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HomeBusinessSooke could name new CAO on July 24

Sooke could name new CAO on July 24

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Bob Mackin 

District of Sooke, rocked by years of management turmoil, could begin a new chapter July 24, when council is expected to announce a new chief administrative officer (CAO).

Sooke district hall (Sooke.ca)

Mayor Maja Tait said council is tentatively scheduled on July 24 to rise and report — or disclose the outcome of closed-door meetings — about the CAO selection process. 

“This is all I have to share with you at this time,” Tait said by email. 

A report earlier this year for the capital region’s westernmost municipality, by consultant Jonathan Huggett, took top-to-bottom stock of the history of internal upheaval. CAO Norm McInnis was diagnosed with cancer and replaced on an interim basis by Don Schaffer in May of last year on a contract that lasted until March. Huggett recommended hiring a new CAO as soon as possible. He advised that the candidate must be readily available, experienced in motivating senior staff to work cooperatively with key stakeholders and must possess extensive experience in B.C. municipal government.

The Sooke CAO posting, which expired May 25, said Sooke “aims to retain its small-town, semi-rural character while undertaking significant strategic growth.” Applicants were to contact consultant Paul Murray directly.

Jeremy Denegar (LinkedIn)

A source said that council endorsed Murray’s recommendation to hire Lillooet CAO Jeremy Denegar. Tait and Denegar did not confirm or deny. Denegar said he could not discuss the matter because the Community Charter protects information discussed by councils in closed sessions. 

“This information that you’ve heard should be considered a rumour at this point,” Denegar said. “But if you see something on Monday, please do call me back or email me back.”

Denegar was Esquimalt’s information technology manager from 2007 to 2013 and director of corporate services for Summerland from 2013 to 2019. Denegar’s Lillooet hiring was announced in November 2019 at the same time that his husband, Kevin Taylor, was named Lillooet’s director of corporate and development services. Council adopted a policy on supervising spouses that shifted certain responsibilities from the CAO to the mayor in an effort to avoid a conflict of interest. 

Denegar said Taylor reports to him for operational matters, but under the special policy, the mayor handles performance, discipline and salary matters.

Murray is the former finance chief and interim CAO at Central Saanich who spent more than 13 years at District of Saanich. He was CAO during his last two-and-a-half years at Saanich until late 2014, when he was dispatched with a $476,000 golden parachute after Richard Atwell won the mayoralty. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner investigated a spyware system that was installed on district computers near the end of Murray’s tenure. It found that the district collected personal information of staff and citizens without their knowledge. 

Sooke is also in the middle of hiring for a general support clerk, chief building official, lead engineering technologist and emergency program manager.

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