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October 28, 2017 12:08 am

Former PG City Manager Parts Ways With Another Municipality

Saturday, February 20, 2016 @ 10:53 AM
250News file photo

250News file photo

Prince George, BC – A little more than a year after former City Manager Beth James and the City of Prince George came to a mutual agreement to end their relationship, comes word James and her current employer have arrived at the same spot…

On January 10, 2015, 250News reporter, Don Hawkins, broke the story that James and the City had parted ways.  (click here, for full article)

Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall said that City Council and James “(had) mutually agreed to end their relationship, effective January 9th, 2015.  The decision reflects the Mayor and Council intention to chart a new course for the City and we thank Ms. James for her dedicated service and wish her success in her future endeavours.”

Just 13-months later, on February 12, 2016,  a similarly-worded news release from Parkland County, Alberta is announcing, “The Mayor and Council of Parkland County, together with Beth James, Chief Administrative Officer, have mutually agreed to end their relationship as of February 12, 2016.  Ms. James brought considerable expertise to her position and the Mayor and Council wish to thank her for her dedicated service and wish her well in her future endeavours.”  No word on a severance package from the rural municipality, just west of Edmonton.

James was hired by former Prince George Mayor Shari Green and City Council back in March, 2013.  A news release at that time, stated James had been the unanimous choice, following a national search.  Her compensation package included a salary of $212-thousand dollars per year, $6,000 annual vehicle allowance, a one-time relocation expense not to exceed $25-thousand dollars, and severance package of six months salary, plus one month per year of service.

The City would not release the dollar amount last January, but confirmed severance was part of the negotiations that wrapped up James’ time as Prince George City Manager.




She started the position in Alberta on August 15,2015. That is about 6 months. The contract may have had a 6 month “probationary” period to see if she fit into the organization.

At the time that PG and James parted ways, shortly after the election, it was reported that 8 managers were let go in BC after elections in the municipalities involved, raising the more serious question of whether Municipal Managers/CAO, are becoming political appointments similar to deputy ministers.

The new head of the governing body simply does not see eye to eye with the incumbent CAO. To me, that sways something about the direction we are heading and about both parties involved which is taking us there.

Let us not forget that such action costs money which leaves less for actually implementing some services. Depending on the length of survival, it could easily up the indirect compensation by 20%.

We need to encourage everyone to play nicely together.

We need to get rid of all the dead weight in government. No shortage of that.

    You must be part of the “dead weight” since you know so much about it.

    They can start with the municipal work force. $50 million and year and constantly growing.

Parkland County News Release in July. 2015

Council Appoints New Chief Administrative Officer.

“Parkland County Council is thrilled to announce the appointment of Ms Beth James as C.A.O.

“Council conducted a National search with the assistance of Davis Park, a highly reputable search firm. We received a significant number of applications from well qualified candidates, and we conducted a thorough selection process said Mayor Rod Shaigec. “We are pleased that Ms James has accepted the position. Her expertise aligns perfectly with council’s strategic priorities.”

Prince George also conducted a national search and came up with Ms James. Isn’t that magical.

I believe that hiring local people who plan on staying in this City is the best way to go. It certainly would save us some money.

    Jester Jefferies, was the City Manager when I moved here. Of all the managers I knew, he was the best.

    George Paul, the next manager, was not local. He was from Penticton. He brought his team of Peter Bloodoff (city planner… maybe some of us used to live here when we had city planners) and Tom Madden with him. Lasted about 17 years, same as Chester Jeffries before him. Both had no problem with talking to the media as the Chief Operating Officer.

    Remember Derek Bates? Local boy who came from the Regional District. Kept quiet to himself and did not ruffle too many feathers. Then came the new Green Mayor, they went through the Core Review Process as her election promise. It was Derek’s project to manage.

    He left suddenly under questionable circumstances.

    Along came James. She was handed the Core Review results and asked to implement them. She was probably tough enough to accomplish that if staff and Council would have backed her up on it. Remember, it was Council’s project in the first place, not hers.

    So, again we had the manager and the Mayor not meeting eye to eye.

    With a new Mayor some fence mending had to be made. The people got rid of the Green Mayor and the new Mayor got rid of the person who tried to implement the plan.

    In case people forgot, here were some of the key recommendations from the Core Review done under the watchful eyes of Derek Bates.

    – closing and selling the Pine Valley golf course
    – reducing the size of city council
    – outsourcing parking enforcement
    – reducing the level of snow and ice clearing at civic facilities to match those in the rest of the city
    – establishing a fee for extra garbage at the curb
    – charging a fee for removing snow windrows from driveways
    – reducing transit service and using smaller vehicles
    – reducing streetsweeping
    – reducing hours at local arenas
    – outsourcing grass cutting in parks and on boulevards

    Ms James presented these to Council and Council voted every single one down.

    Following the incoming of new Councils throughout BC in 2015, 8 other City Managers were fired. As some people look at it, we have the start of the Municipal CAO position becoming a political position the same as deputy ministers who get replaced with the change of government both provincially and federally. I do not think that is a good idea since there is often a shaky succession from one Council to another.

    It used to be that Mayors come and go but City Managers stayed and the relatively smooth running of the City continued. It used to be that City Managers could speak to the press.

    I think this has nothing to do with hiring local and everything to do with City Council micromanaging City Operations rather than setting general directions.

    Perhaps it is time for the Province to look at a format such as is used in Portland Oregon which has an elected City Council of Commissioners. I believe there are 5, they each have several departments which report to them and they get paid in the $150,000 range the last time I looked.

    One of the Commissioners is the City Auditor who looks after quality control, economic efficiency and service effectiveness. Whichever way that person/department is led, it is high time we implemented such a position.

      The reason we don’t elect City Council of Commissioners is the same principle as any elected official. After 1-2 terms in office you have to pay full pensions. Employees work 30 years for the same dollar.

      Our pensions system Federially, provincially and muninicply are tapped out. We are paying billions across our country in pension benefits. The system is on the verge of collapse.

The problem doesn’t lie with Beth James, or other City Administrators, it lies with those who hire them.

As a general rule local councils in smaller cities, do not have the expertise, to either hire, or to evaluate those they hire, so they hire professionals to research the applicants, and blame the professionals when it doesn’t turn out.

This is not New York, Toronto, Los Angeles, or some other big city in North America. It is Prince George BC, population aprox 75,000 people. Having people move up through the ranks, and eventually becoming City Manager is a fool proof (pun intended) way to hire staff.

I am sure we have many people at City Hall at this moment who could be trained to take over when Soltis retires. This is a common sense approach, so it would probably be ignored by those who believe (mistakenly) that they live in a metropolis.

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