Controversial hire Carla Foote resigns from The Rooms
Foote taking job as assistant deputy minister for the Office of Public Engagement
Carla Foote has resigned from her position at The Rooms, months after her hiring dominated the political landscape in Newfoundland and Labrador for much of the fall.
She has taken a job as the assistant deputy minister for the office of public engagement.
Foote was hired for the executive-level position of director of marketing, with an annual salary of $132,000, without any competition.
The premier's office confirmed the move, saying her new position will pay $122,000 a year.
It's not only a pay cut, but a lower level than her previous position with the provincial government. Before she was moved into The Rooms, she was associate secretary to cabinet — in charge of all government communications — a position considered equivalent to deputy minister.
The position she moves into has been vacant since Dec. 18.
Foote was also a longtime Liberal staffer, and is the daughter of former federal and provincial cabinet minister, and current lieutenant-governor, Judy Foote.
The controversial hiring has plagued Premier Dwight Ball and the Liberals for more than a year.
A scathing report by the Office of the Citizen's Representative — a public body tasked with investigating whistleblower complaints — found that cabinet minister Christopher Mitchelmore violated the provincial government's code of conduct when he hired Foote for the vacant position at The Rooms and hiked the salary. The report was forwarded to Bruce Chaulk, the commissioner for legislative standards, who recommended a reprimand for Mitchelmore after he "grossly mismanaged" his obligations with respect to the code of conduct and use of public money.
The investigation started last winter — after Mitchelmore fielded a daily barrage of questions from journalists, but before The Rooms CEO Dean Brinton was cut loose with compensation and a confidentiality agreement.
Political cronyism: Opposition
Late Thursday afternoon, the PCs blasted Foote's latest job.
"The Liberals are so swamped in political cronyism that they're beyond the point of even caring how it looks anymore to the people of the province," leader Ches Crosbie said in a news release.
The move comes the same week that the opposition has criticised the liberal government for a $350,000 a year consulting contract for a former deputy minister.
CBC News reported this week that the premier's right-hand man is connected to former deputy minister Gordon McIntosh's controversial — and costly — oil and gas consulting job has opposition members drawing stark parallels to other government-awarded contracts in recent memory.
The premier's office said a Nalcor vice-president and the chief of staff "mutually agreed" at the meeting that the consultant was the ideal choice to help transition the new standalone oil and gas corporation. Nalcor then took over negotiations, finalized the contract, and submitted the $350,000 budget request.
Mitchelmore suspended, apologized
The House of Assembly voted 21-18 in favour of the recommended penalty to suspend Mitchelmore for two weeks without pay. He was also ordered to write an apology to the House, The Rooms' board of directors and meet with the commissioner for legislative standards to review the code of conduct for members of the House of Assembly.
"As the member for St. Barbe-L'Anse aux Meadows, I unequivocally apologize to the House of Assembly and to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Thank you," Mitchelmore said Dec. 5 in the House of Assembly.
As controversy around the hiring ramped up, Mitchelmore remained mum. Mitchelmore has never answered questions about what happened and has ducked reporters. Ball fielded most of the grilling by Opposition MHAs during question period and defended Mitchelmore, even calling him a "loyal soldier" — a description that did nothing to appease the PC and NDP members who were on the attack.
With files from Anthony Germain and Ryan Cooke