Hudson council vote upholds Director General’s suspension
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
Councillors Robert Spencer and Ron Goldenberg (first and second from left) voted against upholding Hudson DG Catherine Haulard's suspension but were out-voted by the remaining councillors.
In a meeting that was hastily called, initially described as ‘closed’ and had a change of venue before it even started, Hudson council voted four to two to uphold the two-week unpaid suspension of Director General Catherine Haulard effective Monday, February 23.
With a background of the circumstances provided by Mayor Ed Prévost to the packed conference room at the Fire Station on Main Road, the mayor said the council and the Director General “inherited each other” and though he credited Haulard for her performance during a difficult 18-month period, the interpersonal situation had deteriorated to the point where they could no longer move forward.
“I think all of us have tried to work with each other as best we could,” said Prévost. “But, particularly as a result of the collective agreement negotiations that were crucial to the town... the process was slowed down because of a relationship problem that existed between the chief negotiator and our Town Manager.”
At the forefront, the conflict stems from the amount of money paid to Management and Human Resources Consultant Judy Sheehan – who was initially hired by Haulard - who has been negotiating the collective agreement with the town’s unionized employees. To date, Sheehan’s fees to the city have reportedly amounted to $62,246.25. On the day of her suspension, Haulard told Your Local Journal that she had been warning council the contract needed to go to tender as it was in excess of the $10,000 legal limit payable by the town. “I’m being kicked out because of that.”
The mayor contends at the point council was made aware the fees had passed the limit, the negotiation period was already nearing its end. Sheehan made her final presentation to four of the six councillors Sunday, February 1 and to the union February 10. The collective agreement for the town’s approximately 33 unionized workers expired October 28, 2014 and the new one has not yet been accepted. Prévost said Haulard opted not to be a part of the union negotiations due to, “A personal rift which I can’t explain.”
A copy of the three-page letter to Haulard obtained by Your Local Journal outlining the reasons for her suspension says, in part, “As General Manager, you must act in the best interests of all citizens of Hudson. Your personality conflict and recriminations towards Ms. Sheehan clearly diverted you from the best interests that should define a Director General. In fact, you have recently questioned all the actions of Ms. Sheehan, a spokesman of the collective agreement, and you also are questioning its jurisdiction. I see myself compelled to remind you that this personal war you lead against Ms. Sheehan is harming the smooth operations and management of the affairs of the Town of Hudson.”
Council was visibly, and vocally, divided on the issue with District 1 and District 2 Councillors Robert Spencer and Ron Goldenberg, respectively, voting against the suspension, and the remaining four councillors upholding the motion. “About a year ago, I witnessed a personal bias (against Catherine Haulard) from (Councillor) Natalie Best and the mayor,” said Spencer, tabling his reasons for opposing the vote. “Three months ago, Catherine offered to move forward professionally and settle their differences in the interests of Hudson.”
Spencer said he and Goldenberg both objected to the continuation with Sheehan’s contract. “Catherine Haulard did her job and advised council that Judy Sheehan’s contract did not go to tender. One of the reasons of her dismissal is ‘she refuses to work with Judy Sheehan’ but it’s illegal for her to do so.” Spencer went on to say, “Judy Sheehan, in one of her options, gave council recommendations to eliminate Catherine as Director General. If I was Director General, and told to continue working with this consultant who put in writing the recommendation to eliminate the position, I think (Catherine) has every right to refuse to work with her.”
Spencer concluded by saying Haulard’s refusal to continue working with Sheehan led to a creation of ‘just cause’ for the suspension and is not in the best interests of the town. Resident Greg Baumeister likened the decision to a de facto dismissal, saying it would be almost impossible for Haulard to resume her duties following the suspension. “Is she presently impairing the collective agreement negotiations?” he asked, to which Councillor Nicole Durand replied, “(Haulard) put in place the doubt of the legality.” Haulard is invited to sit down with the council following the suspension period March 10 to discuss her position with the city after that date.