The sudden departure of our municipal chief administrative officer, (the second such event in four years) should concern the taxpayers of Prince Edward County.
Like the sudden departure of CAO Merlin Dewing, Hepburn’s came within a few months after having his contract renewed. The unexplained releasing of any municipal employee is unusual, but for a CAO it is rare. Similar fates for our CAO, within four years, is unbelievable – but yet it has happened here in our community. Why? It is like that our council’s word isn’t worth the paper it is written on!
Despite the posturing by the mayor who assured us that everything is just fine and then explained that nothing criminal has taken place, is no comfort to anyone – neither for the citizens and employees of the County, nor particularly for Hepburn. No one deserves to leave with such a comment being made publicly. The mayor owes Hepburn an apology – a public one, with an explanation of why he is no longer our CAO.
The repeated loss of key personnel is an indicator that not all is well behind the closed doors of Shire Hall. The public needs to feel a sense of well being and pride in their municipal operations – after all we are ultimately the employer. If there was hope that this new council would make a difference, then we may be feeling a little disappointed.
Look what has taken place just over the past few months – the biggest tax increase in years of 8.6 per cent, the rushed decision on the farm tax ratio, without any chance for public input (which adds again to our tax increase), the debate over the Picton Town Hall displayed the indifference on the part of too many councillors to sell off public assets, despite public opposition and finally the reprimand by the integrity commissioner on a councillor for what he wrote to a resident.
What has happened to our council’s sense of community and fair play? None of the above reflects a council that has their citizens’ concerns at the forefront of what they do, but most importantly it appears that too many councillors just don’t like their job. I suspect working as an employee for this Council would not be the most enjoyable experience either.
As our community struggles to pay bills and to make ends meet, I don’t get the feeling that our council in anyway relates to us. How can they say otherwise, when their first line of decision-making is always to ask for more money, or discouraging people from even contacting them? I expect to pay taxes, but I also expected to see some new thinking taking place and real problem solving occurring – and it is not!
How many times do taxpayers have to say “Find ways to benefit from tourism to help off-set taxes,” or “We need help with our water bills,” or “Our roads are a mess, lobby upper levels of government to help fix them?” Or how often have we heard “We need fewer politicians and more people who can work together?” Or, “We don’t want Airbnbs in our neighbourhoods, or “We have a speeding problem and we need help.” How many times have these issues been ignored by our council?
As our staff continues to be fired, or some simply decide to leave, our community continues to age and to decline in population – with fewer young people wanting to stay. All the while, our local politicians happily graze their way through the county, believing they have it all under control and that everything is fine.
The public know differently.