Fireworks at Big Valley council meeting as CAO’s last day of work discussed

Written by Stu Salkeld

While the COVID-19 pandemic will limit fireworks for New Year’s Eve this year, the last Village of Big Valley regular council meeting of 2020 had some fireworks of its own as councillors argued over the outgoing chief administrative officer’s last day of work. 

The meeting was held via Zoom to meet pandemic rules.

As Mayor Clark German addressed the agenda item titled “Appointment of an Interim CAO,” he noted that Chief Administrative Officer(CAO) Sandra Schell resigned previous to the meeting.

He stated Schell’s last day of work was Dec. 31 and the village would need a replacement.

German noted the village has already received seven resumes so it shows there is interest in the job. 

The mayor noted it was already discussed to assign the CAO duties to the village’s administrative support staff member until a new CAO was hired, adding that council could assign the duties to anyone they felt was “competent and fit.”

German also stated that instead of loading that one person with both jobs he suggested Schell continue as CAO on a contract basis until a replacement was hired.

Coun. Harry Nibourg disagreed, stating he felt the work should be given to existing village staff and stated he was hesitant that someone who was not actually a village employee would have access to secure information like computer passwords.

German stated it’s not unusual for temporary staff such as consultants to have secure access. 

The mayor stated councillors underestimate how much work the CAO has, it could be one to two months before a new CAO is hired and he felt offering a contract to Schell was the best option.

Nibourg disagreed, stating Schell’s resignation was accepted and the CAO work should be handled by the remaining staff member at the village office. 

“It wasn’t our decision,” said Nibourg.

Coun. Art Tizzard stated he liked the contract idea, saying it was a “win-win” scenario and would give Schell a chance to help the new CAO settle in.

Coun. Nibourg stated he disagreed, adding that he was questioning Schell’s integrity.

Tizzard responded by saying if Schell was trusted when village CAO, she should be trustworthy now.

Nibourg countered by stating the admin staff has lots of experience, including past council work, the village has had three CAO’s in two years and it would be best for everyone to have a clean transition.

Schell spoke up and stated the point was moot because upon hearing Coun. Nibourg’s comments, she would decline any contract work for the village because working with some people as CAO was not possible.

Nibourg responded, “Your true intentions have come out,” and also questioned Schell’s honesty.

Schell responded, “I will say publicly that I have done nothing wrong.”

Nibourg stated the village also has a standing request to the provincial government for an inspection or investigation of some type which was not mentioned again.

Coun. Tizzard stated he felt Nibourg was overlooking his own part in problems at the village office. 

“You’re the guy that brought this stuff on,” said Tizzard. 

Nibourg countered saying, “So I’m to blame for corruption at the village?”

Tizzard answered, “It’s not corruption, it’s harassment. 

Nibourg responded, “It’s not harassment to hold someone accountable.”

Nibourg then made a motion that village employee Gail Knudson act as interim CAO as of Dec. 31, 2020 until a replacement is hired.

Mayor German stated there was no way the admin support could learn everything from Schell in one day. Nibourg asked why wasn’t the staff member trained sooner?

Nibourg’s motion was defeated by a 1 – 2 vote.

Another motion for Knudson to act as interim CAO beginning Jan. 1, 2021 was passed.


Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.