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Councillors take hands-off stance in hiring controversy

Woolwich councillors have yet to weigh in on a controversial hiring, which saw a newly-created staff position filled by a friend of the mayor. Now the township faces the possibility of going through the process two months later, as the new employee’s work visa is set to expire.

Councillors, however, say personnel matters are left to staff; the situation has not been the subject of a formal discussion, nor are there plans to question the decision to hire someone in the country on a temporary visa set to expire in mid-June.
Saskia Koning, a South African citizen, beat out some 120 other candidates to win the executive assistant’s position, starting the job Apr. 26. It was to be a three-year contract.

Chief administrative officer David Brenneman said this week there’s been no change in Koning’s visa situation. It’s likely she’ll have to leave the post, sending the township back to square-one in the hiring process.
Brenneman and Mayor Todd Cowan, who was involved in the hiring process, deemed Koning the best-qualified candidate. Without her application, the township had considered re-advertising for the position, deeming all the other applications ill-suited to the job.

“If the position becomes vacant the only additional costs that will need to be incurred will be associated with the recruitment process,” said Cowan in an email.

“It should be noted that had the township not hired Ms. Koning, we would have proceeded to re-advertise the position and incurred those costs regardless.”

Koning’s own résumé, however, does not seem to fit the qualifications stipulated by the township when it advertised for an executive assistant to the mayor/council and corporate communications assistant. Brenneman said he is satisfied with her background and experience.

Officials have also declined to discuss the pay scale for an administrative assistant’s job – $43,000 to $53,000 a year, plus generous benefits – that are out of line with HRSDC data for similar jobs in the private sector. The township position pays about 50 per cent above private-sector averages for administrative assistance jobs – about $35,000 – and much more than entry-level offerings, which run closer to $25,000. Executive assistants, with more experience and responsibility, can earn closer to the range offered by the township, according to figures available from federal employment websites

On the issue of Koning’s hiring, Coun. Mark Bauman said council hires one person, the CAO, who in turn looks after all other personnel issues.
“With regard to the EA position, council does not get involved in the hiring process.”

Council is responsible, however, creating the job, which was approved as part of budget deliberations in February. There has been no talk of eliminating the position should it become vacant.

At the broader level, council is also responsible for setting pay ranges, but there has been no discussion about restraint despite some public backlash that has arisen due to the hiring controversy. But that is not on the table right now, either, said Coun. Julie-Anne Herteis, noting ward councillors were not involved in the employment process.

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  1. Based on previous experience (none)and other qualifications given this stinks of some form of pseudo-nepotism.
    I hope that any applicant and who is a CITIZEN who feels that they are qualified file a complaint with the proper ministry. The law clearly states that a foreigner may only be considered if there are no no application from qualified citizens.

  2. According yo the article it states that Ms Koenig was the only suitable candidate and if she wasn’t hired another posting would have to be advertised. I am sure there has to be a qualified person for ‘an entry level assistant’ at $50,000 plus a year who the mayor may not want to hire but would be fully capable. {But may not be quite as attractive}

  3. Thanks again to the Observer for asking legitimate questions about the scandalous hiring practices of the Township. It is not at all suprizing that Council wants to stay out of this issue as it smells really bad. Unfortunatly, they should become involved to moderate the actions of the Mayor and CAO, who together, are completely out of line on this matter. Why was the Mayor involved when it should have been the responsibity of the CAO? How did the CAO allow a job to be offered to an unqualified person and for double what would be considered a reasonable starting salary? I’m sorry Mr. Brenneman but you and the Mayor have done NOTHING to control the huge tax increase, which is in large part due to this “Mayor’s assistant” position. Do the honourable thing and scrap this needless waste. Then bring a revised budget back to Council with the tax savings. A 5%+ tax increase to fund your own pet projects and staff hires is not welcomed by the average citizens and business owners of Woolwich who have to fund it.

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