Thorsby’s Mayor Barry Rasch has taken a month-long leave of absence for stress, and the Village’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Jason Gariepy has received from Council a notice of intention to be terminated without cause. This follows months of upsets starting with the firing of the fire chief, the entire volunteer fire department resigning in protest, the hiring of Gariepy which was seen as controversial by some, the refusal to rehire the fire chief, the resignation of two Village Council members as well as the Chamber of Commerce president and vice-president, and a shocking water rate increase. Council chambers have been filled to overflowing at most Regular Council meetings with residents barely concealing their hostility.
On October 21, 2014, Deputy Mayor Rick Hart called a Special Council Meeting to address a formal written letter received from Mayor Barry Rasch giving notice that he is taking a stress leave. The letter reads as follows: “Please accept this letter as formal written notice that I will be going on stress leave from Thorsby Council activities from October 20 – November 20, 2014. In my absence, please fill the Chair position and meeting expectations. I have realized the environment has become overwhelming on my health and I will take this time to evaluate whether I will remain on Council.”
Deputy Mayor Hart was appointed as Acting Mayor for the duration of Mayor Rasch’s absence. At the close of the meeting, Acting Mayor Hart made a brief statement requesting that Mayor Rasch be given the privacy that he needs during this period.
On November 5, 2014, another Special Meeting was called by Acting Mayor Hart to discuss matters related to the employment of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Jason Gariepy. Acting Mayor Hart had met with Gariepy on Tuesday, November 4, after the CAO returned from his two week stress leave. It was mutually agreed then that Gariepy would leave and that he would give Council a letter of resignation which Hart had drawn up by the Village lawyers along with a release form.
Rightly, Gariepy wanted his lawyers to have a look at it before he submitted it. He was to have it back by the next day, November 5. Unfortunately, due to a family medical emergency, he wasn’t able to get in touch with his lawyer.
Hart called a Special Meeting of Council on November 5, 2014. He and Councillors Beleshko, Burnett and Jardine voted unanimously in favour of the motion to give written notice of Council’s intention to terminate CAO Gariepy’s employment with the Village of Thorsby and his appointment as CAO, citing, “a change in direction and a change in leadership being required, and without cause.”
Council also agreed to put Gariepy on a leave of absence immediately and with pay, and asked that he, “not attend” the office without making arrangements prior to, with the Acting Mayor. Gariepy will be provided compensation in accordance with the terms of his written contract with the Village. Council had to pass that motion of intent to terminate Gariepy’s employment and appointment as CAO in order for Council to appoint another CAO.
During the November 5 Special Meeting, Council also appointed Thorsby Corporate Services Manager Christine Burke as the Acting CAO. Up until that point, Burke’s appointment had been on Gariepy’s authority. Burke’s appointment is effective as of November 5, 2014, and she will receive a bonus of $2,000 to be awarded for the performance of duties between November 5 and December 31, 2014.
Gariepy has until November 17 to get his letter of resignation in, or to ask for a meeting with Council. Once that’s in, his resignation will be accepted. Hart said this all being done with the lawyers and that he and the other Councillors will make no comment until the matter is settled.
“It’s a difficult time, but we will get through it,” said Hart, noting the most important thing is that Thorsby gets over the cycle of mistrust and lack of cooperation. “We’ve got to get our community back together.”