A new lead administrator hired by the City of Greater Sudbury will continue residing in Alberta on a permanent basis, even after beginning her new role on Nov. 21.
The city announced on Nov. 18 that they’d hired former City of Lethbridge senior team member Hailey Pinksen as their new director of Finance and Chief Financial Officer in a media release that made no mention of her remote work arrangement.
A few days later, Sudbury.com received a tip from a former city staff member that Pinksen planned on working remotely from Alberta on a permanent basis.
“I don’t know how the person can perform that job and not be in the office,” the former city staff member said. “I would think with what that job pays they could find someone who would want to live in Sudbury.”
Another local media outlet broke the news of Pinksen’s remote work arrangement earlier this week, prompting a torrent of online criticism. Their key assertion has been that a local candidate or one willing to relocate to Greater Sudbury would have been preferred.
Reflecting on the negative public backlash, city CAO Ed Archer told Sudbury.com that he understands where they're coming from.
“I don’t disagree, but we may differ on whether it’s the most important thing,” he said, pointing to skillset as a greater priority, particularly in a stressful environment where an increasing number of people are choosing to retire.
“In a choice between hiring a candidate with the skills and qualifications we need who is here, locally, and one who will be working remotely, I will take the local candidate,” he said, adding that this was not the case as the city went through two rounds of seeking a candidate.
“I understand that there’s some concern about having a CFO who’s not part of the local community in a day-to-day sense and perhaps is not contributing to the local economy like other employees may, yet what she does bring are skills and experience that will help the organization advance its goals to be a progressive, efficient organization that relies heavily on its long-range financial plans and its ability to use creative solutions for delivering service that she’s got experience using.”
Technology has improved during the past several years, particularly during the pandemic, to a point where remote working is much more feasible than it has been in the past, Archer added.
“This is certainly novel, but not unique,” he said of having a lead administrator reside out of province. “I would prefer those skills to be here, of course, but when they’re not … I can take advantage of them wherever they are.”
Throughout the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic, people employed in various fields found themselves working from home whenever possible to help stem the virus’s spread.
As the months progressed and the pandemic eased closer toward endemic, employers began having their employees return to in-person work.
The City of Greater Sudbury has been no exception. Although most employees were ordered to return to in-person work in phases earlier this year concluding on May 2, approximately 392 of the city’s 2,500 full-time equivalent staff have continued working off-site on a permanent basis.
These positions cover an array of departments and include people working remotely on a full-time basis and those who work remotely part of the time.
As for Pinksen, Archer said her travel costs were covered for orientation, as they would be with any employee travelling great distance, but that subsequent trips between her Alberta home and Greater Sudbury would come at her own expense.
She will be expected to be in Greater Sudbury for the annual budget deliberation processes, and Archer added, “We’ll continue to have regular and direct contact with her through technology, whether that’s a phone call or our meeting platforms.”
Pinksen is a Chartered Professional Accountant and Certified Internal Auditor, with a Certificate in Municipal Management and Leadership from the School of Business at the University of Alberta.
Her experience has included a position on the City of Lethbridge’s senior team, where she was responsible for tax and assessment, financial services, procurement, grant funding, investments and integrated risk management.
Most recently, she was director of Finance and Administration for the Chinook Primary Care Network in Lethbridge.
“In addition to her impressive background in accounting, finance and audit background, Hailey brings to this role a unique combination of education in areas such as conflict management, meditation, mindfulness and coaching,” general manager of Corporate Services Kevin Fowke said in last month’s media release.
“Our finance group and our broader group of service directors will certainly benefit from her leadership, experience and passion for public service.”
The Director of Finance and CFO is responsible for the annual budget process, tax billing and collection, accounting, payroll and financial information system support, purchasing and procurement, budgeting financial planning, risk management and insurance, and finance and support services.
Pinksen replaces longtime director of Finance and CFO Ed Stankiewicz, who retired earlier this year after 40 years with local municipalities.
Sudbury.com did request an interview with Pinksen through the city's communication department, but we received no response.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.