Taxpayers deserve answers on CAO firing

Ending Anne Yanciw’s contract cost Smithers taxpayers $96,413, yet Council has made no explanation

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) can be a hazardous profession.

“It’s kind of a hockey coach syndrome, so there’s a lot of turnover in CAOs this year, I’ve seen,” said former Smithers CAO Anne Yanciw about her dismissal in January.

It’s a great analogy. Sometimes you have to let the coach go.

And she is right, there is always a rash of these firings when municipal elections come around.

It makes sense, elected officials, especially newly elected ones, are buoyed by a fresh sense of a mandate from the people and bureaucrats make convenient scapegoats, just as hockey coaches do.

The problem is, in this case it cost Smithers taxpayers $96,413, more if you factor in the costs associated with finding a new top bureaucrat.

Council has given no explanation.

All we know—unpublishable rumours notwithstanding—is that she was terminated without cause, hence the big payout.

That is not acceptable.

We’re not saying it wasn’t the correct thing for council to do.

We’re not even saying it wasn’t worth the hundred grand to change course.

We’re not saying those things—or the opposite of those things—because we just don’t know.

When council makes these kinds of moves, they inevitably hide behind in-camera sessions, cite privacy and protect themselves with non-disclosure agreements.

That isn’t right.

Yanciw was let go without cause, from which we must infer through no fault of her own.

Similarly when she was let go from the Village of Valemount, they conducted an administrative review—something a former mayor characterized as “a little bit of a witch hunt”—that found no fault with the administrator.

Smithers council was unconcerned when they hired her in 2015. Ashcroft, where Yanciw is now CAO, had no problem hiring her a month ago.

They must know something we don’t.

Just because council was not able to find fault, does not mean they didn’t have their reasons.

It is our right as taxpayers to know what those reasons were.

We should demand nothing less than complete transparency.

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