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FOI documents show McDonald heavily involved in Phantom Corporate Advisor payment

Documents from Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner contradict claims from Mayor Al McDonald that he had no involvement in the deal to make retired CAO Jerry Knox a "Corporate Advisor" with a salary of over $200,000 per year.
knox, jerry turl north bay ceo
Former CAO Jerry Knox.

Documents from Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner contradict claims from Mayor Al McDonald that he had no involvement in the deal to make retired CAO Jerry Knox a "Corporate Advisor" with a salary of over $200,000 per year.

See: City ordered to disclose Confidential Employment Agreement for phantom 'Corporate Advisor'

The first line of the Confidential Employment Agreement"  of April 2016 states, "Whereas in the Fall of 2015 the Mayor and Knox held numerous discussions concerning a transition plan for the replacement of Knox who is currently the City's Chief Administrative Officer (CAO).

The second line says, "And whereas on December 8, 2015 City Council held a special in-camera meeting of City Council to consider a transition plan for the replacement of Knox."

The City was forced to release the document after a Freedom of Information request from a private citizen, Kevin Ferris.

Read the email sand draft contract here.

Read the final contract here

Both Mayor McDonald and former CAO Keith Robicheau have previously refused to comment on the mystery, citing privacy and personnel issues.

But the documents show McDonald played a pivotal role, despite denials such as he made on Cogeco TV where he stated, "Kevin, I don't deal with HR (Human Resources) at all, like, I'm not involved in hiring or firing."

In response to a question about the payment to Knox as "Corporate Advisor," McDonald said, " I can't tell you why it said Corporate Advisor versus CAO."

When asked if the Corporate Advisor job was publicly posted, McDonald replied, "Not that I know of" nor could he properly explain what a Corporate Advisor's job description was.

The Employment Agreement also states that on December 8, 2015, City Council held a special in-camera meeting of City Council, and says "City Council supported and approved the transition plan as outlined in the letter December 7, 2015, and directed an agreement be developed by the Managing Director of Corporate Services and City Clerk with Knox to formally document the terms of the transition plan."

Although there is documentation of that meeting with all councillors present, there is no evidence a vote took place to direct city staff to do so.

Ferris told BayToday, " Noted in item [27] of the interim order the city states that the city council (the Mayor is the head of council) provided direction to its staff to prepare an agreement between the city and the affected party.  This is also stated in the fourth paragraph of the Confidential  Employment Agreement.  The city has not provided a record of how this direction was obtained in what was returned to me. Other than a recorded vote, I am not aware of any other method the city council would have used to convey to the staff to enter into this agreement.  In my opinion, the search should have yielded the recorded vote, or whatever other means would have been used to convey that a majority of council was in favour of approving this arrangement. The City needs to provide clarification on how this direction from council was obtained and as taxpayers, we deserve to know which councillors supported this agreement." 

The document states Knox started his "new" position on June 4, 2016.

The job description is very vague and is described as "From time to time, Knox may provide consulting and advisory services to the CAO or the City's then acting CAO. Such services may consist of any matters of concern to the CAO or the City's then acting CAO."

There is no evidence any work was ever done by Knox in the position of Corporate Advisor.

BayToday reached out to Mayor McDonald asking for an interview regarding the newly released documents but received no reply. McDonald also was not at the Police Board meeting this morning.

"Clearly the City's written responses to the Privacy Commissioner and the City's language in the Confidential Employment Agreement do not match up at all with the Mayor's response to me on Cogeco," Ferris told BayToday. "Sorry Al, you can't have it both ways. Were you involved in this agreement or not? The City has stated direction came from Council for staff to enter into the agreement with Mr. Knox. We need to know how this direction was obtained. If by a vote or otherwise we need to know who supported this and if any did not. Until such time as the direction is clarified, I hold each of the 11 members of the prior council responsible for allowing the staff to enter into this arrangement and I look forward to some clarification from those directly involved."

Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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