By Trevor Busch
Following a split vote, Taber town council has opted to hire a headhunting firm to secure a candidate for the open financial director position rather than trust administration to complete the process in house.
At their May 13 meeting, council voted 4-3 to authorize the engagement of Hire Standard to assist with the search and selection of the town’s new director of finance, and authorized an expenditure of approximately $20,000 for this service to be allocated from operating reserves. Coun.(s) Randy Sparks, Laura Ross-Giroux and Rick Popadynetz opposed the motion.
“It’s a normal practice, and by the way I think this is a good idea,” said CAO Greg Birch, prior to the vote. “But all of that was done without an actual resolution, and as you know, you can only really act with a resolution or a bylaw. Through emails and telephone conversations you’re all — at least the majority — on side with this.”
Administration and the town’s human resources department had already been involved in seeking out a candidate for the position — including extensive advertising for several weeks — which was vacated following the resignation of former director of corporate services Dale Culler earlier this year.
Sparks attacked what he considered to be a waste of taxpayer dollars, considering administration had already been involved in the process of seeking a new candidate.
“I understand it’s probably a good idea, but administration has already put a lot of hard work into this, and they’ve got names already,” said Sparks. “Hire Standard is charging the town the full meal deal here. A lot of the labour has already been done, and I don’t believe that $20,000 is a price that is right, because most of this work has already been done by administration. They’ve got names that are going to be handed over to them, so I don’t believe this $20,000 is a price that I can live by. I understand why this is done, but all we’re really wanting to make sure of as a council is does this finance officer have accreditation. To have that, I don’t understand why it’s going to cost $20,000. That’s a lot of money for that. So at this point, I understand this, but I won’t support the motion.”
Birch acknowledged Sparks’ fiscal concerns, but noted contracting the firm would allow the town to potentially access a larger pool of candidates for the position.
“Because of the way they advertise and the resources they bring to the table, the pool of potential candidates should be bigger. We made the point that Mr. Sparks has made, but they thought that it would be worthwhile for them to do that, to access a broader range of candidates, which I assume is council’s interest. We had 24 applicants, and we’ve handed that material over to them. They emailed all those candidates to say they’re now looking after the process.”
Council had previously requested administration investigate the option of engaging a headhunting firm to assist the town with hiring a new director of finance. The request was made during the in camera portion of a previous meeting, and in subsequent emails between council and CAO Greg Birch, as well as discussions between Mayor Henk De Vlieger and CAO Birch.
As a result of this communication, the town entered into an unofficial agreement with Hire Standard, but is still required to legitimize the contract publicly through a bylaw or resolution.
“In the process, they do investigations, background checks, interviews, and narrowing down as per the criteria that is outlined by the town,” said Coun. Joe Strojwas.“So there is a process involved that they do follow through with those candidates.”