Millroy: The Next CAO Will Be…?


The fix is in, I have been told from many sources on many occasions; Tom Vair, Deputy CAO, Community Development & Enterprise Services, is going to be the next chief administrative officer of the City of Sault Ste. Marie.

Mayor Christian Provenzano, the story goes, hired him away from his job as executive director of the Innovation Centre two years ago with just that thought in mind, that any selection process set up by council will be just a sham..

Funny thing, though, Vair, the man at the centre of it all and who admits to having heard the rumours, doesn’t seem to agree.

Nor does Provenzano, who is heading up a recruitment committee to hire a new CAO to replace Al Horsman, whose four-year contract is up in September and is not going to be renewed, by mutual agreement, we are told.

Nor do the mayor’s colleagues on the recruitment committee, Councillors Rick Niro and Donna Hilsinger, agree.

As the writer of what is mainly an opinion column, I’m not big on dealing with rumours.

But sometimes I believe it is necessary, to trot out both sides of an issue so people can make up their own minds, as well, I should say, to give my ears a rest from the rumour mill.

This is one of those times.

In regard to Vair, I thought he made it clear in a reply to my email that he does not consider himself a heir apparent, in fact, he left some doubt as to whether he would even be applying for the job.

“From my time here at the city I can say that, from the mayor and CAO down, there is a continual emphasis to ensure our hiring practices are fair and merit based. I would expect nothing less for the CAO position and am confident there will be a number of experienced internal and external candidates who will apply and be fully vetted through the hiring process,” he said.

“Clearly it’s important to have a good person in place in this role and I look forward to working with whomever is in this position. I have a number of major and exciting projects on the go with our team in Community Development and Enterprise Services and I’m committed to seeing these through.”

Prior to joining the city in September 2016, Vair had been with the Innovation Centre since 2005.

As for the mayor, he said:

“To the point and substance of the rumour, I can tell you, unequivocally and without reservation, that it is baseless. Since my election in 2014, I have advocated for and been committed to merit- based hiring practices and processes. This process will be no different.

“I have copied Councillor Niro and Councillor Hilsinger. The three of us haven’t had one singular conversation about any potential candidate and we will not until we are in the part of the process that requires that deliberation. My office and Human Resources is just now finalizing the materials for our first meeting . . . You are welcome to attend. As a committee of council it is open to the public.

“I’d leave you with one last thought. I appreciate and understand that our community has a distinct history with the CAO position and that it has, as a position, taken on a higher profile and prevalence here than it may have in other communities. But I would suggest to you that the history is simply that,: history. It is an old story now and it really has no bearing on where we are or where we are going. The CAO position is a job, nothing more or less, and it is due time we treat it accordingly.”

This was an obvious reference to the uproar that followed then mayor Joe Fratesi ousting then CAO Alan Jackson from the CAO’s job back in 1995 and cowing council into giving it to him.

I imagine a lot of residents of this city and especially the employees of city hall who lived through the yelling and the screaming that became the norm will say amen to Provenzano’s suggestion..

Niro, who said he had not heard of the rumour about Vair, also defended the recruitment process.

“I did not sign up or have any desire to be part of a “sham,” he said in reply to my email..

“Let me be very clear, At no time have I discussed possible candidates for the CAO position with the mayor or Coun. Hilsinger. As a matter of fact our first meeting was just confirmed this afternoon to be on Thursday March 7.

He said he believes the process that Council approved is a good one and he planned to follow it.

“I have no preconceived notion of who should be the next CAO,” he said.

Hilsinger said she also believes the process council approved is a good one and that she had no preconceived notion of who should be selected for the CAO position.

“There will be no anointment and no sham,” she said.

There you have it, the rumour and those speaking against it.

Personally, I tend to think that with the comments being so transparent that the process will be conducted fairly.

But I would suggest that when the recruitment committee decides on a nominee, that it also forward to council the names and backgrounds of the other candidates who made it to an interview.

That doesn’t seem to have been the case back in 2014 when David Orazietti, Sault MPP and a cabinet minister in the then-Liberal government, was passed over for the job in favour of Horsman.

How could that happen?

Horsman, who came out of the municipal corporation in Guelph but had also worked elsewhere and in government, did appear to have solid credentials but I didn’t believe they compared favourably with those of Orazietti, a lifelong resident of the Sault who had served two terms on council and at the time had 11 years in the provincial government, some of them in cabinet positions, behind him.

Actually I wasn’t surprised when it was announced that Horsman’s contract would not be renewed. I thought the writing for that was on the wall after he misinformed council back in February 2017 about the hiring of two public educators for the fire department.

As I wrote in a column on Feb. 18 of that year, a story in The Sault Star on Feb. 1 revealed there was a dispute between Horsman and Richard Bishop, President of the Sault Ste. Marie Professional Firefighters Association Local 529, as to whether or not a second public educator had been hired by the Sault Ste. Marie Fire Service at an annual salary of $103,000.

Bishop claimed two public educators were hired at that salary but then one was fired after being on the job for only a month because questions about the pay grade were raised.

Horsman had countered that the second position was never formally finalized and was put on hold until a review of the fire service by the Ontario Fire Marshal, launched in December 2016, was completed and recommendations made.

He had told council the same thing in closed session.

As I attempted to find out whose version of this event was correct, I was provided with a copy of the termination (permanent layoff) notice the second person to be hired received from human resources.

She said she had been in the job for “about a month and a half.”

I later learned she received a little more than $22,000 from the city for the six weeks she spent on the job.

I also learned that after my column appeared council, with some of its members a tad unhappy on learning about what actually was the case, had another chat with Horsman behind closed doors.

In truth, I would hope that the recruitment committee would find someone in city hall to fill the job of CAO. I think it is time that we begin to hire people who can come up through the ranks to fill the top jobs such as CAO, fire chief and police chief.

In 2014 and 2015 we hired a CAO, a fire chief and a police chief all from the outside the city. With Horsman’s departure, all will be gone. We have to do better than that.


  1. There need not ever be another with that title cao.

    I sure would like to get to the bottom of why Mr. Millroy submitted what he did about a certain person on local Council. Also does he have any proof of his claims against that person ?

  2. There is no need for another one and never was in the past .

    No doubt in my mind at all.

    Just a waste of money and pointless top heavy beaurocracy

    At this point in history for anyone to still be enabling lies about the former cao’s true character is not reasonable at all.

    Not in my mind.

    He was the worst political representative in the history of the territory including as cao.

    My assertions are not for wrong purpose or motive without a doubt in my mind.

  3. What Mr. Millroy fails to understand, and which every single solitary front line fire fighter understands, is that Fire Educators SAVE THE MOST LIVES, and especially front line firefighters lives, because a well rehearsed, and well executed FAMILY FIRE SAFETY PLAN will keep front line firefighters from having to run into burning buildings to save fire-unprepared people.

    Fire Educators are THE BEST EXPENDITURE of Fire Service dollars, and the MORE spent on Fire Educators the BETTER.

    What Mr. Millroy ALSO fails to understand is that Union Presidents, in this case Mr. Bishop, are PAID to look out for the paycheques of their Union Members (Fire Education people are NOT Firefighter Union Members). Sure the Union Presidents talk a good game about the safety of their Union Members, but we all know that safety is secondary to them after keeping the maximum number of their Union Members working, and each of those members getting the maximum Wages and Benefits.

    Of Course Union President Richard Bishop was after the Fire Educators and everybody associated with the EXCELLENT decision for hiring two(2) of them.

    That’s Union President Bishop’s job.

    The entire Union of Firefighters made life A LOT LESS SAFE for our community and their Union Brothers and Sisters when they made us get rid of one of the two(2) Fire Education Officers, AND they made us taxpayers pay $22,000 to make life less safe for our front line Firefighters.

    Sad. Very sad.

    Lives will be lost because of this.

  4. Lots of false accusations there Mark. I see you haven’t changed. Maybe next you’ll be banned from this website, just like you were from city hall.

    • Hi H-zero-nest_Zero-pini-zero-n,

      Hmm, that’s a pretty misleading monicker there Mr./Ms. so-called “H0nest_0pini0n”?

      Please name one so-called “false accusation” I have made Mr./Ms. Opinion with 3 zeroes. I’ll remind you of the facts (not accusations) I have presented about former Mayor/CAO Joseph Fratesi:

      Fact #1: Sault Mayor Joseph Fratesi was found by a Superior Court justice to have violated Municipal (financial) Conflict of Interest requirements resulting in a 6 year removal of his basic Canadian Right to run for Elected Municipal Office.

      Fact #2: CAO Joseph Fratesi gave City Council his personal and Official stamp of approval for hiring his personal friend, and external consultant Jerry Dolcetti to the position of Senior Manager of Planning and Engineering by Officially Recommending him to City Council over the much more experienced and better qualified internal Maurice Kukeritis. And I could cite many more of these examples, but several are still working at City Hall, and doing a pretty good (I.e. good, but not the best) job for our citizens. (N.B. Not one CAO Hiring Recommenation has ever been overturned by a City Council ever.)

      Those are the facts Mr./Ms. Opinion with 3 zeroes. Refute them if you can.

      Like I said, nobody that Joeseph Fratesi hired, or promoted, or supported politically during his 30-year assault on the physical and human resource infrastructure of our city and our wonderful citizens should ever get a higher position than they currently have no matter how good they are.

      And most especially not the CAO position.

      They all owe something to, as Joe called himself, “Il Deuce”. (Fact #3)

      • Ok Mark, here we go.. please provide the sources for all of the misinformation I have quoted you spew below. Please tell us how elections were rigged and tenders were awarded out of the CAO office. Boy you sure seem have a lot of inside information.

        “CAO Joe and his friends who now had a friend in the CAO’s office responsible for awarding city contracts”

        “CAO Joe managed to get a majority of his people elected to City Council every time there was a subsequent election so that CAO Joe never got booted from his ill-gotten CAO position”

        “and unfortunately for those “within”-ers that makes their promotion from their current jobs at the City a no go.

        • Hi Opinion wirth 3 Zeros,

          Q1/ Was egregious violator of Financial Conflict of Interest violator Joseph Fratesi every handed his Termination Papers by City Council after he stuffed his pockets with a huge salary and pension, and the Judge said you are the one of the worst Financial Conflict of Interest violators in Canada, therefore you will get the maximum penalty of not being able to run for Elected Office for 6 years?

          A1/ No.

          7 out of 13 reasonable people would have taken the Judge’s verdict and turfed Joe immediately. Unfortunately there were always at least 7 who were Joe lovers. PROVEN.

          With respect to the Contracts, inside information is always a valuable tool for friends of the administration in ANY city. Just ask ALL Contractors. And that’s the kind of information that’s unavailable to non-friends of City administrations. I am simply of the opinion that CAO Joeseph M. Fratesi was not exactly the most scrupulous of people. Call me crazy, but I think the Judge’s ruling about his Financial Conflict of Interest Violation seems to back my impression up. That’s and I’ve already made an excellent case that CAO Joe hired his friends with the passing over of Maurice Kukeritits for his buddy Jerry Dolcetti. Not PROVEN, but highty likely given the brutal condition of our roads.

          The promotion of the “with”-ers being a no go are my feelings. Other Joe Fratesi palm-greasing beneficiaries may disagree (if any).

          I think we’re done here Opinion wirth 3 zeroes.

          Bottom Line: Hire an outsider to the CAO Position who loves the Sault, and who has not been supported politically in any way by Joe Fratesi or Ian MacKenzie, and who has significant Managerial and Administrative experience, skills, and qualifications, and who has NEVER BEEN A POLITICIAN.

          That’s my opinion.

          • Mark,

            You have yet to prove anything, other than being able to contribute a ton of verbal diarrhea. My questions had nothing to do with a judge’s ruling.

  5. John, that goes without saying. Remember, he was the chair of the Medal of Merit selection committee and his chum got the Medal. When talking about the mayor, the word bully comes to mind.

  6. Hi Doug,

    Former CAO Joe got his job by breaking the rules.

    CAO Joe was punished by the courts by having his Right to run for municipal office taken away for a period of a number of years. This is a massive penalty considering almost NOBODY gets their Canadian Right to run for political Office taken away. Tons of people are sent to jail every day, and tons of people get fines, but only a handful of people in Canada have ever had their right to run for political Office taken away.

    CAO Joe did something unexplainably bad by getting the CAO job the way he did according to a Judge.

    It just didn’t affect CAO Joe because he never ran for political Office again.

    That was great for CAO Joe and his friends who now had a friend in the CAO’s office responsible for awarding city contracts, and for hiring people to work for the City.

    It wasn’t so great for Joe’s friends on City Council. They all got turfed in the next election, but CAO Joe managed to get a majority of his people elected to City Council every time there was a subsequent election so that CAO Joe never got booted from his ill-gotten CAO position… until Christian Provenzano was elected.

    Then CAO Joe took an early retirement.

    But the damage of having about 20 years of CAO Joe at the helm has been done.

    CAO Joe left the infrastructure of this city to rot while he was apparently stuffing the pockets of his preferred contractors.

    CAO Joe hired a lot of his preferred people to City jobs.

    Three of them are gone. Several still remain.

    The point is that our city cannot “hire from within” because the “within” you are talking about is one that was largely put there by Oath violating CAO Joe.

    The “within”-ers are fruit of the poisonous tree. With Oath violating CAO Joe being the poisonous tree.

    Unfortunately it does not matter how good the “within”-ers are. And they are all very good. The problem is that they’re beholden to Oath violating CAO Joe.

    And unfortunately for those “within”-ers that makes their promotion from their current jobs at the City a no go.

    And MOST ESPECIALLY the CAO position.

    By the way, Oath violating CAO Joe was a HUGE supporter of David Orazietti.

    Deputy CAO Tom Vair was NOT hired by CAO Joe. He may not have the skills, but he is certainly not beholden to Oath violating CAO Joe, and that makes him a FAR BETTER CANDIDATE to any of the the other Deputy CAOs.

    I’m hoping that the criterion, “Was NOT hired, promoted or supported politically by CAO Joe Fratesi”, is on the hiring Matrix as a REQUIREMENT of getting appointed the next CAO. That would be a good starting point IMHO.

    It’s going to take a couple of decades to eliminate Oath violating CAO Joe’s people from the Senior and semi-Senior positions at City Hall.

    Mayor Provenzano has done a very good job of doing just that during these last four years, but the jobs not done yet.

    Not by a long shot, and the CAO filling will determine who wins this battle Oath violating CAO Joe (who seems to have Councilor Niro in his corner), or Mayor Christian Provenzano.

    Councilor Hilsinger decides.

    • As we destroy our vehicles on the neglected roads that will never be fixed and mostly consist of deep adjoining potholes.

    • It seems redundant to be speaking about former CAO Joe…thats ancient history now. I for one think JOE did a great job and there are those of course who do not. It matters

      • Hi bri,

        CAO Joe did a descent job. In a strange way I admire Joe Fratesi because he did whatever it took to break through and get a representative from the Italian community of Sault Ste. Marie to hold the most Senior, and some would say most powerful, position at City Hall (including the elected representatives).

        That took a lot for Joe Fratesi to break that glass ceiling at City Hall.

        Unfortunately Joe Fratesi broke through that glass ceiling for the wonderful Sault Italian community, and also for his-not-so-wonderful-self, and he did it by taking a short cut that was one of the worst short cuts he could take.

        He did it by violating an solemn Oath that he had Pledged as the Mayor of the City.

        Oaths are extremely serious things. Breaking the one that Joe Fratesi broke took away one of his basic democratic Canadian Rights.

        That’s serious stuff bri.

        So, because CAO Joe was at the City hiring his personally preferred people for about 20 years “hiring from within” is an extremely bad idea because it’s likely to be someone who owes something to Oath violating CAO Joe.

        Hiring from within is just a bad idea. We need to fill all Senior and semi-senior positions with people who have had very little to do with Sault Ste. Marie for a very long time in order to get rid of the legacy Oath violating CAO Joe left behind in the form of the people he hired.

        Elevating someone who CAO Joe hired, or promoted, or supported politically (read David Orazietti) to the soon to be vacant position of CAO is just plain wrong.

        Like our roads, the people that Oath violating CAO Joe hired, or promoted, or supported politically need to be left in their current positions to rot.

        It doesn’t matter how good they are.

        They owe something to CAO Joe, and that, unfortunately disqualifies them for me bri.

        • Joe never squirmed under anyone. He is the best Mayor and best CAO this city ever had. Things ran smoothly when he was there. As far as squirming under Provenzano, Mark, you don’t know what you are talking about and never did. I gave you the opportunity to voice your concerns once on saultonline and you even screwed that up.

          • Mr. Caruso

            I am seriously surprised that you have taken that stand. It is not that I would condone intimidation tactics and harmful intent. That is to cause Mr. Fratesi to squirm or anyone else. I know those were not your exact words.

            The working atmosphere was far from orderly nor a safe or peaceful enough one. There had never been so much turmoil and upheaval. I mean in the area’s history in or out of divisions with staff on the Municipality’s payroll.

            Definitely not in my mind.

            Unless ownership has changed in my understanding the founder of this online operation is the owner whose name I do not know at present.

            It would be a very new one for me.

            Despite our serious differences, there is no doubt in my mind that it need not result in hostility.

            Neither to make it impossible to work together in all of our best interests.

            Ms. Belsito DiBerardino

    • John, that should never happen. They both have different jobs to do and should work independently of each other. Provenzano will make sure that he is the king though. Sure am glad that it is his last term as mayor and know that if he runs for Provincial or Federal office, he will never get in. This city has had enough of his bullying and control.

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