Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Questionable qualifications: Sheegl shy on key credential

Experience didn't match job posting, resumé shows

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The City of Winnipeg's former chief administrative officer did not possess the experience required for the position he obtained in 2011, according to the specifications of the job posting and his resumé at the time.

Phil Sheegl, a friend and confidante of Mayor Sam Katz, served as the head of Winnipeg's public service from May 2011 until October 2013. Sheegl resigned on Oct. 17, weeks after executive policy committee sought to dismiss him over cost overruns at the city's new police headquarters -- and days before the release of a scathing fire-paramedic station construction program audit that deemed the former CAO responsible for a project plagued by mismanagement, cost overruns and unfair contract awards.

Sheegl was hired in 2011 by a search committee made up of members of city council's executive policy committee. At the time, the committee included Katz, former councillor Gord Steeves and Couns. Justin Swandel (St. Norbert), Dan Vandal (St. Boniface), Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan), Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) and Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands).

Sheegl, however did not meet the experience requirement laid out in the position profile prepared by the consulting firm Meyers Norris Penny.

"The successful candidate for this position will have a post-secondary degree in business, public administration or a related discipline, complemented with a minimum of 10 years senior level leadership experience in a large, multi-faceted service organization," read the position profile posted in March 2011.

According to a copy of Sheegl's resumé obtained by the Free Press, the former CAO's bachelor of science in civil engineering satisfied the education requirement. But he only listed three years experience of senior-level management at a large service organization in the career overview section of his resumé.

Sheegl listed his 2008-to-2011 stint as Winnipeg's director of planning, property and development and deputy chief administrative officer. He also listed 24 years as a Re/Max real-estate salesman and three years as the president of Prescription Drugs Canada LLP, an Internet pharmacy with eight locations.

Sheegl did not list his experience with 12 different Arizona-based companies, eight of which were still active in 2011, when he applied to lead Winnipeg's public service.

Sheegl's lack of public-sector management experience was not seen as a drawback when he applied for the CAO's position, Fielding said Wednesday in an interview. "We made an internal decision we were going to interview senior level city administrators," Fielding said.

Sheegl did very well in his first interview but EPC members were divided over whether he was the right person for the job, according to members of the committee. Havixbeck, Steeves and Fielding in particular opposed hiring Sheegl as CAO, mainly because they feared the optics of selecting a close friend of Katz.

"We had some concerns. I thought it was going to be a real big political headache," Fielding said. "We made a collective decision and we gave Sam a bit of authority because he would be the guy wearing it."

Four out of six councillors who sat on EPC at the time said the committee had been divided over the decision to hire Sheegl. They said the committee ultimately deferred to the mayor, who communicated he would be able to work with Sheegl, a man he described as a close friend when Sheegl first joined the city in 2008.

"The CAO has daily, ongoing dealings with the mayor, more so than any councillor does. That person should be someone he can work with," Havixbeck said. "But how far should you go?"

Havixbeck said Katz called her twice to convince her to support Sheegl. "I was a new councillor. The mayor lobbied me very hard. He had the final say," she said. "This was the worst decision I've made since being on council. I wish I could change it but I can't."

Katz has said repeatedly he played no role in recruiting Sheegl and insisted that task belonged to Meyers Norris Penny. According to requests for proposals that laid out the consulting firm's responsibilities, Meyers Norris Penny conducted a national search, screened candidates and presented at least five finalists to the search committee.

Katz declined comment Wednesday. Sheegl has declined comment since he left city hall, citing a confidentiality agreement.

Human-resources expert Barbara Bowes, president of the Legacy Bowes Group, said it is not unusual for search committees to overlook experience in favour of a candidate who fits in with the culture of an organization.

"Cultural sensitivity will override experience in many cases," she said.

EPC's decision to hire Sheegl was not unanimously supported by city council, mainly because of concerns about the close relationship between Sheegl and Katz. A total of five councillors voted against the decision to appoint Sheegl to the CAO's office in May 2011.

One of those councillors, Daniel McIntyre's Harvey Smith, took out newspaper ads last week criticizing the EPC members who chose to hire Sheegl. The ad lambasted Steeves, Swandel, Havixbeck, Fielding, Browaty and Vandal for choosing Sheegl "even knowing that he did not have adequate credentials."

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 7, 2013 A3

History

Updated on Thursday, November 7, 2013 at 12:47 PM CST: Adds documents.

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