Peter Kelly leaving Charlottetown CAO job: sources

Peter Kelly is in the process of retiring from his controversial run as the City of Charlottetown’s chief administrative officer (CAO), SaltWire Network has learned.

Sources told SaltWire that Kelly will retire but there has been no formal announcement yet because the process is in the hands of legal counsel.

Kelly was hired as the CAO in 2016 by the former council with Clifford Lee as mayor.

None of the councillors SaltWire contacted since learning of the impending departure would comment on the record, although one elected official did say council has not been brought in to discuss the matter.

Another source said the exit might not be effective immediately, that there might be a transition period.

Peter Kelly, right, Charlottetown’s chief administrative officer, is pictured in this file photo taking to Mayor Philip Brown. SaltWire Network file photo

Calls to Mayor Philip Brown on April 28 were not returned. In addition, staff at City Hall were not commenting. Requests were also made to speak to Kelly.

If Kelly leaves, he does so amid a swirl of hot-button issues at City Hall.

Fired representatives CAOs

Earlier this month, he fired CAO deputy Tina Lococo, about six months after she was hired.

In an email to councillors, Kelly said he was not able to disclose the reasons for her dismissal.

Prior to Lococo’s tenure, three years ago, Kelly fired deputy CAO Scott Messervey only a year after he was hired.

Messervey filed a lawsuit against the city that is still before the PEI Supreme Court, alleging he was fired for raising financial concerns.

“It is no surprise to me of your decision to terminate my employment since I’ve brought many issues to your attention and your responses to them leaves us at odds,” Messervey writes in the documents that were filed in court to support his lawsuit .

“I brought to your attention several projects that had change orders amounting to millions of dollars which resulted in the approval tender being exceeded,” Messervey writes. “The change orders were implemented without council approval but with yours. I believe this is also a compliance issue under the (Municipal Government Act) and an example of authority being exceeded.”

Scott Messervey, left, former deputy chief administrative officer with the City of Charlottetown, and former councillor Melissa Hilton, go over some financial numbers in 2019. - SaltWire Network file photo
Scott Messervey, left, former deputy chief administrative officer with the City of Charlottetown, and former councillor Melissa Hilton, go over some financial numbers in 2019. – SaltWire Network file photo

In his termination letter, which was also filed in court, Kelly tells Messervey he is being fired “as a result of an unsuccessful probationary period”.

Kelly lists several reasons for Messervey’s dismissal, namely that the former DCAO lacked the leadership abilities, communication style and overall approach with staff and managers.

While Kelly is hired by and answers to the city council, the CAO controls the hiring and firing of his deputies.

Breached harassment policy

In 2018, Kelly was forced to undergo workplace sensitivity training after an investigation found he breached the capital city’s harassment policy. The infractions included claims Kelly imposed unreasonable on the city’s public works superintendent discipline, that he imposed discipline without cause on two occasions, and that he attempted to demote the superintendent.

As a result of the investigation, Kelly was to undergo workplace sensitivity training with a focus on his communications and interactions with city staff. Kelly also had a formal written warning permanently on his personnel file.

Peter Kelly, left, with then-mayor Clifford Lee, was hired by the City of Charlottetown to be its new chief administrative officer in 2016. - SaltWire Network file photo
Peter Kelly, left, with then-mayor Clifford Lee, was hired by the City of Charlottetown to be its new chief administrative officer in 2016. – SaltWire Network file photo

At the time, Lee said, “The public can be assured that Charlottetown city council remains confident in the decisions of CAO Peter Kelly.”

Kelly arrived in 2016 with some negative claims levelled from previous work in Halifax while he was mayor there from 2000-12 and from Westlock County, Alta., where he was CAO.

Kelly allegedly misused municipal funds in pursuit of concerts for the Halifax Commons and in a development project in Alberta.

The allegations were never proven in court and, in Alberta, the RCMP chose not to investigate the matter.

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