Nova Scotia

Scandal-plagued Richmond County seeking another interim CAO

The financial director of scandal-plagued Richmond County has stepped back from filling in as the chief administrative officer, the county's warden says.

Jason Martell steps away from role to focus on his municipal finance director job

The county's former CAO's travel and expense claims were singled out and heavily criticized in a forensic audit and in an ombudsman's report. (Angela MacIvor/CBC)

The financial director of scandal-plagued Richmond County has stepped back from filling in as the chief administrative officer to concentrate fully on his finance duties, the county's warden says.

Jason Martell had been serving as interim CAO on top of his regular job since late October. The former CAO, Warren Olsen, resigned amid a forensic audit and an ombudsman's report, which singled out and heavily criticized his travel and expense claims.

Year-end audit still incomplete

Warden Brian Marchand said having Martell split his time between both positions may have contributed to the municipality not yet completing its annual year-end audit.

By now, municipalities normally submit their audited statements to the Nova Scotia Municipal Affairs Department, which then reviews them, he said.

The delay has "no bearing on Mr. Martell's abilities or his work ethic," Marchand said.

"Potentially everything that's gone on in the last year, that's created the situation we're in."

Martell didn't respond to a CBC request for comment.

'Dropped the ball'

Marchand said council has the ultimate say — and councillors didn't push for the audit to be finished on time.

"The priority wasn't put there. A lot of the situation we're in has nothing to do with staff. We have a good staff. The situation we're in had to do with council," he said.

He also accepts some of the blame.

"I guess I dropped the ball on finding a replacement soon enough," Marchand said. "I didn't realize maybe the amount of work that was involved."

In the meantime, council will take on the CAO duties.

The county is talking with possible candidates about filling the interim role, and Marchand hopes to have someone in place soon.

Seeking permanent CAO

Council will then work with that new CAO on the search for someone to fill the role on a permanent basis. For now, the county has no plans to hire a head-hunting company, Marchand said.

Council is planning to conduct an organizational review before a new person starts.

"When a new CAO comes into our organization, hopefully everything will be in place for that person to take on the role," Marchand said.

'Hoping that's all behind us'

He doesn't believe the county's recent troubles will affect the search.

"I'm hoping that's all behind us. There's nothing we can do about that," he said.

"What we have to do is learn from that and move on and try to ensure that whoever's going to take that role, along with the wardens on a go-forward basis, will keep things in check and ensure that something like that doesn't happen to that extent again."