Wednesday, April 26, 2023 – In November 2022, District of Sooke Council engaged the services of consultant, Jonathan Huggett, to provide a confidential organizational review. The purpose of the review was to gather information from a third party regarding the operations of the District and understand opportunities leading to organizational efficiency.
Council received a preliminary report on January 30, 2023, and the final report on February 15, 2023. After receiving the final report, Council determined the best next steps to respond to Mr. Huggett’s findings and in their commitment to good governance, transparency and accountability, Council is advising the public of the report’s recommendations and action being taken.
Mr. Huggett’s report made the following recommendations, summarized as:
- Appoint a new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) without further delay.
- Appoint an outside specialist in bullying and harassment to bring closure to the remaining staff concerns about past events.
- Provide closure on Official Community Plan (OCP) Bylaw No. 800 (2022) from the previous term.
- Establish priorities for the work of the Planning and Development Department to better aid the District in realizing the community vision.
- Consider reorganizing the Engineering and Operations Department likely by separating Parks and Facilities from Transportation and Wastewater.
- Examine master plan approval processes in conjunction with capital project delivery and sound fiscal management practices.
Immediate action resulting from Mr. Huggett’s report includes:
- The District is engaging a recruitment firm to assist with the hiring of a permanent CAO. While recruitment is underway Council appointed Director of Financial Services, Raechel Gray, as Deputy CAO who will serve as the CAO until the position has been filled. Notably, this action evolved in recent weeks given unrelated notice provided by CAO Norm McInnis who commenced medical leave while undergoing cancer treatment effective May 2, 2022.
- Bullying and harassment will not be tolerated and are further described in Policy No. 7.13 – Anti-Bullying and Harassment and Policy No. 7.11 – Respectful Workplace. A code of conduct will provide more specifics and be supported by training.
- On March 20, 2023, the Director of Planning and Development presented options to Council on the next steps for the OCP. On April 11, 2023, Council received a report from the Director of Planning and Development that outlined the proposed next steps for the OCP. A Committee of the Whole meeting will be held on June 19, 2023 for all stakeholders to provide additional input.
- A clear path forward with OCP Bylaw No. 800 (2022) is critical to identifying how the District can realize the identified vision. In addition, Planning and Development Services have outlined key performance indicators (such as applications received, approvals granted, permits issued, revenue received, and new dwelling units) and will report on these quarterly at public meetings.
- The CAO will continue to evaluate the organizational structure.
- Accurately forecasting costs of future projects at the time of master planning approval is unrealistic given a master plan approval to action item implementation may span 10(+) years. As such, the District is applying an approach to adopt master plans in principle and integrating more detailed financial reviews into its annual financial planning process. Council and staff acknowledge the need for increased financial and time contingencies to successfully deliver projects given the current realities and outstanding impacts from the pandemic that affect capital project delivery. Enhanced contingencies, both with monetary resources and pertaining time management associated with projects, have been implemented.
The consultant, hired to obtain an independent perspective of organizational competence, interviewed members of Council, seven members of senior staff, and nine third-party stakeholders identified as “key influencers” to gain insights on role understanding and work processes, and the strengths and weakness of the existing District organization and staffing.
After the interviews, two local case studies were conducted to further inform the organizational review.
An analysis of the interviews and case studies was categorized as:
- Development Permit Approvals
- Official Community Plan
- Role of Master Plans
- Review of the Planning and Development Department
- Review of the Engineering and Operations Department
- Financial and Other Consequences
After categorizing the findings, corresponding recommendations were made.
Mr. Huggett’s findings, while not surprising, provide value through a third-party affirmation of the direction of the District of Sooke operations.
This third-party assessment provides enhanced clarity and refines priorities for District action to enhance our delivery of service excellence and increase organizational efficiency. This data will be reflected in the 2022-2026 Strategic Plan to recognize the longer-term implications of the report findings to ensure meaningful and sustainable change where required.
Wherever possible, the District is taking immediate action to respond to Mr. Huggett’s recommendations.
Council thanks Mr. Huggett for his efforts and the stakeholders involved for their time and perspective.
Christina Moog, District of Sooke Communications Coordinator
Tel: 250.642.1634, ext. 678 l e: firstname.lastname@example.org