Halifax’s chief administrative officer is missing from City Hall, and the reason why might be related to a confidential motion passed earlier this week by city council.
Jacques Dubé has been “out of the office dealing with a personal issue” for the past two weeks according to HRM spokesperson Brendan Elliott, and that’s basically everything the municipality is saying on the matter for the time being.
Reached via Twitter, Dubé says he was out of the country last week visiting friends with his wife, and that this week he’s spending time with his daughter, son-in-law and grandson who are visiting from New Brunswick.
The CAO didn’t respond to follow-up questions asking for clarification about what, if anything, was the cause of his time off. Elliott confirms Dubé isn’t on vacation and was unable to say when he would be back at work, “given next week is March Break.”
Perhaps coincidentally, earlier this week Regional Council met behind closed doors for nearly three hours to discuss a sudden agenda item (added the day before) regarding an undisclosed “personnel matter.”
Before reporters were kicked out of the room, councillor Waye Mason said he didn't know what the item was about. After council came back from in-camera, a confidential motion was voted on and approved 15-0 (councillors Stephen Adams and Matt Whitman either abstained or weren’t present).
What that motion is, which HRM employee it relates to and what any of this has to do with Dubé absence isn't being talked about. Elliott wouldn’t confirm or deny whether the “personnel issue” relates to the CAO.
The Coast wasn’t able to reach every HRM councillor, but Lorelei Nicoll, Richard Zurawski, Sam Austin, Waye Mason, Matt Whitman and Tim Outhit all strongly refused to comment on any aspect of the “personnel issue” dealt with in-camera.
In-camera discussions are completely confidential, of course, but the secrecy around this matter is at least a little unusual given past “personnel issues” at City Hall. When Reg Rankin was charged with impaired driving in 2014, council discussed the issue in-camera for 43 minutes before publicly voting to grant the former councillor a leave of absence.
That’s not to suggest Dubé (or whoever the issue involves) is in a similar situation. For starters, as of
Dubé only started working for HRM last September, after leaving his former job as Moncton’s city manager. He replaced Richard Butts, who quit unexpectedly in December 2015 to take a job with Clayton Developments. Butts’ departure was another “personnel issue” discussed in-camera by council and announced via press release later that same day.
Before he stopped responding to The Coast’s questions, Dubé at least confirmed he isn’t resigning.
“Just got here and enjoying my work immensely,” he writes. “No intention of leaving anytime soon.”