CAO not told why he was fired
Mark Brickell was suspended after defending NPCA
Mark Brickell’s lawyer says his client doesn’t know why he was fired from his job at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority.
Stephen Moreau, a lawyer with the Toronto firm Cavalluzoo
LLP, said Brickell was terminated as the NPCA chief administrative officer Thursday evening in writing.
“At no time was my client given information as to why he was being or had been suspended or as to why he was being terminated.
“His termination was in writing but no reasons for same were given,” said Moreau in a statement.
Meanwhile, incoming board members are questioning whether the former board had the legal authority to fire anyone.
“Our bylaws are very clear. They (councillors) were only appointed until the end of November, so a December meeting should be null and void,” said St. Catharines regional councillor and incoming interim NPCA board member Brian Heit.
The decision to fire Brickell may have happened after Niagara regional council voted to replace every Niagara member of the NPCA board with an interim group of councillors.
Using the authority granted it under the Conservation Authorities Act, regional council voted to replace all 12 of the Niagara NPCA board members at 5 p.m. Thursday.
At 6:12 p.m. NPCA staff received an email from the agency’s human resources department warning them not to speak to Brickell.
“Effective immediately, Mark Brickell is no longer employed at the NPCA. Please refrain from any correspondence with him. An announcement from communications will follow shortly,” the email read.
At 6:18 p.m. the NPCA issued a press release saying NPCA clerk Lisa McManus, who has no senior leadership experience, had been named the interim CAO.
McManus did not respond to interview requests Friday.
NPCA spokesman Michael Reles said the issue is a human resources matter he cannot discuss. He did not answer questions about the timing of Brickell’s departure or the authority of the previous board.
In an email to The Standard, NPCA acting chair James Kaspersetz of Hamilton said Brickell was the CAO until 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6.
Brickell was suspended with pay on Nov. 28, two days after he defended the NPCA before St. Catharines city councillors debating a motion to ask the province to appoint a supervisor to oversee the agency.
Brickell told councillors that a supervisor was unnecessary and that legislation doesn’t allow for a supervisor.
He also said the NPCA was putting its troubled house in order.
“We have reached a new point of stability. My staff have said what they’re looking for is certainty, they don’t want to go through the stuff that they’ve been going through.
“It’s time for the politics to quiet down and let us just do the good work we do.”
City council called on Queen’s Park to create the ability of the environment ministry to appoint a supervisor.
Welland regional Coun. Pat Chiocchio, who was appointed as Welland’s NPCA representative, hopes to discuss the issues on Dec. 12, the next scheduled authority meeting.
“It disturbs me that it happened that way.
“It should have been left to this present board or the following board to decide on how we move forward with staffing and the CAO position,” said Chiocchio who wants to know about any severance paid to Brickell.
Port Colborne Mayor Bill Steele said the former board should have taken a step back and let the incoming board decide labour issues.
Brickell’s tenure as CAO was marked by some labour strife within the NPCA and a highly critical Auditor General’s report.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union filed nine grievances against the NPCA and Brickell, largely centred around the firing of several front line employees. OPSEU president Smokey Thomas said Friday that eight of the nine grievances had been resolved and one was going to arbitration.
It is not clear if any of the grievances played a role in Brickell’s firing.
NPCA CAO Mark Brickell