December 2, 2022.
(Photo: Former Brampton CAO Harry Schlange with Niagara Falls NDP MPP Wayne Gates)
After tension arose at Niagara Region, Harry Schlange unceremoniously departed and took the helm at Brampton as their Chief Administrative Officer. Then, immediately after the 2018 municipal election of a new Brampton City Council, one of their first actions was to invoke Schlange’s termination clause.
Harry Schlange eventually landed back in Niagara as the CAO for the Town of Grimsby. Yesterday, and once again after a municipal election, Grimsby Council activated the termination clause with Harry Schlange, 10 months prior to his contract expiring. Schlange’s contract was to end on September 29, 2023.
According to a media release from the Town of Grimsby, Mayor Jeff Jordan states, “We look forward to the beginning of a new term of Council that holds opportunities for many exciting projects and priorities to take shape. We wish Mr. Schlange well, and I am happy to announce Sarah Kim as the Acting Chief Administrative Officer to lead the organization to accomplish our strategic goals in the interim.” The media release contained no explanation of why Harry Schlange was leaving his job early.
The commonility between Brampton and Grimsby are notable. When Harry Schlange took control of Brampton, he fired 25 senior managers in a single day. Then after the municipal election, the newly elected Brampton Council fired Schlange at one of their very first meetings.
Similarly, when he took the the top administrator position in Grimsby, Schlange fired many senior administrators and their staff. According to former Grimsby Mayor Bob Bentley, who worked with several of the terminated employees prior to his retirement, he describes Schlange as having “…a Trump-like track record for removing anyone who dared challenge him is shameful and disgusting.”
As reported by newsnow, a local media outlet in Niagara, “…many of those terminated by CAO Harry Schlange were among those who made complaints against Schlange which precipitated a third party investigation in the summer of 2020.”
Grimsby resident Mark Kossek started a petition on Change.org asking the Province to investigate Schlange, by expressing the concern of “Mr. Schlange’s dismissal of experienced Town employees, hiring of new employees not at arm’s-length of Mr. Schlange, his role as a signing officer of the municipality and the scope of his relationships with the five named Councillors”. The petition garnered 1,698 signatures.
The immediate removal of CAO Harry Schlange comes to no surprise. Last term, Grimsby Mayor Jeff Jordan temporarily suspended Harry Schlange as CAO amidst staff allegations of inappropriate behaviour conducted by the CAO. However, the Mayor’s decision was overturned in a split council vote of 5-4, where five male Councillors (Kevin Ritchie, Dave Kadwell, Randy Vaine, Dave Sharpe and John Dunstall) all voted against the Mayor’s decision to suspend Schlange.
After the 2022 municipal election, none of these five Councillors who supported Harry Schlange returned to City Hall, either losing in the election or had chosen not to seek re-election.
This gave Mayor Jordan the ability to make his move. At a Special Council meeting, the Mayor and the newly elected Council decided to remove Schlange as their CAO.
The Town of Grimsby will now be recruiting for a new CAO. The new CAO will need to rehabilitate the working culture at City Hall in response to the wake left behind by Harry Schlange. A wake that had extended from Brampton.