CHARLOTTETOWN — A former Halifax mayor who left office in 2012 amid controversy has been dismissed as chief administrative officer in Charlottetown following accusations he fired senior staff who had raised concerns about financial irregularities.
Charlottetown council voted 8-3 Wednesday night to fire Peter Kelly "without cause," which means he will receive a severance package, the terms of which were not disclosed.
Kelly had held the senior position in Charlottetown since 2016. The province's Opposition Green Party last week tabled in the legislature an anonymous letter from Charlottetown city staffers who alleged Kelly authorized city expenses without council approval, ignored procurement rules, failed to follow human resources policies for hiring and reprimanded staff who brought forward concerns.
These allegations have not been proven, and Kelly didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Stephen Howard, a member of the Green Party, says that Kelly’s termination does not end the party’s call for a review at Charlottetown City Hall.
“I don’t think the minister has heard the last of this issue from either myself or from the taxpayers,” Howard said in an interview Thursday, referring to Communities Minister Jamie Fox, who has the power to order a review of the city's governance. Fox could not be reached for comment Thursday.
“There are still definite accountability questions for the minister, and there are still definite questions about what has transpired at the City of Charlottetown to get us to this point,” Howard said. He said a detailed review of Kelly’s work could have potentially saved taxpayer money.
“If a review had found any wrongdoings by this now-former CAO, the council would have had grounds to release him with cause and save the taxpayers that severance cost. So I think that’s a failure of the minister,” Howard said.
The city says the details of Kelly’s severance package are confidential. Howard Levitt, senior partner of a Toronto employment law firm, said in an interview that based on Kelly’s professional history and seniority, a typical severance package would cover 15-16 months' pay.
The city said a chief administrative officer in Charlottetown would make between $130,000 and $165,000 annually.
Council voted to dismiss Kelly in an open session Wednesday night following a meeting behind closed doors. Three of 11 councillors voted against the motion — all opposed Kelly being terminated “without cause.”
Kelly was at the centre of a 2012 concert scandal before leaving as Halifax mayor after 12 years in the role. He later faced scrutiny for his work as chief administrative officer of an Alberta municipality in 2017. He remains Halifax's longest-serving mayor since the city's amalgamation in 1995.
Charlottetown’s former chief administrative officer, Donna Waddell, has been appointed to the role on an interim basis, Mayor Phillip Brown said in a statement. The mayor could not be reached for an interview Thursday.
When asked if the city will be conducting an investigation into the allegations against Kelly, a spokesperson did not directly respond. The city said in an email that concerns are taken seriously and “there will be ongoing discussions with the mayor and council, along with the interim CAO.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2022.
— By Lyndsay Armstrong in Halifax.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
The Canadian Press