Ponoka town council fires CAO by unanimous vote

After a unanimous decision, Ponoka town council has dismissed CAO Brad Watson.

After a unanimous decision, Ponoka town council has dismissed CAO Brad Watson.

The decision came after a 25-minute in-camera meeting Jan. 14 with all seven councillors voting in favour, said Mayor Rick Bonnett. He did not get into details but said “council is going in a different direction,” when asked about the reason for the decision.

“Council basically in the last few weeks didn’t see the direction that we wanted to head…And decided to make a change,” said Bonnett. “

(For) the plan going forward, we’ll set up a sub-committee of council to advertise and interview for a new CAO. We expect it to take between two and six months to find the appropriate candidate,” he explained.

Bonnett’s main concern is to ensure that staff have the resources they need while council looks for another manager. “We want as little disruption as possible through this and we think that our staff is capable.”

Delivery of services and staff are important to councillors, explained Bonnett. “We want to steer the organization in a different direction than it’s been heading in the last five to 10 years.”

Bonnett met with town staff early in the morning Jan. .15 to let them know what was happening. He acknowledged there were rumours throughout the town but no decisions had been made until Jan. 14.

“We wish Brad all the best in his future endeavours…We have no ill will towards him. We just feel that we are going to head in a different direction and we just feel he was not the right person for the job at this time,” explained Bonnett.

He asked residents to be patient while council looks for a new manager and to give staff an opportunity to work through the transition. Bonnett said he is confident town employees can handle the workload.

Communication is going to be an important part of this transition, he added. Bonnett feels hiring new communications person — which has been planned for in the 2014 budget — will make hiring a CAO easier. He suggests having communication flows already in place will be an incentive for a new town manager.

Betty Quinlan, director of corporate services for the Town of Ponoka, has been appointed as the acting CAO.

Watson did not reply to calls for comment at the time of writing.