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Central Saanich chief administrative officer departs suddenly

The municipality announced Feb. 11 that it would be Patrick Robins’ last day
Chief Administrative Officer Patrick Robins final day with the District of Central Saanich is Feb. 11. (Central Saanich/Submitted)

Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor declined to discuss the details that led to the departure of chief administrative officer Patrick Robins, but promised that the municipality remains in good hands.

Central Saanich announced in the morning hours of Feb. 11 that it would be the last day of work for Robins, who had been with the District since summer 2012. “While there have been a lot of contributions made by Mr. Robins over the last seven-and-a-half years, council and Mr. Robins have come to a point where it is time to go in a different direction by mutual agreement,” said Windsor in an interview.

According to Central Saanich’s latest statement of financial information (2018), Robins salary was $176,828. His settlement agreement sees Robins receive a one-time payment of $317,000. “There is no risk of legal action on this matter,” said Windsor, when asked about language in the settlement agreement.

When asked about specific subjects that caused disagreement between council and Robins, Windsor declined to offer details. “This is really about the strategic direction, and I am going to leave it there,” he said. “I don’t think it is right in this case to characterize specifics. But there were contributions made and we appreciate that.”

Windsor said later that the record speaks for itself “in terms of the organization as a whole making those accomplishments.”

But these contributions were apparently not enough for both sides to continue their relationship. “At this point, I wouldn’t characterize it in that light,” said Windsor in response.

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Another notable aspect of Robins’ departure is timing, with the municipality announcing his departure on his last day of work. In fact, the municipality had initially announced his departure for Feb. 17, then changed it to Feb. 11.

Sudden departures of this nature generally set off alarm bells and fuel speculation, but Windsor said every situation is unique. “I’m not obviously in a circumstance to comment on how other situations play out,” he said. “This one is by mutual agreement. It happens to be today, and that is just how it is.”

When asked about the perception that Robins’ departure might appear chaotic, Windsor reiterated that the departure was mutual. “This [decision on departure] has taken place over the last week or so,” said Windsor.

When asked whether council’s decision concerning Robins’ departure was unanimous, Windsor said “votes of that nature” are not disclosed because personnel matters fall under the in-camera provisions of the Community Charter.

Paul Murray, who served as Saanich’s chief administrative officer for many years, will assume the role of acting CAO. Murray recently retired as Central Saanich’s chief financial officer. “The current agreement takes him until the end of June, and one of his responsibilities is setting up a process to recruit a new chief administrative officer,” said Windsor, who estimates it will take about four months for Central Saanich to hire a new CAO.

Windsor said he has “absolute confidence” that the municipality will deal with this transition.

“I don’t think this is any different than if somebody had retired,” he said, adding that municipality will be able to meet the expectations of the community and respond to their needs going forward following Robins’ departure. “I think we will fare very well,” he said, pointing to Murray’s experience. He added that council and staff will remain very accessible.

The Peninsula News Review has reached out to Robins, but he did not return a call by deadline. He said in the municipality’s original release that it “has been extremely rewarding” to have worked with Central Saanich council and staff. “And while I am proud of what we have achieved, it is time to pursue other opportunities both for myself and for [council],” he said.

Windsor confirmed that Robins did not attend Central Saanich’s committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday night.

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