Nfld. & Labrador

Carla Foote hiring forms leave 'Rationale for Staffing' section blank

The section titled "Rationale For Staffing" was left blank.

Documents show no reason given for hiring Liberal staffer to high-paying job

Minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Chris Mitchelmore did not fill out all the paperwork when hiring Carla Foote to a high-paying job at The Rooms. (CBC)

When Chris Mitchelmore got to the section of paperwork where he had to justify hiring a longtime Liberal staffer for a job with a six-figure salary, he wrote nothing.

CBC News has obtained the documents filled out when Carla Foote was hired by the minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation to an executive position within The Rooms provincial art gallery and museum.

Each section of the hiring form is completed, until section four — titled "Rationale For Hiring."

Mitchelmore's scrawled signature rests a few inches below, giving authorization for the hire on Sept. 26, but the box of reasons for choosing Carla Foote is empty.

The section titled 'Rationale For Staffing' was left blank on Carla Foote's hiring authorization forms. (Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation)

The position was filled without competition, after it had been vacant for two years. It comes with a salary of $132,000.

The instructions in the section ask the minister to provide much of the same information the media has been demanding for months — why did the position need to be filled, was it considered difficult to fill, and was it necessary to fill it at all?

The initial job posting in 2016 stated a degree in marketing or commerce would be an asset. Foote has neither of those qualifications, but worked as the lead communications official for the provincial government.

Different story for another hire

The documents obtained by CBC News through an access to information request show a stark contrast in how Foote was hired versus how a colleague was hired a month later.

On Oct. 31, Mitchelmore authorized the hiring of Anne Chafe to a similar executive position with The Rooms. In the fourth section of that hiring form, Mitchelmore wrote three paragraphs, listing reasons for hiring Chafe to the position.

Anne Chafe's hiring forms look different, with a description provided under the rationale for staffing section. (@AnneChafe/Twitter, Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation.)

Chafe's form was filled out in the days after a CBC News story raised questions about how Foote could be hired without competition.

What followed was more than a month of daily questions in the House of Assembly, and short, repetitious answers from Mitchelmore.

Earlier this month, a spokesperson for Mitchelmore's office told CBC News the minister would have nothing further to say on Foote's hiring.

Minister taking heat for hire

On Tuesday, Premier Dwight Ball voiced his support for Foote in a media scrum after question period.

"It's certainly not in my view a political payoff here," Ball said. "I think Carla Foote is highly qualified for that job."

A list of emails obtained by CBC News in the same access to information request show dozens of people in the general public did not share the premier's view. The letters criticizing the hiring decision had the names blacked out by a government information coordinator.

The Rooms houses Newfoundland and Labrador's provincial art gallery, museum and archives. (CBC)

"Please don't force good Liberal supporting voters to mark their X for Crosbie in 2019," one person wrote.

"The minister's statement aired on CBC's Here and Now last evening made me gag on my supper," another wrote in response to Mitchelmore's explanation for hiring Foote.

"Your decision to forego an open search for candidates in favour of making a unilateral, political appointment for a senior level position is unconscionable," a third person wrote to Mitchelmore. "Frankly, you should resign for the greater good."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Peter Cowan and Anthony Germain