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No need for competition in Rooms hire: minister

Business Minister Christopher Mitchelmore speaks to reporters Monday outside the House of Assembly.
Business Minister Christopher Mitchelmore speaks to reporters Monday outside the House of Assembly. - David Maher

Mitchelmore says he signed the staffing request for Foote

Business Minister Christopher Mitchelmore faced questions in the House of Assembly on Monday after the appointment of a well-connected government staffer to one of the highest positions at The Rooms.

Carla Foote, daughter of Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote, was recently hired as executive director of marketing and communications.

Foote worked as a journalist before working for the Liberal opposition office, then taking on the top communications job in the public service once the Liberals came to power in 2015.

In question period on Monday, Mitchelmore defended the hire, stating it is a “lateral move,” as Foote’s salary will remain the same from her previous position.

Despite holding no competition for the position, Mitchelmore says he made the decision to put Foote in the role.

“I had made the determination that Carla Foote was deemed the most qualified person to fill the role,” said Mitchelmore.

“I’m not required when it comes to dealing with an executive level position and transfer within government. Having someone who is amply qualified to fill the role, I made that outreach and support having Carla Foote as the executive director.”

Mitchelmore says his department received the request from The Rooms board of directors to have someone fill the newly created role.

“My signature would be on the staffing request, requesting Carla Foote to be hired,” Mitchelmore told reporters on Monday.

The independent appointments commission, established by the first bill passed upon the Liberals winning the 2015 election, does not cover director-level positions within the government. The commission hires CEOs and appoints boards through a panel led by former premier Clyde Wells, but any staffing decisions made below that level are not run through an independent process.

While no one on Monday put forward specific doubts about Foote’s qualifications, the opposition questioned how the public can be sure the best candidate was selected if there was no competition for the position.

Tory Leader Ches Crosbie says the government’s reasoning is shaky.

“The government’s defence is ‘lateral hire.’ This was not a lateral hire. This woman went from an order in council appointment inside core government to a contract appointment outside government. That’s unusual. It is not a lateral transfer,” said Crosbie.

NDP Leader Gerry Rogers says this is just another example of patronage within government.

“It doesn’t look good. It doesn’t sound good. The people of the province, when they heard this, you could hear the collective groan: here we go again,” she said.

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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