Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Roles and Responsibilities
All municipal councils shall appoint, by resolution, a person as chief administrative officer (CAO). This requirement to appoint a CAO is found in clause 86 (2)(c) of the Municipal Government Act (MGA). Likewise, municipal councils retain the ability to revoke, or suspend the appointment of a person as CAO (MGA 86(2)(d)).
What are the duties of a Chief Administrative Officer?
Clause 93 (1) of the MGA describes the duties of the CAO:
• is the administrative head of the municipality and reports directly to council;
• shall ensure that the resolutions and policies of the municipality are compiled with and that its programs are implemented;
• shall advise and inform the council on the operation and affairs of the municipality;
• is responsible for hiring, directing, managing, and supervising of employees of the municipality;
• shall exercise the powers and carry out the duties and functions assigned to the chief administrative officer by the council and by the MGA or another Act; and
• shall notify council if any action or inaction by council or the municipality is contrary to a bylaw or resolution of council or a provision of the MGA or another Act.
Please see section 93 of the MGA for more information on the duties, responsibilities and obligations of the municipal CAO.
What should council expect from their Chief Administrative Officer (CAO)?
Councils should expect their CAO to:
• Prepare and distribute council meeting agendas and supporting documents in a timely fashion, so that council members can participate in the debate and make informed decisions.
• Prepare easy to understand monthly financial statements that provide a snapshot of the financial position of the municipality;
• Provide well-researched and easy to understand reports that contain options to address issues, and a recommended course of action for council’s consideration; and
• Advise council, when they feel that the council is acting outside of its legislative authority.
What is the relationship between Council, the CAO and other staff?
In addition to their obligations to appoint and or suspend/revoke the appointment of their CAO, municipal councils are expected to manage and supervise the person appointed.
By hiring a CAO, whose main focus is on the day-to-day operations of the municipality and the implementation of council’s decisions, council is able to concentrate on policy making. Related to this, councils must remember that the CAO is their only employee and this means, that if and when council wishes to interact with other municipal employees, they must do so through the CAO. The one exception to this, is if and when members of council are seeking information only from municipal employees.
Members of council should expect to work with their CAO in an open, trusting and professional manner.
Does a Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) receive performance reviews?
The frequency of CAO performance reviews depends on the municipality. It is recommended that every municipality have a CAO job description and contract. Having these two documents in place will clearly outline municipal expectations for CAO performance, regardless of whether that person is a permanent or contract employee.
Councils should also have a defined process in place for completing regular performance reviews of their CAO. These reviews are an opportunity for council to provide feedback to the CAO on performance strengths, and on areas that may require improvement. A performance appraisal system for the CAO is a key building block for a lasting and positive relationship between council and the CAO.
Some councils establish personnel committees that take the lead on human resource matters.
Who does the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) report to?
The CAO reports to council as a whole and receives direction through council resolutions, policies, and bylaws. The role of the municipal mayor in relation to the CAO, is the same as the mayors' relationship with the rest of council - they provide leadership but not direction (please see MGA 89).
Does a Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) have to obey a code of conduct?
Yes, municipal councils are required to establish code of conduct policies for their employees respecting terms and conditions of employment (please see MGA 95). All employees of the municipality are expected to perform their duties in a way that gives residents confidence that council decisions and municipal policies are being objectively and fairly implemented.