Nfld. & Labrador

Well-connected Liberal staffer lands high-paying civil service job at The Rooms, without competition

Tourism minister says there was an "imminent need" to fill the position, even though it had been vacant for two years.

Tourism minister says there was an urgent need to fill the role, even though it had been vacant for 2 years

Carla Foote, daughter of former federal cabinet minister and current lieutenant-governor Judy Foote, is the new executive director of marketing and development at The Rooms. (CBC)

A well-connected Liberal staffer has been handed the second-highest paying job at The Rooms in St. John's, without any competition.

Carla Foote is the daughter of Judy Foote, the current lieutenant-governor of Newfoundland and Labrador and a former federal cabinet minister.

Carla Foote is also a longtime political staff person, working first for the Liberals in opposition, and then as the top communications employee for the civil service.

Her new job at The Rooms — which houses the provincial archives, museum and gallery — is an open-ended contract for the position of executive director of marketing and development.

Tourism minister Christopher Mitchelmore is defending the hire of Carla Foote. (Gary Locke/CBC)

There was no competition for the civil service position, which has a salary of $132,000. 

The only person at The Rooms who earns more than that is the CEO, and no other employee at the facility has a salary of $100,000 or more, according to last year's provincial salary disclosure documents.

'Highly qualified'

Newfoundland and Labrador's tourism minister is defending the hiring without a competition. 

"There was an imminent need to hire somebody who was highly qualified, and a contract was extended and approved by the board of directors," said Christopher Mitchelmore.

"When the new chairperson came on board, we had a discussion, as would be normal. As the government shareholder, I am responsible for The Rooms. We had that discussion to talk about initiatives going forward ... it was determined that it is a high priority to fill a position around marketing and development at that level and hire somebody at that calibre to do that work."

The job had been vacant for two years. 

The Rooms houses the provincial archives, museum and gallery. (Wendy Rose)

When pressed about whether it's bad optics that the daughter of a former federal Liberal cabinet minister got the job without competing for it, Mitchelmore said it came down to Foote's capabilities and the urgency to fill the position.

"She has the talent and capability to bring The Rooms to the next level when it comes to working with the team, the management team at The Rooms, the CEO and supporting the CEO, but also the board of directors and reaching out and working all across government," he said. 

"Carla Foote was the person that was the contracted person in that role to do the work and she's highly qualified and capable and I have nothing further to add … I look forward to working with her in this."

Competition should have been required: Crosbie

PC leader Ches Crosbie says Foote's hiring raises questions.

"It should be done by merit-based appointment process, as the government has staked its reputation on," he told CBC.

"It's the kind of thing that should be subjected to something competitive. The job had been vacant for two years, so why not wait for a couple of more months until a job competition could take place?"

With files from Peter Cowan

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