Fired Nanaimo economic development CEO turns down severance

NANAIMO – Three board members resigned from Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation last week.

John Hankins, former Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation chief executive officer, is looking for answers, not severance.

Hankins, fired a day after publicly questioning a city decision last week, has refused a severance offer by the economic development board, telling the News Bulletin he made the decision knowing being fired was a risk and is not looking for compensation.

He is, however, still “perplexed” and looking for answers about what happened during an in-camera meeting of council where politicians decided to pull tourism from the corporation.

The news about severance comes amid resignations of three Nanaimo Economic Development board members, with one saying she is not in agreement with the direction the city is going with tourism or the firing of Hankins. The board lost another member in September bringing its number down to 13.

Last week the board announced Amrit Manhas, economic development officer, will be the interim CEO but as of Friday the board had not met to discuss next steps for finding a permanent replacement or approved a revised partnering agreement, proposed by the City of Nanaimo.

Mayor Bill McKay had not heard about a severance offer or seen the revised agreement, but said the resignations and firing of Hankins is a natural progression of an organization embroiled in conflict.

“I’m going to say they are suffering a major bump in the road and I’d certainly like to work with NEDC to get everything back on track,” said McKay.

On Oct. 3, council made an in-camera decision to pull tourism from the purview of the corporation and have the service handled by one or more alternative providers, along with destination and conference service marketing. It also offered the corporation a new partnering agreement, and proposed it move into a new space.

Hankins was let go without cause because he agreed to cease working immediately and is entitled to severance, according to Andre Sullivan, board chairman, who would not comment on a letter copied to the News Bulletin from Hankins to the board chairman that had the former CEO declining an offer of three months severance. He said the particulars of a personnel issue cannot be talked about until its resolved.

Hankins said his salary is $130,000.

The board has also seen three resignations: AJ Hustins, Signy Madden and Carla Smith.

Smith said she was not in agreement with the direction the shareholder is going with tourism or likes the direction they are heading. She also did not agree with the firing of Hankins, although she understands why other board members made it.

Smith said Hankins was hired in January and brought out good qualities in the NEDC and tourism group.

She said the board found out about the city’s decision on tourism Oct. 14. It was aware the city was looking at the core review and contemplating how they were going to make changes to different things, and in September there was talk about options that could happen but she said no one said it would happen right away until after it was done.

“They took something which I thought was a really good thing and they’ve caused turmoil with it and that’s the NEDC group,” she said.