City of Fernie city hall. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

City of Fernie city hall. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

External review of City of Fernie says much to be done to improve organization

The city is held back by years of inadequate leadership according to a report by Innova Strategy

An external review of the City of Fernie’s organizational structure has concluded that the city is held back by a history of inadequate leadership and poor accountability, and while it has been making improvements since 2020 it continues to operate at a ‘moderate’ level.

The report made 11 key recommendations for the city bureaucracy, starting with a need to modify the leadership team to clarify responsibility and encourage cooperation, which would help build it into a “cohesive, functional and trusted entity.”

Once those changes are made first, it will be easier to apply some of the other suggested recommendations, according to the executive summary of the report.

Some other recommendations were to improve communication both internally and externally, develop a city-owned real estate strategy and “strive to be an employer of choice” with a salary review and strong leadership.

Of 43 action items listed in the report, 30 were given a ‘high’ priority for attention.

According to chief administrative officer Michael Boronowski (who the report noted was the fourth CAO since 2016, and had been doing good work pulling the city in the right direction) work to address each recommendation were well underway across a structural reorganization, service delivery and improvements, financial services, communications, and leadership.

The review, conducted by Innova Stategy Group and commissioned by the city, examined the City of Fernie’s organizational structure in late 2021, and included a review of the current and past structure and processes of the city.

Innova Strategy Group also conducted interviews, and research into the projects and challenges the city faces and assessed the overall leadership, management and operation of the municipality in order to provide recommendations moving forward.

Eight key issues within the bureaucracy were identified as hindering the city, from culture to leadership to overwork of staff.

The Innova report described the organizational culture of the city as as ‘varied’, resulting in “key issues such as accountability, trust, and working together are at times misdirected, leading to overall reputational harm and decreased operational performance.”

Leadership was noted to have had significant turnover, while employee development was “lacking in several areas” causing problems with succession planning and training.

The planning department was noted to be overwhelmed by a surge in development and unable to improve processes due to a lack of capacity, organizational coordination of capital work was lacking, while studies and grants were also lacking because they were the responsibility of managers already overburdened with work.

Gaps also exist in process efficiencies, while there is no comprehensive asset management plan in place, according to the report.

While financial services had made huge improvements, the report said that a “significant” amount of work was required to bring it up to expectations for local government.

The complete report by Innova Strategy (and the CAO’s report on the report) is available on the Fernie civic website, and in the agenda package for the Apr. 19 committee of the whole meeting. City council were noted to be educated and engaged with processes.

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scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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