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TIMELINE: Vaughan city manager gone less than a year after starting in top staff role

Jim Harnum, Vaughan's sixth city manager since 2010, was hired Aug. 17, 2020
June 23, 2021
Dina Al-Shibeeb

Is this a trend? Vaughan has bade farewell to its sixth city manager since 2010.

On June 15, Vaughan announced Nick Spensieri had been promoted to be the city’s new city manager.

His predecessor, James Harnum, was thanked for his service and given best wishes for the future.

Spensieri joined the city as deputy city manager, corporate services, in 2018, and later became the corporation’s first-ever city manager, infrastructure development.

“The portfolio is accountable for helping deliver $730 million in capital projects during this Term of Council,” the city said in its release.

Spensieri’s promotion comes less than a year after Harnum was hired on Aug. 17, 2020.

Harnum not only served as new city manager but also as deputy city manager of planning and growth management.

Vaughan said Harnum was recruited for this high-level position after an extensive search.

When asked about the reason behind Harnum’s sudden departure, the city made no additional comments beyond the new release.

While the city won’t say when Harnum’s employment ended, there was a posting for the job online more than a month ago via Njoyn, a recruitment and applicant tracking system.

Also, during the fully packed June 8 council online meeting, Harnum wasn't visible alongside other managers.

A day before the announcement, the city held a special committee of the whole meeting, in closed session, with a senior staff matter as the topic.

Through sources inside city hall, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Harnum was considered "honest" and had "integrity."

While Harnum also began his city managerial role in addition to being the acting deputy city manager of planning and growth management, he was relieved from filling two positions when Haiqing Xu was announced in April as the new deputy city manager, planning and growth management, effective May 10.

So far, the deputy city manager, community services position remains vacant.

At the time when Harnum was announced as the new city manager, the city stated: “He succeeds Mary Reali, Acting City Manager and Deputy City Manager, Community Services, who is retiring from the City after more than 34 years of distinguished service to Council.”

It’s not clear what Harnum’s full responsibility was.

The trend of turnover in the city manager's role began when Clayton Harris suddenly left the position in 2013.

The council at the time announced he had retired without notice. He was paid two years' salary. He has since held several other positions in municipal government elsewhere in the province.

One insider said the constant turnover in the city's top job is making it increasingly difficult for the city to attract “good” employees.

“The city is developing a reputation as city managers leave,” the source said.


June 15, 2021: Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua announced effective immediately, Nick Spensieri has been promoted to be Vaughan’s new City Manager.

July 21, 2020: Jim Harnum was announced as the new City Manager. He was also named acting deputy city manager of planning and growth management.

Feb. 14, 2020: Tim Simmonds, who filled in as interim city manager after Kostopoulos left, served his last day as Vaughan's top bureaucrat. On his LinkedIn, Simmonds served briefly as interim city manager as his last month was April. On April 23, the City of Owen Sound announced the appointment of Simmonds as the new city manager, effective May 11, 2020.

June 27, 2016 -- April 2019: Daniel Kostopoulos is hired to replace Kanellakos as city manager.

In a previous interview, Kostopoulos said he "enjoyed the energy, great staff team and community culture at Vaughan while I was City Manager," without giving an exact reason. He is currently King Twonship's Chief Administrative Officer.

May 2015 -- April 29, 2016: Vaughan announces in February that Steve Kanellakos is taking over as city manager from Cribbett, who is retiring. Less than a year later, Kanellakos, who had been headhunted by Vaughan, decided to go back to Ottawa, where he served previously, to take on the role of city manager there.

April 2013 -- 2015: Barb Cribbett appointed as acting city manager after Harris’s resignation.

April 8, 2013: City manager Clayton Harris abruptly resigned his post without providing a reason. Harris worked at the city for 21 years, starting as commissioner of finance before becoming deputy city manager in 2007 and city manager in 2009.