Why one Charlottetown councillor voted against firing Peter Kelly without cause

·3 min read
Coun. Mitch Tweel was one of three who voted against the motion to terminate CAO Peter Kelly without cause.  (Sarah MacMillan/CBC - image credit)
Coun. Mitch Tweel was one of three who voted against the motion to terminate CAO Peter Kelly without cause. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC - image credit)

A day after Charlottetown city council fired CAO Peter Kelly without cause, one of the three councillors who voted against that move is speaking out.

Coun. Mitch Tweel said during the several hours of closed-door deliberations, he argued an outside investigation of city hall operations under the CAO's watch, and a forensic audit, should take place before any decisions are made about Kelly's termination.

He worries that investigation won't happen now that Kelly's been fired without cause.

"I'm trying to be as accountable as I can. That's why I chose to say no," said Tweel.

"I felt there's a lot of questions and issues that have not been addressed, and I don't believe will be addressed unless we need to do an outside investigation of city hall … That's what the public wanted. That's what I was being told by the residents."

'I can't change what took place in 2019'

Controversy has surrounded Kelly and the city for the past month, since it was revealed through a CBC News investigation he allegedly fired two deputy CAO's after they raised concerns about the city's finances and administration.

After the first deputy CAO, Scott Messervey, was fired, he provided council members with a detailed list outlining 18 areas of concern where he said the city was either breaking its own financial rules or not complying with the province's Municipal Government Act.

Tweel was among the majority of councillors who voted to "take no further action" in response to those concerns.

"I can't change what took place in 2019, but I can attempt to do things now," said Tweel. "And that's what I tried to do."

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

Given Kelly was fired without cause, he will be entitled to severance pay — which sources have told CBC News is in the six figures.

Tweel wouldn't say whether he thinks there were grounds to fire Kelly with cause, which would've left him with no severance.

He said that may be tough to determine without a proper investigation.

"That would've been up for the investigators to decide," he said. "And the residents would've said 'OK, you did your investigation. If nothing turns up, fine, we're fine with that. If something does turn up, then we'll address it.' I still think we need to embark on that exercise."

City, other councillors silent

No other councillors agreed to be interviewed since Wednesday night's vote. Kelly has declined to comment this week as well.

CBC News reached out to the city Thursday, asking for a response to Tweel's remarks on the need for an investigation. A city spokesperson said no response will be provided.

"Do I think there's going to be an outside investigation? If you ask me today, no, I don't believe there will be," said Tweel.

The provincial opposition has also pushed for the P.E.I. government to investigate Charlottetown city hall. The province hasn't said whether it plans to do that.

In the meantime, Donna Waddell has stepped into Charlottetown's CAO role. She spent years as the city's director of corporate services, and served as acting CAO before Kelly took over the job in 2017.

"Together, we are transitioning quickly to ensure the continuity of services at city hall and across the corporation," Waddell said in a statement issued Thursday. "I'll be using the coming days to get back up to speed on City administration, and I look forward to meeting with staff, Council and key stakeholders."

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