Merwan Saher was replaced as clerk of the Alberta legislative assembly Friday, three months after he was appointed.
Alberta’s former auditor-general, Saher was named to the position in February. His departure was disclosed at 3 p.m. Friday in a news release announcing the appointment of Shannon Dean as Alberta’s new clerk.
Speaker Nathan Cooper said such personnel changes are not uncommon with a change in government. He likened it to changes in deputy ministers.
“I believe that we had a great opportunity to hire someone with over two decades of non-partisan experience,” Cooper said, referring to Dean.
The new clerk is a lawyer who has worked for the legislative assembly since 1996, when she was hired as parliamentary counsel. She was acting clerk of the assembly following the retirement of Rob Reynolds last year.
NDP Official Opposition leader Rachel Notley suggested Saher’s departure was politically motivated.
“Today’s replacement of the clerk of the legislative assembly is an unprecedented and shocking development that raises serious concerns about the level of non-partisan service that can be expected by members of the Official Opposition from the Speakers office and the associated Legislative Assembly Office,” she said in a statement.
“Merwan Saher’s only crime can be described as being a nationally respected public official with a multi-decade long record of objective, neutral and exceptional public service.”
Cooper said the NDP was trying to turn this into a political issue.
“It is disappointing to see them making this issue partisan, implying that the speaker was acting untoward, and I wish that they would have chosen a different path.”
Saher was the auditor general of Alberta for eight years prior to his retirement last year.
Notley said his dismissal was undertaken without any consultation with the Official Opposition.
“Moreover, it will undoubtedly incur a very large financial cost to taxpayers to compensate Mr. Saher,” Notley said. “We call on the Speaker to disclose this cost to Albertans.”
Cooper declined to say what Saher was paid in severance, calling it an internal human resources issue.