Edmonton

Simon Farbrother's replacement will need to be more 'hands-on': Caterina

Dismissing the city manager was part of a larger culture of change at city hall, say city councillors.

City councillors say new management style needed to face coming challenges

Former city manager Simon Farbrother speaking to reporters in August 2015. (CBC)

Dismissing the city manager was part of a broader culture of change at city hall, say city councillors.

On Thursday, Mayor Don Iveson announced city manager Simon Farbrother was let go with an $800,000 severance.

Calling it a "difficult decision," Iveson said the city needed a "fresh perspective" for the future. Except for Coun. Ben Henderson, council voted unanimously in favour of removing Farbrother.

Ward 7 Coun. Tony Caterina said it was not an easy decision.

"We didn't take pleasure in this," said Caterina. "But it came to a point where, even after the good work that Simon had performed over the last number of years, the city is going into a difficult time going forward in the next two, three, fours years. And  council felt that we needed a different type of management style in order to make sure that the city is prepared for what is coming."

Caterina said Farbrother's dismissal was not based solely on the delayed Metro LRT line project which has caused the city so many headaches.

"I don't think there was anything in particular," he said. " And I know that a lot of people are going to be pointing to the NAIT LRT and so forth but that's not the reason. This is over a longer period of time and just the direction that the city wants to go."

Coun. Michael Oshry agreed, saying council just decided it was time for the city administration to go in a different direction 

The decision comes in the wake of several other staffing changes, Oshry noted. Over the past few years, he estimated about 70 per cent of upper management in the transportation department has been turned over.

"But I think there's some departments of the city that haven't been performing as well as we would like," Oshry added.

The ongoing transition at city hall will require a different style of management with a more "hands-on" approach, Caterina said.

He said the city would not be rushing into any quick decisions about who that next manager will be.

"We don't want to do this in a hurry just for the sake of doing it. We want to make sure that we get the right person in the job that we're comfortable with and that the public has confidence in."

Caterina predicted when a new permanent city manager is named, the transition will be made with little disruption.

The city manager and city auditor are the only two positions reporting directly to city council. 

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