The current chief administrative officer (CAO) is said to have contravened Alberta’s Municipal Government Act by acting without council approval on a controversial land deal while serving as the CAO for Westlock County, according to a municipal inspection report released last week.
Members of Charlottetown city council have been discussing the findings of the report, but there was no word Monday, at least publicly, on whether they’ve arrived at a decision yet. The city’s lawyers would be involved in those discussions.
Mayor Clifford Lee did not respond to an interview request on Tuesday, and there was no official word from the city either.
The Alberta inspection, which was conducted by the independent third-party Strategic Steps Inc. on behalf of Alberta’s department of municipal affairs, also found that Kelly appeared to not exercise “reasonable oversight of capital project costs’’ while serving as CAO of Westlock County.
Kelly left his job in Westlock County to become CAO in Charlottetown last year. Charlottetown council marked his status as probationary while it waited for the Alberta report to come out but suddenly changed course this June and made his status permanent, explaining that it can take years for these types of reports to come out.
In a statement and interview with The Guardian on Friday, Kelly said he has been unfairly made a scapegoat, calling the report “lacking, disappointing and incomplete at best.’’
He added that the report, that found Kelly appeared not to exercise “reasonable oversight of capital project costs’’, often appeared inaccurate and biased. He disputes the report’s conclusion that he negotiated an industrial land lease and authorized site improvements in the absence of an authorizing council resolution.
Kelly said two motions unanimously passed by Westlock County council gave direction through resolution to administration to enter into a lease agreement. He went on to criticize investigators for appearing to rely on unsubstantiated and unidentified individuals or staff innuendo to present allegations as fact.
“The investigation team also presents their assertions as fact with confusing language such as; ‘seems to’, ‘appears to’, ‘suggests’,’’ Kelly stated.
It should be noted that council did give itself an out once it made Kelly’s status permanent. Council made it clear that should he be found of being in violation of any law, his employment status would be reviewed.
The Guardian did reach out to RCMP in Westlock County to see if there is an investigation into Kelly underway. The Guardian was told it needed to speak to one specific officer. That officer could not be reached on Tuesday.