Are there grounds for dismissing the City Clerk?

By Pepper Parr

December 2nd, 2021



In the municipal world the Clerk used to reign supreme.

The person holding the office had years of experience and understood the needs of the people and knew both the strengths and weaknesses of Staff.

Like most things, the administrative needs grew and people with better educations and stronger administrative skills began to be hired and grew into becoming CAO’s or City Managers.

Kevin Arjoon came to Burlington from Halifax

The position of Clerk remained: bylaws require the signature of the both the Mayor and the Clerk before they can be declared.

When a new Clerk is hired the first task for the new hire is to get the lay of the land: what exists in the way of staff; get to know the members of Council; take a hard look at what there is in the way of Governance policies and scour the outstanding Staff Directions.

Staff Directions are documents that instruct staff to perform specific tasks and report back to Council.

They are debated at Council meetings, written into the minutes and with web casts, now archived, are available to the public.

To say the 2018 Staff Direction related to the issuing of taxi licenses was lost is (a) not true, (b) rank incompetence and (c) a sign of some pretty deep rot somewhere in city hall.

Kevin Arjoon, current city Clerk.

When a Staff Direction doesn’t get followed up on, it can lead directly into the hearts of the lives of people.

The lack of a taxi service limits in an often severe way the way some people live their lives.

This isn’t the place to dissect those instances.

This is the place to ask the current Mayor and Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman what they have to say about the Staff Direction that can’t be found.

Both have been on Council since October 2010 and were in the room when the Staff Direction was created and voted upon.

Time for a heart to heart talk involving the Mayor, Councillor Sharman and the City manager about what to do about the current Clerk.  This one can’t be blamed on City Manager Tim Commisso, he wasn’t an employee in 2018.  However, he did hire the current Clerk.

Some feel there are grounds for dismissal.

What is not acceptable is the cover up that appears to be taking place.

There is a very competent Deputy Clerk in place – a staff position Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan wanted to get rid of to save about $150,000, but that’s another story.

Related new stories

New city Clerk

Managing an at times fractious council

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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6 comments to Are there grounds for dismissing the City Clerk?

  • Howard

    I agree with most of the published points especially the thought process by the writer. The optimal thing to do is identify the director involved in that request to return to staff for review and to return to council. The CM is accountable but he has someone else that is responsible. If that individual did not bring it forward when he conducted his information gathering then it gets quite hard to understand what is gong on. i do not know all the players at the senior leadership team but that is certainly where you need to do some digging Pepper.

  • The old and new Clerk are responsible for ensuring there is a follow up system in place to make sure all Council decisions are put in place.The new Clerk’s first job was to pour over the previous 4 year’s minute books and see if the previous Clerk had done her job. The Mayor as Head of Council and CEO is responsible for keeping an eye on Council decisions to ensure they are implemented. Not difficult when they are recorded in minutes and she has a team of people to help her keep her eye on the ball..

    Council are the decision makers staff beginning with the Clerk ensure those decisions are implemented. That being said every member of Council needs to be on the alert as to what directives/decisions are outstanding. . It’s called doing the job you have been elected to do and for the most part cannot be removed from except through an election no matter how lousy a job you do. The two Clerk’s since the 2018 directive was given are responsible and need to be held accountable. There are more, and worse, situations to be addressed over the next little while where more 2018 and 2014 Council decisions met the same fate……..and hard to believe, have even more mpact on the taxpayer. Thank you Burlington Gazette for taking on the real issues that affect the Burlington community regardless of one’s political stripe.

  • Jim Thomson

    “Early in 2019, staff formed a small team to look into the bylaw review and removed the motion from the regular reporting list, with a plan to report back to council on progress. That report back didn’t happen,” sad Meed Ward.

    This from Inside Halton shows that people were supposed to be working on it in 2019. So Tim Commisso dropped the ball. Either that or he doesn’t know what his staff is doing.

    Big question is why council allowed the motion to be dropped from the regular reporting list.
    Why did the Mayor allow that to happen? She wasn’t newly elected to Council so should have known better.

  • Perryb

    the COVID era started in March 2020. I suspect the new City Clerk had plenty to do as well as getting the lay of the land on top of looking for what’s obviously fallen through the cracks.

  • Jim Thomson

    Let me get this straight. Tim Commisso was appointed Interim City Manager in Jan 2019.
    Kevin Arjoon was appointed Clerk in Feb 2020.

    So how come Tim Commisso isn’t to blame? Shouldn’t he have found out what Staff Directions were in force when he started work? He had 13 months to find out before the new Clerk was hired.

    Shouldn’t Commisso have had people working on the Staff Direction during those 13 months?

    In fact since the Staff Direction was issued in May 2018, shouldn’t the former City Manager already have had people working on it?

    I don’t see how this is a problem caused by the new City Clerk.

    • Mary Hill

      I’m with you, Mr Thomson.

      What a bizarre thought process by the writer.

      Surely the people to be brought to account are the former City Manager and the former City Clerk who should have both executed the direction and included the item in their briefs to the new administration.