Here we go again

Readers will have to forgive us if we’re starting to repeat ourselves.

Time and again we have railed against municipal officials who stridently espouse transparency when all’s going well but then immediately revert to silence and secrecy at the first hint of a bump in the road.

Well, as Yogi Berra once said, “It’s deja vu all over again.”

On Jan. 18 the Town of Erin issued a two-sentence, nondescript press release  attributed to Mayor Allan Alls that stated CAO Kathryn Ironmonger was “stepping down” due to “personal commitments.”

Oddly, three hours later, Alls released another two-sentences stating the town’s interim CAO, who has been covering for Ironmonger since she went on sick leave in May, would stay on until a new CAO was hired.

To be fair, this departure was handled differently than the dismissal of three prominent Erin employees in 2015 (which the Advertiser also criticized). In those cases, Alls stated only that the staffers were “no longer with the town” (ironically, this disingenuous catch-phrase, often used by municipal officials attempting to conceal information, is also an immediate giveaway that someone was fired).

The script was much different this time around. In his announcement Alls said it’s with regret that he announced the CAO’s departure and he wished her “success in her future endeavours.”

In a normal situation, this might seem like a straightforward announcement. But as anyone who has followed Erin council for the past three and a half years will know, this situation was anything but normal. And though this polarizing time appears now to be over,  it has generated far more questions than answers.

Did the CAO quit? Did she retire? Or was she fired or forced out? Does her departure come with monetary compensation? When asked the latter question directly, both the mayor and CAO declined to provide details, though Alls did state “the settlement” between Ironmonger and the town is “confidential.”

We certainly understand the need for privacy and the municipality is bound by legislation to protect certain details in this situation.

But as we wrote in this very space just 17 months ago, withholding basic information about decisions that could cost taxpayers tens (perhaps hundreds) of thousands of dollars, all under the guise of ‘privacy’ concerns, is appalling.

Clearly, residents may never know exactly what happened here.

All we know for sure is that prior to 2012, it seemed Erin’s highest administrative office was regarded by councillors, media and residents with respect. Since then, it’s been reduced to little more than a revolving door.

Erin residents deserve better (sadly, we’ve also written that here before).