City news: What happens now after the newly announced Revelstoke CAO backed out?

City of Revelstoke still looking for its fourth CAO since current Revelstoke City Council was elected in 2018, is in talks with 'another' short-listed candidate.

A week after his appointment as Revelstoke CAO was announced, Chris Marshall has changed his mind an announced he is not coming to Revelstoke. Photo: City of Revelstoke handout

The City of Revelstoke is still looking to find a new Chief Administrative Officer after the newly hired CAO, Chris Marshall, announced he has reconsidered and is not taking the position.

In a statement issued by the city, Marshall said he reversed his decision after consulting family.

“I was initially very excited about this opportunity but I have had further discussions with my family and for personal and family reasons we have determined that this is not the right time for us to be moving across the country,” Marshall said in a written statement.

Marshall was let go from the City of Kawartha Lakes, Ontario, in March, where according to his LinkedIn account he served as Director of Development Services for just over five years. According to local news source Kawartha411, Marshall was, “quietly let go. The details are murky.”

The awkward reversal, which came one week after the city announced Marshall’s appointment, is a setback for a council that is currently on its third CAO since the 2018 municipal election.

Ron Mattiussi is the interim CAO, brought in after CAO Dawn Low announced her resignation in late April of 2021, following a period characterized by high senior staff turnover and bullying and harassment issues in city hall that led to intervention and oversight by WorkSafeBC.

In June of 2019, the City of Revelstoke announced that CAO Allan Chabot and engineering director Mike Thomas had ‘resigned,’ but it was later revealed through a freedom of information request that the city had compensated them over $300,000 in severance.

What happens next?

When contacted, interim CAO Ron Mattiussi said the city was talking with “another” short-listed candidate, and that it was not starting the recruitment process from scratch.

We inquired about the cost of the recruitment process so far, but Mattiussi did not provide an amount. He said that recruiting a new CAO had been included in his contract cost as the interim CAO and that other costs were limited to things like advertising. No figure was provided.

In terms of payments made to Chris Marshall, Mattiussi said that he was compensated for travel costs for attending an interview.

In a city statement when Marshall’s appointment was announced on Aug. 23, the mayor thanked Mattiussi for his time here. Due to the change, Mattiussi will continue on for the time being.

Mattiussi’s appointment as the interim CAO was announced on April 28, 2021. The city said Mattiussi would be starting the CAO recruitment process “immediately.” About two weeks earlier on April 12, Mattiussi was also announced as the interim CAO of Greenwood, B.C., according to this media story from the Boundary Creek Times.

We also inquired about Mattiussi’s current contract terms including financial compensation, but Mattiussi did not provide that information. Typically, short-term contracts cost more than long-term staffing. Mattiussi said that his initial contract was from June 1 to July 31, and that he “agreed to extend the contract” and that he had reduced his contract to an “as-needed” basis.

“I do not have the total cost,” Mattiussi said in response to our request for the financial terms of his contract.

In an Aug. 23 media release announcing Marshall’s appointment, the city indicated Marshall would “take over” from Mattiussi on Oct. 4.

Revelstokemountaineer.com reached out to Mayor Gary Sulz for comment but he declined. Our question, “From your perspective, why has there been high turnover in the CAO position and what’s been done to resolve issues that have been identified?” went without an acknowledgement or response.

The city posted the announcement on its Facebook page as a “media release” that included the mayor as a contact person. However, the city did not email the media release to the media, nor did the mayor respond to our media follow up.

In B.C., the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) is the highest-ranking staff member in the municipal government, the boss, essentially. The CAO is also the liaison between council and city staff.

Aaron Orlando is a Revelstoke-based journalist who serves as creative director of revelstokemountaineer.com and Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. He's been on the news beat in Revelstoke for the past 14 years, serving in senior editorial roles. If you have aaron@revelstokemountaineer.com or call/text him at 250-814-8710.