Eyebrows have been raised in the city ever since the recent Sunshine List called a former CAO a "Corporate Advisor", a job that does not exist at City Hall.
Both Mayor Al McDonald and current CAO Keith Robicheau have refused to comment on the mystery, citing privacy and personnel issues.
Jerry Knox retired after a controversial end to his run as CAO for the City of North Bay on June 3, 2016. The move did not hit Knox in the pocketbook, though. He made more in 2016 from the City of North Bay than he did while employed by it for all 12 months of 2015.
Said Knox at the time of his December 2015 resignation announcement, "I’m a realist, and this is the right time to go." Knox added that he "no longer had the drive, commitment or burning desire for the job."
In 2015, Knox was paid $199,785 for his role as Chief Administrative Officer. In 2016, Knox served as CAO until his retirement on June 3 and grossed $203,768. Knox is listed as a "Corporate Advisor" on the 2016 sunshine list. Knox made more money in 2016 than any other City employee except Police Chief Shawn Devine, yet retired on June 3.
Lea Janisse served as interim CAO through the end of 2016. Up until June 4, 2016, Janisse was under contract as the City's managing director of corporate services and human resources, a position she has since returned to after the hiring of current CAO Keith Robicheau. Janisse made the 2016 sunshine list with earnings of $175,273.
Attempts to reach Knox and Janisse went unreturned. Both Robicheau and Mayor Al McDonald would not comment due to privacy restrictions.
Were the citizens paying for two CAOs at the same time? If so, a similar case occurred last year, when it was revealed that North Bay paying for two fire chiefs at the same time.
Is "Corporate Advisor" just some fancy terminology for "golden parachute?" City officials confirmed that Knox has been retired since June 3, 2016. He does not have an office at City Hall and cannot be reached through the switchboard. Yet he made more money last year for just over five months work than he did for a full year as CAO in 2015.
Or, was Knox kept on in an advisory role and paid handsomely for it? Knox resigned in the wake of the Memorial Gardens affair, but according to the recent Sunshine Lists, did not suffer financially for his part (as the citizens of North Bay did).
Was the advisory position added just for Knox? Did City Council approve the new hire? City taxpayers have the right to know what their $203,768 bought them in 2016. Did Knox ever work a day under the new title? Did Knox work after he resigned June 3? Is Knox still employed by the City of North Bay as a corporate advisor? Will Knox appear on the 2017 Sunshine List?
In December 2015, the Gardens situation weighed heavily in his decision to retire as CAO. From a BayToday article published December 9, 2015, the day of Knox's resignation announcement:
"Despite Knox's accomplishments, this past couple of years had been overshadowed by the Memorial Gardens fiasco.
At the time, Dec. 10th 2013, he said, 'City Council was told on a number of occasions that the Memorial Gardens project was within the allocated budget. Just last night Council was advised of the $16.2 M. The Mayor and Council are justified in any feelings of disappointment, concern, frustration and embarrassment and the need to require accountability.
'This situation is very unfortunate; a grave mistake has taken place which demands accountability and serious consequences. With the Managing Director (Peter Chirico) recovering from surgery, there is a process we will need to follow in a way that is fair and protects the organization.'
Despite that need and the promise of 'serious consequences,' no-one has ever been held publicly accountable for the mess."
Union-protected City salaries and sweetheart retirement and vacation accrual packages have become obscene. There are some talented individuals among the ranks, but is true value ever derived from some of the enormous salaries collected at City Hall?
Essential services are being scaled back every year in the name of keeping levies lower, but salaries at City Hall continue to rise. Where is the tipping point? How can people so far out of touch with the financial realities of living in North Bay continue to be tasked with making decisions for the have-nots?