Corp Comm Connects

New top bureaucrat in Brampton was unaware of city’s past problems

Harry Schlange, Brampton's new CAO, says he didn’t know about city’s past problems, but promises new “synergies.”
July 11, 2016
By San Grewal

In a city desperate to move forward after years of scandal and dysfunction, and which went 14 months without a permanent administrative leader, Harry Schlange has some high expectations weighing on him.

The former chief administrative officer for Niagara Region just began the same role for the City of Brampton. A month in, the Star sat down with the new boss to talk about the pressing issues facing Canada’s ninth largest city.

Prior to putting your name forward for the job, did you know about the problems facing Brampton: spending issues under former mayor Susan Fennell; mistrust between some councillors and senior staff; the bleak financial forecast?

Running a billion-dollar corporation - Niagara - you don’t review or analyze or read about other municipalities. We all have our own problems.

Surely, by the time you’re interviewing for the job, aren’t you starting to do a bit of background research to find out what’s being going on?

No, no. Because, you go to any council or any community and there’s all sorts of problems. So I stayed focused on . . . what does this council want to do moving forward.

Some councillors have said publicly that they do not trust certain senior staff members because of evidence that has come out in a $28.5-million lawsuit against the city alleging staff misconduct in a 2011 downtown development deal (the city denies all allegations in the lawsuit). How will you deal with this?

I didn’t look so much at the past. I looked at: Where do you guys want to take this? The restructuring I did in Niagara might not be the one I fit for Brampton. What I’m looking at is: How do I develop that synergy and trust with staff, with one another? How do I develop that strong, inspirational role in leadership to all 5,000 staff in Brampton, to drive Brampton’s vision?

Earlier this year it was reported in the Niagara media that council there tried to terminate your employment, and it came down to a close vote. After surviving that vote, shortly afterward, you left for Brampton. Can you comment on why many on Niagara council lost faith in you?

To be very clear, I was still in the position. The organization, the council, was behind me a hundred per cent to move forward, so there was nothing to comment on. That’s what was reported on (the attempt to replace him) but I know what ensued, and I know how we’re moving forward in the Region of Niagara as a team to continue to drive some of the initiatives.

Speaking of moving forward and your vision, what are the main goals you have, the biggest priorities for you to move Brampton forward?

Probably the biggest thing that I’d like to see is that we’ve developed trust and synergy with each other - each and every employee, each and every division across the corporation, so we provide seamless service to the community.