Former mayoral candidate David Sanders criticized senior City of Winnipeg administration at an Executive Policy Committee meeting Friday, but the comments didn't go unanswered.

Sanders opened by welcoming newly elected council members, and then his tone quickly changed.

"I would like to begin by congratulating you Mayor Bowman and the members of the committee on your election and your appointment," said Sanders. "Having said that, I regret to advise you the honeymoon is already over."

Sanders brought up some budget concerns and processes currently underway to find the city's new CAO. Then, he took aim at senior city staff, drawing the ire of Deepak Joshi, the city's acting CAO.

"I don't know how it came about, but previous city councils developed a habit of delegating almost all of their authority to a single person, the CAO," said Sanders. "We have just seen altogether recently too much evidence of Lord Acton's dictum that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

"Unfortunately, most senior administrators have come to believe that they are in charge at City Hall and they can ignore elected councillors with impunity."

Mayor Brian Bowman responded to Sanders' barbed comments with a warning.

"I trust that you are not implying, or in anyway shape or form inferring that any individual is, quote 'corrupt?' I am sure you are well aware of the laws of defamation and would not be opening up yourself to that sort of legal action," said Bowman.

Sanders told CBC News he was choosing his words carefully Friday and that responses he received from senior officials were not going to deter him from "attempting to get at the truth."

Bowman said he hopes to have a contract signed with a new CAO by the end of February or early March at the latest.