The firing of the city manager: Tacky is perhaps the best that can be said about the way this is done.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

December 5th, 2018



Here is how it was done.

Wearing chain of officeMayor Marianne Meed Ward called a Special meeting of Council for 3:00 pm on Tuesday December 4th.

She had the right to do that.

She would have had to get every member of this new council to agree to a waiving of the rules regarding Notice of Meeting.

The Gazette was not made aware of any notice of meeting nor was any other media that we checked in with.

The agenda for the meeting is set out below.

Ridge fired - council meeting

The way this was done raises a number of questions.

There was no report to Council.  There was “verbal discussion”

There was no video.  Given that the Mayor knew she was going to take Council into a closed session perhaps there was no need for video.  But that is not the point.  Process matters.

In the media release the city did not say that there was a Special Meeting of Council and the Mayor did not say a word.

The “banana republics” in parts of South America and Africa work like this.  We don’t do this in Canada.

There were many good reason to end the City Manager’s contract – at what price is a good question to ask.

Five people who didn’t have even 24 hours of experience as city Councillors take part in the firing of the chief administrative officer that they had all met during the campaign.

Tacky is perhaps the best that can be said about the way this is done.

The minutes of the meeting have yet to be published on the city web site.




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23 comments to The firing of the city manager: Tacky is perhaps the best that can be said about the way this is done.


    No problem with the decision. However, the method in which it was handled is indeed “tacky’.

  • Centerline

    Not surprising by any means, and not the first time either. I recall a previous City Manager who resigned no sooner than when Cam Jackson was sworn in. He knew he could not and would not work with him.The City Managers Office door has been revolving ever since.

  • Roger

    Correct decision – totally agree – MMW is the mayor – it is what she heard when talking to the voter – Using city legal resources to silence citizen groups was not acceptable – this was the right decison

  • Scott Peter

    Brutal start to the new Mayor and Council. The city manager was extremely professional, a person of integrity and one of the best the City of Burlington had! This seems very much like a revenge move by the new mayor… Much the way premier ford works! I find it very hard to believe that was all the new members of council made this decision on their own. I fully believe they were swayed or bullied by the new mayor, which is very unprofessional!

    • Lucy

      Revenge? Swayed or Bullied? Unprofessional? Seriously? Mr. Ridge was part of the ‘group’ at City Hall that the residents held responsible for the poor development decisions being made in the growth of our city. The election made clear the new direction the citizens desire–development without over-intensification. Yes, the majority of us approve of the action taken to replace him. I imagine, the developers will not be as happy as the residents about this.

  • Kevin

    Awesome job by Mayor Meed-Ward.
    But why stop at James Ridge ?
    The Mayor should put the entire top floor on notice, like Laura Boyd who also thinks she’s untouchable & Leanna Sneddon just to mention a couple.
    Mayor Meed-Ward was elected democratically in a very dirty election, & good for her.
    I’m a past employee of the City of Burlington of almost 20yrs, & she’s done more for Burlington than just about any other Mayor I’ve seen in the city.
    Keep up the good work Mayor Meed-Ward

    • Scott Peter

      Kevin, you are not the only person that’s has worked for the city. You are completely wrong in your statement. The mayor cannot put anyone on notice they do not have the Doherty power to fire anyone except the city manager. I have worked with MMW and completely disagree with your statement. I personally think she’ll be nothing but bad for the city.

      If I hazard a guess I am guessing you as well were “let go” by the city. That that I applaud and congratulations whoever did that and released you!

      • rob n

        Not as sharp as some on this thread… can you please explain ‘Doherty power’?
        The best I can find is a power amplifier…

        • Lucy

          Mr. Peter must be referring to this-the term should be “Daugherty”. The document details what the seven tests (questions).

          “The award by Arbitrator Daugherty which is generally
          recognized as the first decision to formally set out all of the
          seven tests of just cause was in the matter of Enterprise Wire Co.
          and Enterprise Independent Union and was issued March 28,
          1966 (46 LA 359).
          This award is universally recognized as the “classic” on the
          subject, and has been referred to in thousands of subsequent
          discipline awards. In addition to setting forth the seven tests in
          the body of the award, Arbitrator Daugherty also included the
          seven tests in a separate Appendix for ready reference. The
          tests appear as questions which the arbitrator must answer in
          the course of reaching his decision. Theoretically, a “no” answer
          to any one of the questions means that the discipline imposed
          was improper.”

  • Stephen White

    Having spent 40 years working in Human Resources I can attest to the fact that this was absolutely the best way to handle this situation. Private employment and labour relations matters should never be discussed or aired in public. This is done not only to preserve confidentiality but also to safeguard the rights of the individual who is the subject of the discussion.

    As for the decision itself suffice to say it was the right one and long overdue. You can’t have a City Manager whose perspective, views and interests are not aligned with those of the Mayor and Council. The City Manager sets the general tone and direction of the organization. Change the leaders, change the players, and you are well on your way to changing the corporate culture, and that is really what the recent municipal election was all about.

  • Tom Muir

    This of the way the system works. Employee and Labor relations matters are confidential by law.

    City Managers work on contract at the pleasure of the employer, led by the Mayor.

    They move around because of political factors and changes. This is nothing new or novel. That is a fact of their professional lives.

    This treats Mr Ridge with the respect and dignity that he deserves. Simple and clean and likely foretold.

    No dirty laundry to drag around after the fact.

    Back to business.

  • Don Fletcher

    From what you’ve described, I would use adjectives such as necessary, quick, strategic and humane. Tacky doesn’t come to mind. If Ridge was on a contract (with a likely early termination provision) I’m not sure why employee severance would be a concern to some of your readers? Over my 40 years of executive corporate experience, I have regretably terminated 100s of employees, and trust me, there is really no perfect way to decide upon/ execute/ communicate this type of action.

  • Fred Crockett

    The right decision was made.

  • steven craig gardner

    welcome to the MMW term of office. Will we find out how much this cost ius in severance or are we not allowed to as all we do is pay taxes?
    Any comments yet like Ford/Trump I am Mayor of Burlington and i can do what i want?

    • Hans

      Is there a leader who surrounds him/herself with people that they don’t trust and respect? If so they don’t last long.
      I would have terminated his employment too; the silly “I’ve got your backs” comment from Ridge to city staff recently was close to insubordination and certainly implied that he felt that he was above Council’s control. And his arbitrary exclusion of a legitimate news medium from city hall certainly required a public explanation, if there was one.
      Severance? Unless there was actual “cause”, I would expect that he would be paid for the rest of his contract employment term.

      • Scott Peter

        Hans, A professional would want to be surrounded by the best people possible. Professional needs to put their personal issues aside to have the best people working for them. James Ridge is the best!

        As for the comment “we’ve got your back” the city manager is the leader of city staff. When a person running for council or in this case mayor makes an incorrect and false statement about firing staff we’re getting rid of the department the city manager does need to step up and assure stuff but that cannot happen. Mayor and council do not have the authority nor power to fire city stuff. That is the role of the city manager. For the city manager to support staff their exactly what they need to do…it’s their job. Please learn how to municipality works before you open your mouth and you too spread false and incorrect statements.

        Editor’s note: Question to the former city hall staffers. Agreed that the city manager is the only person who cab fire a staff member – who does the deed when there isn’t a city manager. I am pretty sure that authority does not devolve to the Deputy.

        Your responses will be interesting.

        • Scott Peter

          As they have to have an “acting” city manager it would fall to whomever they appoint. If they appoint the duty it would go to that person. If they appoint someone other than the duty it would be that person.

        • rob n

          If Mr. Ridge ‘is the best’ in your estimate, I have to ask what your measuring stick is.

          I never worked with, or for the man, but from what I read, and from talking to others who interacted with him, he was far from the best in term of having an open, unbiased mind set.

          • Hans

            I was wondering the same thing, about criteria. I recall a Gazette report describing how Ridge advocated for a high rise developer at a public meeting – he didn’t seem to understand his role very well.

  • Julie Wilson

    Pepper, your comments are a little overwrought at best. Comparing this “confidential employee matter meeting” process to the way things are done in a “banana republic” is way out of line. In fact, you answer your own questions within the context of your article. The mayor is acting within her purview and frankly it’s high time entrenched city officials are put on notice. I applaud the mayor for her swift action.

    • Scott Peter

      Judy, you seem to be yet another uninformed person on how the city works. As for entrenched staff… far from it! City staff are constantly being picked head hunted by other cities due to the high level of skill the staff has. Why don’t they stay you might ask, easy Burlington has one of the lower paid staff in Southern Ontario. The staff do a great job and follow council directives. YES, council directives. My question is how did the other council member know who to vote about a person thay have NEVER worked with?? Maybe some arm tidying by the new power hungry Mayor

  • Hans

    There is nothing “tacky” about dealing with employee or labour relations matters in a closed meeting. Their confidential nature would require it.