Council 'ran out of gas' in closed meeting on CAO Peter Kelly's future

·4 min read
Peter Kelly, Charlottetown's chief administrative officer, sat in his usual spot for Monday's regular monthly council meeting. He moved to his office for much of the closed-door discussion that followed. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
Peter Kelly, Charlottetown's chief administrative officer, sat in his usual spot for Monday's regular monthly council meeting. He moved to his office for much of the closed-door discussion that followed. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

After meeting behind closed doors for more than three hours, Charlottetown city councillors left late Monday night without an agreement on the terms of chief administrative officer Peter Kelly's departure.

"I think we ran out of gas," Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown said after the meeting, which followed the regular monthly council meeting.

"We were trying to get some agreement or consensus among all of council. We didn't get to that point."

Brown wouldn't provide any specifics on the points on which councillors couldn't agree.

A few other members of council left the meeting quickly when it ended, and appeared frustrated. None would agree to an interview.

The city's mayor did confirm after the meeting what sources have already told CBC News: that Kelly will be leaving his position as CAO.

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

"It's his wish to leave the corporation, along with our wish," the mayor said.

Brown didn't provide any timeline for that to happen.

Councillors are scheduled to meet again Tuesday might.

Sources have also told CBC News that discussions are underway around a six-figure severance package for Kelly, a former mayor of the Halifax Regional Municipality. Brown wouldn't confirm whether that was a sticking point during the meeting.

"There's been a lot of leaks in this corporation, and I just don't want to put myself in the middle of that," he said.

"What we were trying to do was work out a settlement between the two parties. And we just didn't get to that point."

When Kelly was hired in 2016, former Charlottetown mayor Clifford Lee said the salary range for the CAO's position would be between $112,858 and $134,355.

Prominent Canadian employment lawyer Howard Levitt said for someone in his mid-60s, in Kelly's high-level position, up to 18 months severance pay is fairly standard.

"I would think 16 months is the most likely number. It could be as much as 18 or as little as 14. But he'd be somewhere in that range, because of his age. It's the absolute difficulty of finding another job in his position at his level, at 66 years of age."

2 deputy CAOs fired

Kelly has been under fire for weeks over allegations he fired two deputy CAOs after they came forward with concerns about the city's administration and finances.

CBC News has not substantiated the allegations made in separate letters to council written by the former deputies, Scott Messervey and Tina Lococo.

Four city employees added to the controversy last week, when they sent an unsigned letter to council calling the city as a toxic workplace, blaming Kelly for that, and urging council to launch an investigation into his conduct.

CBC News has spoken with all four people behind the letter, and is protecting their identities because they fear being fired for speaking out. They said they believe other staff feel the same way, but did not reach out beyond their small group while writing the letter, for fear someone would report them to city managers.

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

"Tonight that wasn't discussed," Brown said, when asked if council is considering an investigation into Kelly's actions with regard to the allegations that have been made.

"What was discussed was 'How do we find a path forward?'"

Kelly, who typically sits in on council meetings, spent much of the closed-door session in his city hall office.

According to the mayor, a "third-party legal counsel" was brought to the meeting "to give an overview of what we could do going forward."

Brown said his hope is to resume the closed-door talks later this week.

"Now we're refuelling and we'll hopefully get back here in the next couple days to come to a conclusive decision of where we want to go with the corporation," he said.

Previous Kelly statement called situation 'untenable'

Kelly declined to comment after the meeting wrapped up Monday night. He did provide a three-paragraph statement to CBC News last week, in response to the employees' unsigned letter.

"These are serious allegations and concerns," it said. "City staff expect and deserve a safe work environment. That is an absolute and an unwavering commitment.

"My dedication and responsibilities to staff and Council remains; however, the situation continues to be made personal and has become untenable. There is an obvious need for a review of practices, policies and procedures. Ultimately, I want to ensure that the expectations of staff, Council and residents, along with our collective priorities, are met.

"It is of utmost importance that these issues are addressed, and full accountabilities are upheld. I trust that Senior Staff and City Council will work together to help address these concerns and determine a clear path forward."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting