Original Published September 8, 2022
South Peace News
A request to the Town of High Prairie to release details of the settlement reached with former CAO Sherry Poole is being refused.
South Peace News’ editor Chris Clegg made the request for disclosure in late July in the interest of the public’s right to know how taxpayer’s money is spent and to hold council accountable for its decision. Interim CAO Ramona Rollins replied by the deadline Aug. 26.
“Unfortunately, access to the information that you requested is required to be refused under sections(s) 17(4)(d) of the Act,” Rollins writes.
“The disclosure of personal information related to Ms. Poole’s employment history with the Town is presumed to be an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy. The gross amount paid to Ms. Poole in the settlement surrounding her termination as (CAO) of the Town undoubtedly relates to Ms. Poole’s employment history. None of the circumstances under section 17(2) of the Act apply to displace the presumption that the disclosure of the gross amount paid to Ms. Poole is an unreasonable invasion of her privacy.
“Consideration of the factors identified in section 17(5) of the Act also leads to the conclusion that the information should not be disclosed. Specifically, I accept that Ms. Poole is likely to be exposed to “financial or other harm” 17(5)(e) and the “disclosure may unfairly damage” her reputation (17)(5)(h).
“Since the Town’s decision to hire her, we understand that Ms. Poole has been subject to a relentless barrage of public unrest and animosity toward her. The harassment affecting Ms. Poole has been documented on various websites, including the South Peace New and the Town of High Prairie YouTube account,” she concludes.
Rollins advises there is a 60-day appeal period to review (appeal) the decision.
Poole applied for the CAO position but it was discovered there were at least two errors on her resume. When given the chance, Poole did not reply to the opportunity to respond to the errors.
At its meeting June 14, council decided by a 4-3 vote to hire Poole despite being warned of the errors by Councillor Sacha Martens before the vote. Voting in favour were Mayor Brian Panasiuk and councillors John Dunn, James Waikle and Therese Yacyshyn while opposing were councillors Donna Deynaka, Martens, and Judy Stenhouse.
However, after a public outcry with some citizens demanding council resign, and several closed special meetings, council unanimously voted July 4 to fire Poole after some members of council backtracked on its previous decision. Council also gave Panasiuk the authority to negotiate a settlement. July 4 was to be Poole’s first day on the job.
In the past, council has disclosed settlements and/or payouts to former CAOs Ken Morgan and Keli Tamaklo. Morgan was paid $43,347.15 to leave in 2005 while Tamaklo was paid “12 month’s salary” costing over $100,000 on May 6, 2015.