Cost to replace city manager is $250K: O'Keefe

Daniel MacEachern
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The mayor of St. John's warned the cost of replacing outgoing city manager Bob Smart will be about $250,000.
"It's going to take four to six months to get another city manager. It's going to cost a quarter-million dollars, approximately. The full cost," said Dennis O'Keefe this week, adding the job search to replace Smart's predecessor cost between $150,000 and $200,000.

O'Keefe said the vote to not extend Smart's contract - which expires this month - was not close, and he thinks council made a mistake in letting Smart go.

"In the last three years he's done a wonderful job in many ways," said O'Keefe. "In terms of the reorganization of the city, he has brought the city now to a position, administratively, where we're well-poised for the next 15 years or so to facilitate economic growth and development, and also to bring about a higher level of service to people who live in the city."

O'Keefe said Smart stabilized the city's financial picture by moving to a three-year budget cycle, and said Smart made a special effort to keep residential taxes from increasing. "That was always his focus, and I appreciated that more than I can even say," said O'Keefe. "Every year when Mr. Smart did the budget, his premise to staff was, 'In preparing your budget, I want you to look at no tax increases. That has to be your overriding principle.'"

Coun. Art Puddister, however, disputed the $250,000 figure cited by the mayor.

"I asked (city clerk and acting city manager) Neil Martin. He said the bill should be in the range of $50,000 to $75,000," said Puddister, who added Martin told him the bill to recruit Smart was in that range as well.

Asked what reasons were given by councillors who voted against extending the contract, O'Keefe said there were none given at Monday's meeting.

"None of them gave a reason. Nobody," said O'Keefe. "I asked for reasons, and I was greeted by silence."

Coun. Tom Hann - who said he was shocked by the vote not to extend Smart's contract - backed up the mayor's version of events, and said he voted to extend the contract. "Bob Smart is a true professional. He's got a long, successful history with the province, and while he was here he initiated the new strategic plan that we're working on, giving a new vision for the city," said Hann.

For the most part, councillors reached by The Telegram declined to reveal which way they voted, or what their reasons were - citing privacy concerns - or whether those concerns were aired at the meeting. Coun. Dave Lane said Smart's contributions to city hall were "numerous and well-recorded," and Coun. Sandy Hickman said, "I don't think anyone should think the city was in trouble or was been poorly served, but it's just the end of a contract, and we're moving on in a different direction."

But Puddister said he outlined his reasons for not wanting to extend the contract at the private meeting Monday when councillors voted on it, and it was misleading of the mayor to say he was greeted with silence.

"That's not true at all," said Puddister, adding the mayor did ask why after the vote was taken. Procedurally, said Puddister, councillors didn't have to explain their reasoning after the motion to extend the contract was rejected, but he did anyway.

"I gave my reasoning, and I left it at that, as to how I voted," said Puddister, who declined to share his reasons with The Telegram. "I'm not going to get into it. ... Mr. Smart came from the provincial government with approximately 30 years experience, and I think it's time now that the city moved in a new direction. He was engaged with the previous council, and this is a new council."

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

Organizations: The Telegram

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Recent comments

  • Betty Janes
    April 05, 2014 - 13:05

    I wonder if Mr. Puddister gave the 'NEW COUNCIL' idea any thought when he ran again. He's been recycled a few times in the Council Chamber so what's so bad about having the City Manager for a second term!!!

  • Corporate Psycho
    April 04, 2014 - 21:54

    250,000k. Is this supposed to be funny?

  • picky
    April 04, 2014 - 13:59

    This is just too funny. Thank God I don't live in St. John's. Better off spending the $ 250,000 on new sidewalk plows.

  • Sarah
    April 04, 2014 - 11:26

    Maybe this is an indication of snap judgement by council? On paper, Smart's proof of making an effort is indisputable. There's no denying it - councillors even back it up in the article. So perhaps it didn't have to do with the actual work he was hired to complete? In the process for trying to bring about change in the system, these fresh new councillors had their feathers ruffled. I'm certain a civil manager who has dealt with politics for decades will not let their work be heavily influenced by politicians. Time and time again, this council has shown that political plays are their nature. It's more about looking good in the media than doing good. This council group hasn't been in chambers for long and already you can see a mass exodus of top mgmt; Operations, Fire Chief and now City Manager. It certainly is curious. Some may say it's a good thing; I see it as a sinking ship scenario.

  • David Wilson
    April 04, 2014 - 11:15

    The cost to hire a new City Manager is a moot point. Whether it is done this year or two years down the road is irrelevant. If Doc thinks it will cost $250K to hire a new City Manager, it just goes to show how out of touch he is with City Hall. The next municipal elevtion can't come soon enough.

    • Ted
      April 04, 2014 - 12:19

      This whole "election can't come soon enough." Do we seem to forget the guy was elected and the majority of us did indeed vote for him? I'm not saying he's good at his job; I am saying that already people are lamenting about another election. We just had one and he won? I don't get it?

  • Steve
    April 04, 2014 - 09:52

    It cost $250K to place an ad in the paper?

    • Jess
      April 04, 2014 - 11:13

      For managing an exploding city with a massive budget and major service issues? They're gonna need more than just the regular mgmt Joe. That place needs a full on paradigm shift. I think we can all agree the city needs some major turning around. I'd say they will use a hiring firm and look far and wide - hence the cost. It took many months the hire after the last city mgr left. And of course, council will have to like them. We all can clearly see what ruffling a few of their feathers can do! Sensitive bunch.

  • guy incognito
    April 04, 2014 - 08:58

    Doc is getting sooky again. The vote didn't go his way so he has to remind us all how much money it will cost to replace this guy. It's good to see other members of council stand up to His Worship.

  • Dee
    April 04, 2014 - 08:41

    Yes there must be someone inside to be offered this job,$250.000 is a lot of money.Mayor Okeefe is spending too much money belonging to tax payers first the Harbour Side Fence why did a portion of that come from my tax money,when we have no money to keep the snow cleared of our streets.The city is not in the great shape that the mayor says we are in .I think it's time to audit our mayor along with his councilors,you will see how many snakes are among them.

  • Jay
    April 04, 2014 - 08:23

    Didn't the mayor's salary increase because he's supposed to be the city manager? Why are we expected to pay for two city managers?

  • Darrell
    April 04, 2014 - 08:10

    Why would St. John's hire Bob Smart in the first place? Smart retired from governement with a pension of $80K per year.

    • Jessica
      April 04, 2014 - 10:58

      All because one EARNS a pension for their years of completed service, they should not be disqualified from future opportunities. That's a complete farce. So you're saying a pension automatically eliminates any skills a person may have and their ability to continue a career in another place? Pllllease.

  • W bagg
    April 04, 2014 - 07:55

    MAybe Smart should be mayor. What exactly does the mayor do if the Mgr did all these things?

  • 55CARES
    April 04, 2014 - 07:11

    Dennis is saying that it will cost between $200,000 and $250,000 to replace the manager while Mr. Neil Martin told Mr. Puddister that the bill should in the range of $50,000 to $75,000. Mayor O’Keefe is saying that he was greeted with silence to a reason why councillors did not want to keep Mr. Smart on as manager. As in the news article it is written, "That's not true at all," said Puddister, adding the mayor did ask why after the vote was taken. Procedurally, said Puddister, councillors didn't have to explain their reasoning after the motion to extend the contract was rejected, but he did anyway. Mayor O’Keefe needs to move from this and, if not, should move out of City Hall. The City needs a leader not someone who is going to tell stories after meeting or continually whining.

    • guy incognito
      April 04, 2014 - 09:00

      Doc is being a sook because other members of council had the audacity to go against him.... Good...

    • Jess
      April 04, 2014 - 11:03

      In the very same article, you have Councillor Hann backing up O'Keefe's version of the private meeting. Ever considering that maybe Puddister isn't telling the truth about providing a reason in the meeting? No one else backed his story up like Hann did O'Keefe's. Politicians don't exactly have the best reputation for providing balanced information; it often comes from a bigger concern for their own public image.

  • Really??
    April 04, 2014 - 06:58

    250K ????? There is nobody at city hall they can promote?? Can't they just advertise in the paper or on the city website and let the applicants be interviewed by a few councillors??? This is crazy.