COUNCILLOR RANDY MATHESON RR # 3, Newport, Nova Scotia. B0N 2A0 Phone (902) 757 – 2508 email: email@example.com
Attention: HRDA Board Members, Town and Municipal Councillors for the towns of Windsor and Hantsport and the Municipality of West Hants
Subject: Termination of the Executive Director of HRDA I want to begin by asserting that I fundamentally oppose dismissing employees “without cause”. Natural justice dictates that all employees be given reason for their dismissal. I am proud to say that Municipality of West Hants has never terminated any employee without cause in the 22 years that I have served on West Hants Council. Those of us not on the HRDA Board don’t know the reason for Mr. McGinn’s dismissal. The problem is neither does he. I firmly believe that every employee deserves due process and not the “here is your letter there is the door treatment”. I have reason to believe that the Board does not have the proper paper work to justify Mr. McGinn’s dismissal. I suppose it is not necessary when dismissing “without cause”. In fact, I do not believe the board ever conducted a proper evaluation as laid out in Policy 15 on Page 13/14 of the Employee Manual7.
We know from the minutes of an Executive meeting held on June 18, 20101 that Mr. McGinn passed his probation which I will speak to later. The passage from the minutes is shown below.
So something must have happened between June 18 and December 7 when he received his letter of dismissal. During that period there was no formal or informal evaluation nor were there any documented reprimands. In that period, he gave a presentation in Halifax attended by Warden Dauphinee and Deputy Warden Cochrane who reported to West Hants Council that it was exceptional. They reported that others attending the meeting also used superlatives to describe his performance. We know that, for the first time, our RDA exceeded the expectations as set down by the province. This was acknowledged in the HRDA Board’s minutes January 5, 20118. c) Mid Year Review Evaluation As a result of the evaluation conducted, the Hants RDA has exceeded expectations as outlined in the “Nova Scotia Association of Regional Development Associations (NSARDA) Annual Review Evaluators Handbook 2008”, and has qualified for operational core funding for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. Confirmation of specific funding allocations will be provided in mid January 2011. It was identified that this was the result of a team effort by staff and that the Chair of the board should express appreciation to staff for their efforts.
Mr. McGinn was the leader in the above team effort. Those achievements are recent and significant. More reason for the Board to inform Mr. McGinn of any short comings and relay to Councils that all was not well. I have put a lot of time into this issue and from my research I am firmly convinced that Mr. McGinn is, in fact, a good employee and the Board has serious competency issues. I will make my case as succinctly as I can. Mr. McGinn was informed of his dismissal on December 7, 2010. It is important to remember that only the Board can terminate the employment of the Executive Director. On December 6 at a special HRDA Board meeting an in camera session was held. Staff and resource people were not present and it is believed that Mr. McGinn’s dismissal was discussed. The minutes of December 6 were requested at the regular board meeting on Wednesday, January 5, 2011. They were not submitted. It was odd that an explanation as to there whereabouts was not given even though the board member responsible for the minutes was present. Stranger still is that minutes of such importance were not rushed to the office the next day, the 6th nor were they there when I went to the RDA office on Friday January 7. They were sent to the office on the evening of January 7, coincidently just a few hours after I was in the office looking for them. The Board member responsible for the minutes said they were sent to the Chair on December 7, but the Chair said he did not know why the minutes were not brought forward. On December 1 the HRDA held an in camera session and the office received the minutes the next day. Minutes dealing with such a drastic measure should not have to be “tracked down”. They are important legal documents and should be secured in the office as soon as possible. The mishandling of the minutes is unacceptable, and seriously damages the credibility of the board and breeds unhealthy speculation. The content of the minutes2 is even more bizarre. The meeting is called to order twice. Once by the Chair and again by motion! They then held an in camera session with one member in attendance by phone. This is clearly a breach of protocol. One wonders if other absent board members were given that option. When they came out of camera they made the following motion: To ratify what was discussed in camera and give Gordon Dickie and Rick Gaudet direction to proceed according to the discussion that took place in‐camera.
That is not a motion to dismiss and ratifying an in camera discussion doesn’t cut it. I believe that, with no motion to dismiss, Mr. McGinn is still an employee of the HRDA. I have scoured the HRDA minutes and nowhere can I find a motion to terminate Mr. McGinn’s employment. Next, the board didn’t follow their own policy. Apparently, they consulted a lawyer and may have followed the letter of the law, but what about their own by-laws? If the Board does not follow its own by-laws then it is incumbent upon the funding partners to insist that they do. The only references to termination in the Employee Manual7 occur on Page 14/17 where they talk about corrective discipline:
And on Page 15/17 Termination of Employment:
The key words are “are” and “shall”. The purpose of an Employment Manual is to strike a balance between protecting the organization and ensuring that employees get fair treatment. I would consider it an act of bad faith, if the board is trying to use legalese to circumvent their own by-laws. It would make a mockery of the Employment Manual and their by-laws. In the HRDA letter3 to Cheryl Chislett, CAO of West Hants, dated January 17, 2011, it is stated that Mr. McGinn’s probationary period was extended twice, but there was no probationary period. There was no reference to a probationary period in motion from the minutes of October 7, 20094 appointing Paul McGinn as Executive Director. Nor is it found in the HRDA Employment Manual7, although Mr. McGinn has since recommended that such a policy be put in place. There is no mention of a probationary period in Mr. McGinn’s offer of employment5. I don’t think Mr. McGinn would leave his job in Newfoundland and sell his house to come to Nova Scotia to go on probation. The Board had to know there was no probation. After all it is the board that requests probation. They were making up the rules as they went along. I feel deceived by the statement that Mr. McGinn’s probation had to be extended twice. In March 2010 a board member was one of a number of candidates to submit a proposal to the Board concerning a property to be rented by the Board. The board member was not on the short list presented to the Board by the Executive Director. Correctly, the board member did not participate in the decision on the rental property. On Mr. McGinn’s March 2010 evaluation it was noted that he misdirected the Board in that conflict of interest ruling reasoning that the board member should have been allowed to participate in the decision because he did not make the short list. I think you’ll find that the Board is clearly wrong and a conflict was correctly identified by Mr. McGinn.
A common theme in my research was that the Board micro managed. That’s an opinion which is supported by the minutes of November 3, 20106: a) Human Resource – BRE Position Discussions were held concerning the hiring to fill the vacant BRE position. Interviews had been conducted and one candidate stood out from the rest. Discussions were held concerning conducting a second interview. Board members were in approval of a second interview.
Board policy clearly states on Page 4/17 of the Employment Manual7 that: The Executive Director is responsible for the selection process to fill vacancies in all positions except that of the Executive Director. The Board is responsible for striking an Executive Director Search Committee to fill a vacancy in the Executive Director position.
And on Page 6/17
Clearly, the minutes show that the Board had it feet firmly on Mr. McGinn’s turf. Not only is there no motion to dismiss Mr. McGinn, the Board didn’t even hire him properly. Here is segment of the board minutes of October 7, 20094: 6. Confidential Business In-Camera Laurie Murley moved, seconded by John Patterson to go in-camera to discuss the Executive Director Search committee report. Ex officio members as well as Chantelle were asked to remain. Motion carried. A confidential discussion was held. Two motions resulted from this discussion. Laurie moved, seconded by Elaine MacEachern to accept the recommendation to appoint Paul McGinn as Executive Director effective October 19 2009 and to forgo the 12 month waiting period for self-directed retirement & health benefits to thirty days. Motion carried. John Patterson moved, seconded by Shannon Cunningham to leave the in-camera session. Motion carried.
This is major faux pas. You can only make a procedural motion in camera. You must make substantive motions in an open meeting. The motion to
appoint Mr. McGinn had to be done in an open meeting. Also, notice that the date of the minutes was October 7, 20094, yet Mr. McGinn was offered the position on September 14, 2009 and accepted the offer and signed the agreement5 on September 20, 2009. This is contrary to the Board policy as stated in articles 11 and 12 on Page 5 of the Employee Manual7.
Mr. McGinn had sold his home in Newfoundland and bought one in Nova Scotia by the end of September. He was just waiting for the closing. Did the Board surrender their right to choose the Executive Director to the Search Committee? Either way the new Executive Director was on his way the Board had no real choice on the motion to hire. There is a pattern of Board mismanagement, poor judgment and a disregard for proper protocols and procedures. The fact of the matter is the Board has no idea of how well an Executive Director is doing. I do not say this to ridicule. As a former board member I had no idea of how the Executive Director was doing in his day to day activities and I am sure that is true of Board members today. Most Board members only see the Executive Director at monthly board meetings. The Board relies on the opinion of the Chairman to relate to them the effectiveness of the Executive Director. If the Board does not get good information then it is ripe for making a bad decision. I am sure that most if not all Board members are not well informed in the field of Economic Development. Again, I do not say that to ridicule. Itâ€™s not my area of expertise and I am sure that is the case with most board members. It is a very specialized field, not well understood by the general public. On the other hand, the business of running meetings and dealing with organizational concerns is
an area the general public has some understanding. This is especially true of board members who are or were elected officials. How can we trust the judgment of the Board in matters where they have little expertise when they canâ€™t properly conduct business in an area where they should have expertise? The board may have been better off evaluating the Executive Director on his aforementioned accomplishments. Most of what I have said involves inconsistencies in the Board handling of the issues. The evidence comes from Board minutes and by-laws and standard meeting protocols. It is not something I have made up. It is something I have uncovered. In my opinion the HRDA Board has lost credibility but, I do not think that is true of all board members. Bizarre minutes, non existent probation, no motion to dismiss, a complete disregard for meeting protocols, and you take your pick, either a disregard for their own policy or an attempt to circumvent their own policy. And I am thoroughly convinced that they can not justify their decision to dismiss with proper performance documentation nor did they do a proper evaluation as described in their policy. These are not minor technicalities; they are major errors and omissions. As I stated previously, I believe that Mr. McGinn is a good employee. It is fair if not all share that view but a dismissal, based on what can only be described as a tragic comedy of errors, is not justified. This has been devastating to Mr. McGinn and his family. A manâ€™s career, his livelihood, his life and that of his family are on the line. He packed up and moved with his family to Nova Scotia in good faith and he deserves to be treated with dignity and fair play. I ask that every effort be made to return Mr. McGinn to his position as Executive Director of the HRDA.