The top bureaucrat at city hall says there were no conditions to his interim appointment -- even though that's what councillors were told.
Deepak Joshi said repeated references to his appointment as interim CAO on condition he not apply for the vacant CAO position are "a personal attack" that raise questions about the legitimacy of his appointment and "undermines" his role as the city's senior administrator.
"The discussion on the floor of council does not support the premise that my appointment was conditional," Joshi told the Free Press.
Joshi was appointed interim CAO during a special city council meeting last Oct. 22 to replace Phil Sheegl, who left the job five days earlier just before the release of a forensic audit that placed most of the blame on Sheegl for the mismanagement of the fire-hall replacement program.
'The discussion on the floor of council does not support the premise that my appointment was conditional'
At the Oct. 22 special meeting, Mayor Sam Katz's executive policy committee recommended Joshi as the interim CAO and defended it, in part, with the explanation that Joshi had told EPC the day before he would not apply for the permanent position.
There was some opposition to Joshi's appointment that day because the forensic audit named him as having a peripheral role, as the former chief operating officer, in the fire-hall project.
There was an unsuccessful attempt that day by some councillors to appoint transit director Dave Wardrop, who had no links to the fire-hall project, as interim CAO, but there wasn't enough support for that.
"It should be pointed out to members of council that we are appointing the interim acting CAO... and (Joshi) has indicated, verbally indicated to members of EPC yesterday that he would not be seeking the position of the actual CAO position, and that this would just be a temporary role," Coun. Russ Wyatt, chairman of council's finance committee, is quoted in Hansard, the official record of the Oct. 22 meeting.
Coun. Brian Mayes, another EPC member, agreed Joshi took on the job as interim CAO with the promise he would not apply for it full-time.
"Mr. Joshi has indicated that he's not going to be applying for that position," Mayes is quoted in Hansard as saying at the Oct. 22 meeting.
Joshi's appointment as interim CAO was approved in an 11-5 vote, with Couns. Ross Eadie (Mynarski), Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo), John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry), Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre) and Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas), voting against him.
Wyatt said Thursday he stands behind the statements he made to council at the Oct. 22 meeting, adding he would not comment or speculate on why Joshi is now claiming there are no conditions on his appointment.
Havixbeck said she doesn't understand why Joshi would now claim there were no conditions on his appointment, adding she doesn't believe there would have been support for appointing him without his commitment not to apply for the full-time position.
"It was clearly said on the floor of council many times that Joshi would not be applying for the CAO position," Havixbeck said Thursday.
Pagtakhan, chairman of the city's downtown development committee and a member of EPC, said Thursday most, if not all, councillors knew on Oct. 22 there was a condition linked to Joshi's appointment as interim CAO.
"Most councillors, if not all, understood the conditional rhetoric in the discussion" at the Oct. 22 meeting, Pagtakhan said. "In the end, I believe that Deepak (Joshi) will honour his word and not apply for the CAO. That's my belief."
Joshi would not say whether he had applied for the CAO position or if he intends to apply for the job.
The search for a CAO was unexpectedly suspended last week when the nine-councillor search committee decided time constraints prevented the process from continuing until after the civic election this fall.
Wyatt said he didn't know whether Joshi or others could still apply for the position, adding Joshi had not yet applied.
A Katz spokesman said Thursday the posting for the CAO position has closed.