Springwater council delegates authority to CAO, emergency control group
Springwater council practices distancing in special session, attended remotely by some councillors. In the council chamber, from left, CAO Jeff Scmidt, Councillor Perry Ritchie, Mayor Don Allen and Deputy Mayor Jennifer Coughlin. Clerk Renee Ainsworth has her back to the camera.
By Kate Harries AWARE News Network
Despite reservations expressed by some councillors, Springwater Township Council voted on March 25, 2020 to delegate its authority to CAO Jeff Schmidt.
Planning Director Brent Spagnol has been appointed deputy CAO. The by-law, passed unanimously, authorizes Schmidt “to take such actions as he may deem necessary and appropriate in order to deal with any emerging issues arising from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and to ensure the continuity of business operations.”
The by-law requires Schmidt to consult with a recently formed emergency control group made up of Mayor Don Allen, Deputy Mayor Jennifer Coughlin and the township’s department heads.
Councillor George Cabral expressed concern that council is being left out of the loop and only informed of decisions as they are released to the public.
He pointed to an email sent out by Schmidt the day before the council meeting with regard to continued payment of full-time township staff during a 14-day closing mandated by the province.
That is a decision he would have expected to have been brought to council, he said. “We’re looking at providing delegated authority to the CAO and it seems to me that delegated authority was utilized last night in sending out that correspondence.”
Councillor Jack Hanna asked what the rationale is for continuing to pay staff that may not be engaged in full employment, noting that many in private industry are laying off staff.
Schmidt said that much of the township’s work continues, even though it is being done remotely, with projects for which there may not have been time being brought forward. Any layoff of permanent staff might lead to wrongful dismissal cases, he added.
Hanna said he didn’t understand why council wouldn’t be involved in all decisions.
Schmidt said the township needs to make quick decisions in a situation where “things are changing by the hour.”
Councillor Anita Moore asked for an example of an urgent decision regarding which council might not be able to come together quickly enough. Schmidt did not provide a specific example but suggested decisions by the prime minister or premier “may require us to take action fairly quickly.”
Cabral noted that he, as a retired police officer, has background in emergency management and Moore, being a health professional, could also bring useful experience to making the decisions required at this time.
Schmidt said he is in constant communication with the Simcoe-Muskoka Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Charles Gardner.
Moore said she had not been privy to any reports or minutes of the meetings of the emergency control group. “I’d like to see those if I could.” Allen said Schmidt had been updating council by email.
“Are there reports, or no reports?” Moore insisted.
“We have an established agenda,” Schmidt told her. “We will get you the minutes.”