Questions arise over transparency in Port Alberni city council’s final meeting

CUPE president criticizes council for “deficit in morale”

Concerns about staffing decisions made by the current Port Alberni city council were brought up during the administration’s final meeting before this month’s civic election.

CUPE Local 118 president Stacy Watton said in a letter addressed to council that the city’s reorganizing and restructuring of departments over the last four years has led to a “deficit in morale” among union and exempt employees. She also said that the turnover rate in the past four years, compared to the previous four, has increased by 325 percent.

The Rogers Report, commissioned by this council in 2015 for $50,000, was carried out by former city of Vancouver manager Judy Rogers and contained seven recommendations to cut costs for the city. Some management positions were eliminated, while others were reconfigured. The report led to a number of questions about transparency and staffing practices.

Judy Rogers Final Report – September 2015 by Elena Rardon on Scribd

The report was even brought up during last week’s all-candidates meetings, with former city councillor and current council candidate Cindy Solda criticizing the “poisonous environment” among workers. Former mayor and current mayoral candidate John Douglas also said that this current council has been lacking in transparency.

“The brain drain is dramatic,” he said. “It’s been intentional, done in part by this council. And the effect has been just incredible. People have left in droves and the resulting things are a great loss in morale and lack of respect that we need to rebuild.”

Some of the senior managers who were either dismissed as a result of the Rogers Report or have left under the present administration include former city manager Ken Watson (now back on staff as a special projects engineer), former city engineer Guy Cicon, former director of corporate services Theresa Kingston, former director of parks, recreation and heritage Scott Kenny and, most recently, former city planner Scott Smith. Many of these employees had been with the city for 25 years or more.

The issue came up again during the Tuesday, Oct. 9 meeting of council, where Watton said in her letter addressed to council that this report has led to the loss of a number of knowledgeable employees.

“The City of Port Alberni, as an employer, is not as it once was and this reflects in the fact that you have vacant exempt positions that should not be hard to fill but unfortunately seem to be,” she said.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, Mayor Mike Ruttan argued that the letter is “unfair” to management, and that the changes have brought the city’s costs more into line with other municipalities.

“This council was voted in with an expectation that we would cooperate together, look after taxpayers’ money and set a direction for our city that would lead to greater economic opportunities and increased confidence,” he said. “We’ve done that. I’m not going to apologize for us doing our job or meeting the expectations.”

Councillor Sharie Minions, however, said on Tuesday that she disagreed with much of what the mayor said. “I think we have made a lot of mistakes and I will apologize for some of those mistakes,” she said.

This isn’t the first time she has criticized the Rogers Report in a public setting. During the mayoral all-candidates meeting last week, Minions said she takes “full responsibility” for her part in creating a moral issue among city employees.

“We have created an environment of mistrust between staff and council and we have a long way to go to rebuild that trust,” she said. “I believe we need to value the staff that we have. We’ve lost some very good people but we have some very good people at the city right now and the last thing I want is to see us lose more new people.”

Outgoing councillor Jack McLeman made a motion on Tuesday to forward the letter to the city’s contract negotiating team, stating that he did not like some of the comments and rumours he has seen on Facebook.

Councillor Denis Sauvé argued that this would be “unproductive” and voted the motion down, along with Minions, Coun. Chris Alemany and Coun. Dan Washington.

On Wednesday morning, Alemany took to Facebook to say McLeman’s motion was “shocking in its level of disrespect. It was a clear example of exactly why our relationship with staff has deteriorated so much,” he added.

Alemany said that sending this letter to the city’s contract negotiating team would “poison the well of future contract negotiations. That is no way to build a relationship with your workforce.”

—with files from Susan Quinn

Just Posted

Port Alberni RCMP identify suspect in locker room thefts

Multiple complaints came in about thefts from Echo Centre lockers

Logging truck accident briefly closes Franklin River Road near Port Alberni

A single vehicle rollover involving a logging truck temporarily closed Franklin River… Continue reading

Sports shorts: camps for kids, BC lawn bowling finals in Port Alberni

Lawn bowling BCs Port Alberni Lawn Bowling Club will host the provincial… Continue reading

Set wizards make it happen at Mainstage Festival in Port Alberni

Eight plays in eight nights means turnover timelines are tight

Diary of Anne Frank, Cherry Docs dominate Mainstage 2019 awards

Annual theatre competition wraps up in Port Alberni

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman sentenced to life in prison

Experts say he will likely wind up at the federal government’s Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado

Olympic softball qualifier gets $150K boost from provincial government

2019 Americas Qualifier to be held in Surrey from Aug. 25-Sept. 1

Gas price inquiry questions Trans Mountain capacity, company denies collusion

The first of up to four days of oral hearings in the inquiry continue in Vancouver

‘Benzos’ and fentanyl a deadly cocktail causing a growing concern on B.C. streets

Overdoses caused by benzodiazepines can’t be reversed with opioid-overdose antidote naloxone

Chinook retention begins on North Island, but amid new size limit

DFO calls measures ‘difficult but necessary’ following rockslide on Fraser River

Will you be celebrating national hotdog day with any of these crazy flavours?

The popularity of hotdogs spans generations, cultures

Former home of accused Penticton shooter vandalized

Ex-wife of man who is accused of murdering four people had her house vandalized

Injured humpback returns to waters near Comox a year later

Photographer spotted Ocular near Comox again and noticed the whale has been healing

Survivor of near-drowning in B.C. lake viewing life through new eyes

“If I died that day, the baby wouldn’t know his dad,” said 31-year-old Mariano Santander-Melo.

Most Read