Good People Avoid Ottawa City Hall Like The Plague

You can’t make this up.

The chaos among senior city staff, or the lack of them, just escalates.

Very few serious people outside of Ottawa want to work at the City of Ottawa. One senior post had absolutely scant applications and, after a long wait, had to be filled from within.

Now the saga contineus. The city solicitor David White retired in late January and it is now mid-April. So what new bright light is filling this post? An interim city solicitor. No criticism of the person who got the interim appointment but over the length of time that White has been gone, real private organizations would have a permanent person in place.

So let’s see if we’ve got this straight. A new interim city solicitor is appointed to replace the city solicitor who was doing two jobs … those of city solicitor and interim city clerk.

But this is nowhere near the length of time it has taken to replace former planning general manager Stephen Willis who left in August 2022. That’s a particularly difficult post to fill because the local development industry needs to approve the selection. The planning chief must be amenable to taking orders.

Getting good people to come to Ottawa is a challenge post-Lansdowne, post (current) LRT, post-Freedom Convoy and post-massive-budget-overrun at the new central library.

This is particularly unfortunate because if there were ever an organization that needs a massive culture change it’s the City of Ottawa. The municipal government is a no-doubter 100-per-cent proper mess. And the corporate culture is putrid.

Instead of change, the city gets huge gaps in leadership because they can’t get good outside candidates for senior jobs or a person is promoted from within, which just perpetuates the corporate culture drinking its own bathwater.

Furthermore, the mayor’s office is chock-a-block full of ex-devotees of former mayor Jim Watson who was massively administratively challenged and through his work and others got us into a mess from which we might, or might not, recover.

This is serious. If the city can’t get good people, the quality of work at city hall will continue to spiral downward and this culture of lying, cover-up, questionable ethics and mistakes will continue. Maybe get worse.

The people of Ottawa deserve much better. It ain’t even close.

Ken Gray


CORRECTION: A city clerk has been hired. Incorrect information appeared in this post earlier.


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5 Responses

  1. The Voter says:

    It would be useful and, I believe, very informative to have a list of senior City staff that provides a summary of both their City and non-City experience. Many of them don’t need a GPS in their vehicles because they’ve been driving to the same place of work since they left school. The interim City Solicitor is a perfect example and he’s far from the only one.

  2. Been There says:

    Unfortunately, for many dipping into the public purse to earn their daily bread, at a certain point ambition is lost and then it is all about getting that golden pension.

  3. Ken Gray says:


    It breaks your heart to see city hall this way.

    I was there during amalgamation and people were leaving the federal government to come to the city because it was perceived to be the place where the action was.

    Not now. City hall has been taken over by campaign donations and interest groups. It’s not about Ottawa. It’s about what’s best for the politicians, the developers and other interests and what best for media company’s bottom line.




  4. Luke Chadwick says:

    It takes a certain form of bland personality if you are deciding between ‘where the action is’ between working as a desk clerk at the Federal Government versus City Hall.

    Many positions in City Planning are ‘acting’ positions as per their email signatures etc. Many are only in the office 2 days a week which as you can imagine leads to lots of communication issues.

    Not sure if the ‘acting’ component is that they are temporarily filling in or if they are D listers from Hollywood pretending to be public servants.

  5. Ken Gray says:


    Thx for this.

    It’s a puzzle for me too. I had to call one day to discover if one of the big-wigs had left.

    Maybe city hall just wants to keep us confused.



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