Digout re­turns tem­po­rar­ily as Rich­mond County CAO

‘I wouldn’t stay for any more than six months’

Cape Breton Post - - Cape Breton - BY NANCY KING nk­ing@cb­post.com

A fa­mil­iar face has re­turned to the helm at the mu­nic­i­pal build­ing in Arichat, at least tem­po­rar­ily.

Louis Digout has ac­cepted a contract of up to six months as chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer for the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of the County of Rich­mond. Digout had served in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s chief ad­min­is­tra­tive po­si­tion from 1977 un­til his re­tire­ment in 2008.

And among the items on his agenda is to help find his own re­place­ment.

In an in­ter­view Digout said that the prov­ince had told county of­fi­cials they wanted to see some­one in the po­si­tion quickly and he was ap­proached but he ini­tially turned down the of­fer.

“I said I wouldn’t stay for any more than six months but I think it will prob­a­bly be some­thing quite a bit less than that,” Digout said. “They ex­plained it would be some­thing for a short term to help them with some very im­me­di­ate prob­lems, the first be­ing to find a CAO.”

A foren­sic au­dit re­leased last year, which looked at about $800,000 in ex­pense claims at the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, re­vealed a lack of doc­u­men­ta­tion, with a large num­ber of trans­ac­tions not sup­ported by de­tailed re­ceipts. The au­dit also re­vealed ques­tion­able ex­pense claims by some coun­cil­lors and staff. The rev­e­la­tions led to the res­ig­na­tion of former CAO War­ren Olsen.

Maris Freima­nis, former CAO for the Town of Port Hawkes­bury, had served a six-month contract in the post, but it re­cently ex­pired.

Digout, a 65-year-old River Bour­geois na­tive, has al­ready worked with most cur­rent mem­bers of coun­cil al­though he said there are many new staff mem­bers.

An­other is­sue Digout will have to un­der­take is the mu­nic­i­pal bud­get, which not has not yet been passed by coun­cil and there­fore no tax rate has been set.

“They’ve had a bud­get pre­sented to them and it’s very well done but they haven’t been able to reach a con­sen­sus and strike a tax rate, so that’s very high up on the list of pri­or­i­ties and then there are var­i­ous house­keep­ing things that build up fairly quickly,” he said.

Since re­turn­ing to the CAO po­si­tion Digout has been reac­quaint­ing him­self with the op­er­a­tion and staff.

“I’m very pleased with the folks I’ve met in here, they’re very ca­pa­ble and all want­ing to do a good job for their com­mu­nity,” he said.

The county has al­ready ad­ver­tised for the CAO po­si­tion, with a clos­ing date of Aug. 25. The ad says, “strong in­ter­per­sonal skills com­bined with a high level of hon­esty and in­tegrity are es­sen­tial.”

Digout said he be­lieves the com­mu­nity views the new coun­cil, which was elected last Oc­to­ber, as hav­ing “started their man­date prop­erly.” Three cit­i­zens-at-large have been ap­pointed to an au­dit com­mit­tee to pro­vide over­sight. Coun­cil ex­penses are also now be­ing posted on­line.

“They’re gen­er­ally tak­ing a busi­ness-like ap­proach to run the mu­nic­i­pal­ity right and quite frankly I think they want to im­prove the im­age of the com­mu­nity too,” Digout said.

In his re­tire­ment, Digout per­formed some contract work and was also in­volved in sev­eral com­mu­nity en­deav­ours.

Digout said his time as CAO could po­ten­tially end by the end of Septem­ber.

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