Minden Hills council will undertake a thorough review of all municipal policies and procedures this term after some members raised concern that the township’s current guidelines were outdated and not being followed.

CAO Trisha McKibbin brought a report to council Feb. 23 outlining the township’s current hiring practices, which she says differ from Policy 16 – legislation addressing all aspects of municipal recruitment. She noted the policy should be revised to reflect new methods staff have been using since 2015.

The policy mandates that two members of council, selected from the now defunct personnel committee, assist the CAO, reeve (now mayor) and deputy reeve (now deputy mayor) in identifying and then selecting a candidate for department head positions, with the CAO, department head and two members of the personnel committee taking an active role in recruiting for all supervisory positions.

McKibbin said that, since she assumed the CAO position in 2020, she has been working with the practice that a council member will sit in on interviews for director-level positions, with all other hires being left strictly to the CAO, human resources staff and department heads.

She indicated this unofficial method had helped the township fill several positions over the past 12 months.

“During COVID, many municipalities have seen challenges with recruitment and hiring. We are in a very improved place than where we were a while ago in terms of vacancies,” McKibbin said.

The municipality is still looking to recruit a director of planning, building, and bylaw; building inspector; bylaw inforcement officer; manager of waste facilities; and clerical assistant for the clerk’s department.

Coun. Tammy McKelvey said she had an issue with staff choosing not to follow directions outlined in official policy. McKibbin said a report on Policy 16, recommending changes, would be coming to council in March, and asked that council allow staff to use its current hiring practices until then.

Mayor Bob Carter and Coun. Pam Sayne said they would be in favour of that.

“We haven’t been following this policy because it didn’t work. We had staffing issues and had to move forward. I strongly support the practice we have now. This is the way we’re finally getting some even footing with our staffing,” Sayne said.

Carter said the current practice was approved by a previous council in 2015, but the policy wasn’t changed. Coun. Ivan Ingram said that was “ridiculous”, saying council needed to pay attention to its policies and make sure they’re regularly updated and relevant. He wasn’t in favour of extending this practice, telling council that staff should follow policies as they’re written.

“They’re there for a reason. We can’t just decide ‘oh, we’re going to skip that one this week’. We have to be consistent with this. If we’re not [going to follow our policies], then why have them at all?” Ingram said. “If we have it written down, we have to follow it.”

Carter said this would put a “fairly large burden” on staff, as it would necessitate bringing forward amendments to large files like the township’s procurement policy and procedural bylaw.

“They should have been done right [and updated] in the first place, then we wouldn’t be here talking about this,” Ingram said. “We are where we are… it’s important that we do this right.”

Sayne’s motion to continue with current practices was defeated, with council approving McKelvey’s suggestion that staff revert to following existing policies until they are amended.