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CAO Employment Guidelines

Presented by Ontario Municipal Administrators’ Association

Sponsored by Ontario Municipal Administrators’ Association

The Ontario Municipal Administrators’ Association (OMAA) and the Ontario Municipal Human Resources Association (OMHRA) are proud to announce the launch of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Employment Guidelines.

These CAO Employment Guidelines are a result of a two-year collaborative project to create a reference tool that will support municipal councils and CAOs through the spectrum of a CAO’s recruitment process, contract negotiation, role clarity, and performance documentation.

The OMAA noted a gap existed in supporting municipalities, and councils in particular, on what is a critical function. To bridge that gap, OMAA reached out to OMHRA and a joint working group was formed. Bringing together the needs analysis and strong management experience of OMAA and the diverse experience and history of OMHRA, the guidelines draw on the strengths of two organizations that are committed to successful municipal administration and management. Consultation with member municipalities, administrators, and HR practitioners has resulted in a tool that is scalable for all sizes of municipalities and budgets, while providing consistency and support across the system.

Practices and Tools

The role of the CAO as the administrative lead of the organization, and the link between council and staff, is critical to the success of the municipality. Typically, it is the role of council to hire the CAO and to have input into the hiring of the senior staff. For many members of council, being tasked with the hiring or managing of the performance expectations of the CAO is a new responsibility and may not be an area of comfort or expertise. As the CAO is the sole employee of council, it is critical to get the right person in the job and to keep them engaged and motivated. The suggested practices and tools outlined within the CAO Employment Guidelines were developed to support council members in a way that is accessible and easy to use. The guidelines are designed to:

  • assist council in the establishment of a collaborative and productive CAO recruitment process, including options for managing the process itself;
  • identify options for managing the administrative function during the CAO recruitment process;
  • provide suggestions for preparing clear roles and responsibilities for all parties;
  • suggest CAO contract terms to create a mutually beneficial arrangement for the municipality and the CAO; and
  • offer best practices for CAO performance evaluations.

A Foundation for Success

The goal of the Guidelines is not to replace HR practitioners, consultants, or legal counsel who may be involved and are important pieces in the process. Instead, they will help guide those responsible for the activity to assemble appropriate resources and to ask the right questions, ensuring a successful and productive outcome for the municipality.

It is the hope of the partnering associations that this document will lay the foundation for the establishment of a supportive and positive relationship between council and its CAO.

Both OMAA and OMHRA encourage feedback from those using the Guidelines to improve and continuously update the content so that it remains a valuable and meaningful resource.  MW

New CAO Employment Guidelines are a result of a collaboration between the Ontario Municipal Administrators’ Association and the Ontario Municipal Human Resources Association.

Download the Guidelines at

Municipal World members can also access the Guidelines through the Research Library at

Related resource materials:

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