Digout returns temporarily as Richmond County CAO
‘I wouldn’t stay for any more than six months’
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.