.

    The multiple references to Mr. Dewing are the result of his being clever enough to recognise the mentality of those for whom he worked. Mr. Dewing then insisted on clauses in his contract to protect against whimsical dismissal, and some council members were upset with his having out-smarted them. I recall mentioning Mr. Dewing’s dismissal to him and he laughingly stated he thought he had protected himself against unwarranted dismissal; guess he had.

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