Former CAO suing town for $695,000

Kunz claims things were going find, Town states several issues brought to her attention weren't dealt with

Former CAO Rachel Kunz is suing the Town of Ponoka for $695,000 according to a statement of claim document acquired by Ponoka News through a Court of Queen’s Bench search.

The document shows the two parties do not see eye to eye regarding Kunz’s employment as the town manager.

The breakdown of Kunz’s $695,000 claim shows $25,000 for disability benefits, $270,000 in lieu of payment of reasonable notice, $50,000 for employment benefits, $250,000 for aggravated and/or punitive damages and another $100,000 for mental distress.

The claim also seeks interest on the amount plus solicitor/client costs.

One issue between the two parties appears to be the terms of agreement of the former CAO’s job. Kunz, who moved from Saskatchewan to Alberta, was hired Sept. 22, 2014 and her claim states the town was to evaluate her performance beginning on July 31 2015 with assessment to be finalized prior to Sept. 23. If no new employment agreement was made by then, the existing contract would remain in force until new terms could be finalized.

Kunz’s claim states after the July evaluation she had no indication there were any issues with her work. “There was no indication whatsoever in the evaluation that the town had any issues or concerns with her performance,” the document stated.

“She was then advised that she would become a permanent full-time CAO,” the claim continues.

The town contradicts that statement, alleging a number of issues with Kunz’s July evaluation and states two forms of written evaluation were provided to her. Council met with the CAO and detailed several issues with her performance, as brought up in the defence statement as follows:

Improper communications with individual councillors rather than as a whole;

Poor or limited reporting to council;

Limited involvement in community events;

Withholding information from council;

Failure to evaluate and restructure staff as discussed at hiring;

Unwillingness to accept council’s direction;

Unwillingness to assist council in understanding procedures and processes required by the Municipal Government Act (MGA);

Providing conflicting information to different councillors.

On the matter of improper communications, Kunz’s claim states this hampered her ability to work effectively and it further states council participated in day-to-day activities and operations of the town. “Town council also became focused on operations and abandoned their governance role…”

Events leading up to Kunz being fired are included in her claim starting with the matter of the borrowing bylaw for the North Bridge project. The claim states Kunz was unable to attend council’s Oct. 13 meeting and she asked Betty Quinlan, the former director of protective services to go in her stead.

Questions regarding the bylaw were directed to Quinlan, which the claim alleges she was “abused and humiliated by the conduct of council to the point where she tendered her resignation.”

Further on issues with operations, the Kunz’s statement alleges council’s unsupportive actions and that constant interference caused Kunz “anxiety and physical distress.”

Six days later Kunz spoke with her physician and provided a medical letter to council stating she would be taking medical leave until Jan. 19, 2016. Council fired Kunz the next day for justifiable cause.

It is believed Quinlan tendered her immediate resignation the same day Kunz was released of her duties.

In response, the town alleges that Kunz knew a borrowing bylaw was needed in May when the operations manager the claim doesn’t state who mentioned the need. “This misconduct committed by Kunz was intentional, inexcusable, and unacceptable by any standard,” explains the statement of defence.

The claim also states that Kunz missed several meetings related to her job performance; once in September and the meetings in October, and that was one of the requirements of the job.

“Since Kunz has persisted in her refusal to communicate with the town, the town states that the employment relationship between the parties has been irreparably damaged,” continued the town’s defence.

Kunz submitted her statement of claim Nov. 20 through MacPherson Leslie and Tyerman law firm in Edmonton while the town submitted its statement of defense Dec. 21 using the services of Sirrs law firm in Ponoka.

None of the allegations of either party has been proven in court.