Donham no longer voice of tar ponds agency

Communications post only cut as part of corporate restructuring

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Mon., Mar. 5, 2007

SYDNEY - Parker Donham's role as Sydney Tar Pond Agency spokesperson ended abruptly Friday following what is described as "corporate restructuring."

Donham said he was called to agency president Frank Potter's office at around 4:45 p.m. to be told his position was eliminated. "Naturally I'm disappointed," said Donham. "I wouldn't say it came completely out of the blue."

Donham spent five years working for the agency as a communications consultant then negotiated a five-year contract in January 2006 to become the agency's director of communications. "There's always an escape clause," he said from his home in Kempt Head on Sunday. "I loved working on the project. I wish I was going to be there to see it through."

Potter said he couldn't comment on the restructuring until he has time to brief staff at around 10 a.m. today. He said a consultant was hired to review the inner workings of the agency and the outcome of that review will be revealed at that time.

Donham's name no longer appeared on the agency's website as one of its employees Sunday. John Chesal, communications officer, is listed as the agency's lone media and communications person. Donham said his position was the only one eliminated due to the restructuring.

Donham's main role was to minimize negative press impacting the public's perception on Sydney's toxic sites - a negative perception ingrained in the minds of many across the country after decades of uncertainty and failed cleanup efforts. Donham's responsibilities included consultations with Public Works and Government Services Canada. He also worked to design a communications plan and helped to carry out that plan.

Donham said he accepts the termination and won't appeal the move. "It's their call."

Donham said he'll be spending the next few months playing with his grandchildren and thinking about what his next project will be. "It'll be something new, different and fun."

Donham is best known for his 30 years as an independent journalist, writing columns for Halifax Daily News and a stint in the 1980s as a staff writer for Reader's Digest. For 15 years, Donham also animatedly debated against Harry Flemming on the CBC Television's First Edition.

He said he was ready to leave journalism when he did and has no desire to get back at it.