OP/ED: More Grand Forks hand-me-downs?

Laurie Charlton
By Laurie Charlton
September 4th, 2012

If anyone had any doubts that CAO Victor Kumar controls council members like puppets on a string, consider this. Mr. Kumar has resigned and appears to have foisted his own hand-picked successor onto council. His resignation should have provided council with an opportunity to undertake an exhaustive search to find the most talented, capable, and knowledgeable candidate to replace him. Instead they hired Cecille Arnott without even an attempt to advertise for other candidates.

Why did Council not make any effort to look for a qualified replacement for Mr. Kumar?

Apparently, Mr. Kumar’s resignation, and Ms. Arnott’s hiring, took place back in June. Rumours about these staff changes have circulated for some time but Council has yet to make an official announcement. What are they waiting for?

Ms. Arnott is a Certified General Accountant and has had a history of job-hopping in the last few years. In early 2006, she was the Director of Finance for the Village of Pemberton and briefly the Acting CAO. She was replaced by an Interim CAO who was in turn replaced by a full time CAO. She only worked for Pemberton for about eighteen months. Less than six months after the new CAO took over, she resigned to take a position as Administrator at the town of Keremeos. Part of the reason given for her resignation was to be closer to her family who had relocated to Christina Lake.

She didn’t stay long at Keremeos either. She was only there for about six months when she was hired as the Manager of Finance for Rossland by former CAO Ron Campbell.

Her brief stint as Manager of Finance was marked by a budget that imposed significantly higher taxes on the citizens of Rossland. Her recommendation to eliminate the Transportation Parcel Tax resulted in a significant shift in tax burden to higher valued homes. She also recommended a decrease in the business tax rate which led to an increase in taxes for all homeowners in Rossland.

But Ms. Arnott’s stay in Rossland was also short-lived. She was here for less than eight months before she took another job in Grand Forks, where she is currently the Chief Financial Officer and Deputy CAO. She was hired by none other than Mr. Kumar, who was at that time CAO of Grand Forks.

Grand Forks has just hired a new CAO to replace its most recent CAO, who retired. Ms. Arnott, as Deputy, CAO might have been a preferred candidate to replace the retiring CAO. Instead, Grand Forks Council hired the Director of Operations for Peachland, Doug Allin. Mr. Allin was first hired by Peachland as a water mechanic. He has no previous experience as a CAO. So why did Grand Forks hire someone with no experience rather than their Deputy CAO?

The hiring of Ms. Arnott is just one more example of Mr. Kumar’s influence over Council. Council members seem to be willing to rubber stamp whatever recommendations he puts in front of them rather than doing their homework to explore other alternatives. Other decisions they’ve made based on Mr. Kumar’s recommendations will continue to haunt taxpayers long after his presence here is forgotten. We can only hope this one will be different.

Laurie Charlton is a retired chemist who was a Rossland city councillor for 17 years between 1975 and 2011.

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