Nanaimo city hall. News Bulletin file photo

Former Nanaimo senior manager says he was fired for not ‘covering up’ CAO’s spending

Brad McRae files notice of civil claim with Supreme Court of B.C.

A former City of Nanaimo senior manager claims he was fired from his job as retaliation for his refusal to ‘cover up’ his boss’ spending of city money.

Brad McRae, the city’s former chief operations officer, has filed a notice of civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court against the City of Nanaimo and Coun. Jerry Hong, alleging that Tracy Samra, the city’s former chief administrative officer, fired him because of his “refusal to co-operate in covering up her misuse of Nanaimo corporate credit cards for her own personal gain.”

McRae’s claim also alleges that Hong made harmful remarks about him in an interview with the News Bulletin in August.

McRae was fired in January. According to court documents, McRae, who was tasked with overseeing freedom of information requests, claims that in September 2017, Samra instructed him to deny a request from a journalist specifically wanting a copy of her purchase card statements, as well as those of former chief financial officer Victor Mema.

“There was no basis in law to refuse the request, but Samra instructed Mr. McRae to do so to cover up the many personal charges she and Victor Mema had made on their corporate credit cards and for which the ratepayers of the city had improperly reimbursed them,” the court filing notes.

McRae claims he reported his concerns about Samra’s credit card use to the RCMP in November 2017, before Samra told him about an upcoming hearing to determine his employment status with the city, according to the court filing.

As an officer with the city, McRae was entitled to have a hearing in front of city council regarding any changes to his employment status and could not be dismissed without at least two-thirds majority vote by councillors. However, according to court documents, McRae was never present during his termination hearing on Jan. 10 because his doctor informed him and the city that he was medically unfit to attend such a hearing. However, McRae’s doctor had also told the city he would be medically fit for a hearing after Jan. 17, court documents show.

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McRae’s claim also alleges the city singled him out as the one responsible for cost overruns associated with the automated garbage collection rollout, when he claims the person “directly responsible for the project” was the city’s manager of sanitation, Charlotte Davis, who was fired and then re-hired. His claim suggests that Victor Mema, the city’s former chief financial officer and acting city manager, as well as Deborah Duncan, the deputy director of financial services, faced “no discipline whatsoever” despite approving expenditures associated with the automated garbage rollout. It also alleges Samra herself was “aware” of cost overruns associated with the project in September 2017 and that Davis had also informed her of the overruns.

Samra was arrested a few weeks after she fired McRae for allegedly making threats against a number of individuals including McRae and Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay. In his civil claim, McRae accuses Samra of attempting to destroy city records so they could “not be used as evidence” of misconduct.

A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal claim was previously filed against the city by McRae, who argued that the city violated his rights when they fired him. McRae’s civil claim references Hong’s comments to the News Bulletin in an Aug. 3 article regarding his termination hearing and tribunal case as untrue and meant to “cause injury, loss or damage,” court documents show.

None of the allegations have been proven in court. McRae is seeking financial compensation, including all wages he would have earned.

“The conduct of Nanaimo is deserving of censure by the court and is worthy of an award for punitive and aggravated damages,” the filing notes.

McRae said he would not provide comment on the civil claim. John Van Horne, the city’s director of human resources, also said he would not be able to comment. Hong told the News Bulletin he would not comment, while Samra could not be reached for comment. 
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