Halifax CAO Richard Butts has resigned, effective Jan. 8, to take the job as president at Clayton Developments Ltd.

"There's a lot of recruiting goes on around the country and I think my name came up in conversation and it started that way, in a casual way, and it went from there," Butts told CBC News on Wednesday when asked whether he approached Clayton Developments or they approached him.

Butts began his job with the city in March 2011.

He denied the move is a potential conflict of interest.

"That question might be more appropriate if I was going to a vendor, somebody who buys and sells things to the city," he said.

"But I'm going to a place where I think the interests of Clayton and the interests of Halifax are very much aligned and that's great city building."

'He's done a very good job'

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said he was surprised but not shocked when he learned of Butts' resignation Wednesday morning.

"I think he's done a very good job. I think he did what council hired him to do at the time," he said.

Halifax mayor Mike Savage

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage wants to review contract for next CAO hired by the city. (CBC)

"He brought a great sense of fiscal discipline to the financial decisions of the city."

Halifax is better off financially now than it was when Butts started, Savage added.

"We're not raising taxes like we were in the first part of the century."

As for a perceived conflict of interest between Butts' current job and his new one, the mayor said he doesn't see one.

"There's no provision in his contract or in law that prevents him from doing that," Savage said. 

Contract for future CAOs to be reviewed

"I don't think there's going to be a problem there but that doesn't mean that I wouldn't want to look at our next CAO's contract a little bit differently and see if there are provisions we should put in there and that's a discussion I've already began with our legal folks."

The mayor said Halifax will look at other municipalities to see what rules they have in place.
 
"I think we want to make sure if there's anything we think should be in a contract about how the CAO exits and where she or he might go. We should at least consider that and talk with our legal folks and see if there's something we can or should do."

The mayor said Butts will not receive severance. "He had a contract with the city and he fulfilled it." 

Butts said his wife will be joining him in Halifax after their son graduates from a Toronto high school in June 2016.