New Brunswick

Controversial appointment of new head of library service won't be reviewed, government says

The New Brunswick government will not order an independent review of the controversial appointment of the new executive director of the provincial public library service, according to an email to his predecessor, who requested the inquiry.

Kevin Cormier's predecessor Sylvie Nadeau is disappointed with Premier Blaine Higgs's decision

Kevin Cormier was appointed executive director of the New Brunswick Public Library Service through an internal government program, effective Feb. 18. (Kevin Cormier/Facebook)

The New Brunswick government will not order an independent review of the controversial appointment of the new executive director of the provincial public library service, according to an email to his predecessor, who requested the inquiry.

Sylvie Nadeau said she's "extremely disappointed" Premier Blaine Higgs has decided not to look into what led to Kevin Cormier being put in charge of the province's 64 public libraries despite an apparent lack of library training or experience.

"It remains incomprehensible and unacceptable to me that the government of New Brunswick considers that it is acceptable to appoint people without the officially approved qualifications … as long as it can claim the legality of the appointment through a loophole such as the [corporate] talent management program," she said.

"This is indeed very sad and disturbing. As a citizen I expect much better from my government. I expect a fair, honest and transparent government."

Cormier could not immediately be reached for comment.

He was appointed in February through the corporate talent management program, which provides current and aspiring executives in the upper pay bands of government with opportunities to further develop their competencies within or outside their current department.

Nadeau said the approved description of the job that pays up to nearly $114,000 a year states the minimum requirements are a master's degree of library and/or information studies, with nine years of progressive experience, including management and supervision of library operation.

"Knowledge of large network library system is essential," the description says.

Cormier's LinkedIn profile lists his education as a single year at York University's Schulich School of Business in Toronto in 2005 and two years at the Moncton Flight College, from 1998 to 2000.

He spent the past year as a strategic adviser in the Executive Council Office. He was previously the chief executive officer of Kings Landing Corporation, the historical settlement near Fredericton, for about seven years.

Urges municipal councils to seek review

Nadeau, who served as the provincial librarian and executive director for 20 years until her retirement in December, maintains there were "irregularities and flaws" with the recruitment and appointment process.

Last month, she called on Higgs to order an independent review. She followed up with requests to Finance and Treasury Board Minister Ernie Steeves and deputy minister Cheryl Hansen.

Since then, she has written to every municipal council in the province where a library is located, urging them to write the premier to also request an independent review.

Sylvie Nadeau said she hopes that citizens will continue to voice their concerns about the appointment, and that the government will reverse its decision and order an independent review. (Submitted by Sylvie Nadeau)

Municipalities are a major partner in delivering the provincial library service, said Nadeau.

"Typically when we talk about the provincial budgets for libraries, 30 to 40 per cent is really municipal money."

They provide the space and maintenance, as well as the furniture and equipment. They also appoint library boards, who serve as the "voice and ears" of the community. "So I believe they have a stake in what's going on."

She sent a similar letter to the New Brunswick Library Trustees Association Inc.

On Friday, Nadeau received an email from Kelly Cain, the deputy minister responsible for human resources, Finance and Treasury Board, which was copied to the premier, Steeves and Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Trevor Holder, who is responsible for libraries.

Program review to be completed in June

In the email, Cain thanked Nadeau for her "input" on the matter but said the appointment of the new executive director of the library service "was done through careful consideration and in accordance with the Civil Service Act."

"Although an independent review of the recruitment and appointment process for this position will not be conducted, the Department of Finance and Treasury Board takes your comments under advisement and will be examining the existing talent management program for areas of improvement as directed by the minister of post-secondary education, training and labour." 

That review, previously reported by CBC News, has started and is expected to be completed by the end of June if not before, said Vicky ​​​​​Deschênes, spokesperson for Finance and Treasury Board.

"The findings will help inform any gaps or shortcomings in the program and opportunities for improvement," she said in an emailed statement.

A spokesperson for the premier's office has said Cormier's performance will be assessed when his probationary period ends. 

Deschênes said she was unable to comment on specifics related to an individual employee, but under the Civil Service Act, probation typically lasts six months and no more than one year.

Filed Right to Information requests

Nadeau has filed Right to Information Act requests to the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour and to the Department of Finance and Treasury Board about the recruitment process.

She wants to know who wrote the ad when the job was initially posted as a competition last fall, who approved the ad, who selected the candidates to be interviewed, and who conducted the interviews.

Nadeau said she knows of at least two "highly qualified" and fluently bilingual internal candidates who were interviewed for the job.

"I have the privilege of having served in the civil service for 25-plus years," she said. "I know how government works. I know what's right and I know what's wrong. … And this is wrong.

"And I cannot stay silent until I'm getting — and New Brunswickers are getting — answers that make sense here."

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