The City of Nanaimo no longer has a chief administrative officer.
Tracy Samra is no longer employed with the city, according to a press release issued early this afternoon.
John Van Horne, the city’s director of human resources, told the News Bulletin that Samra is no longer employed with the city, but that he cannot comment any further on the matter.
Samra’s departure from the city comes after months on paid leave as a result of an incident on Jan. 31 at city hall that led to her arrest for allegedly making threats against a number of individuals.
BREAKING: City of #Nanaimo has issued a press release saying that Tracy Samra is no longer chief administrative officer.
— Nicholas M Pescod (@npescod) May 25, 2018
According to a court document, RCMP believed that Mayor Bill McKay and city councillors Sheryl Armstrong and Diane Brennan, as well as Jan Kemp, Sheila Gurrie, Donna Stennes, Kim Fowler, Brad McRae and Dominic Jones had reasonable grounds to fear personal harm or injury stemming from the Jan. 31 incident. The B.C. Prosecution Service sought to have Samra bound to conditions of a peace bond as a result of the incident. A court date for her case has been scheduled for June in Nanaimo.
Samra became the city’s first female and aboriginal chief administrative officer when she was hired on an interim basis by councillors in November 2015, after few applicants applied for the position. She was officially named as the city’s chief administrative officer in March 2016.
Immediately after she was hired on an interim basis, concerns were raised by two Nanaimo council members about the hiring process and are detailed in a series of in camera documents recently released. A few months after she was hired on a permanent basis, Samra described the working environment as “challenging” and alleged Coun. Diane Brennan was adding to an already “hostile” working environment by openly challenging her decision making in front of staff and to the media.
Mayor Bill McKay said the city’s announcement regarding Samra’s departure was a “progression of events” and that they took longer than people wanted because council had to follow specific procedures and processes. He said members of council made decisions based on information that was available to them, but wouldn’t comment on what that information was.
“Not only do we have to do deal with employment law and precedences in respect to that, we are also governed by the community charter, which has additional requirements for councils that find themselves in such as a situation as this … so that is one the main reasons why it has taken longer than some of our community members would have liked,” McKay said.
Whether Samra was terminated or if she left or own terms is not something that McKay would disclose to the News Bulletin.
“Council would not give me the authority to speak any further than what you received in the statement,” McKay said, adding that he also couldn’t comment on whether there were a number of factors or a single factor that led to Samra’s departure.
McKay said he’s looking forward to hiring an interim chief administrative officer, adding that councillors will be interviewing seven highly qualified candidates, all of whom have either held an interim or permanent city manager position previously, over the coming weeks. He said the seven candidates are aware the position is strictly an interim position and that the next council will be deciding on a permanent city manager following the October election.
“That is a decision that is going to be made by the incoming council,” he said.
Van Horne said the city is still continuing the hiring process for an interim CAO and that interviews are expected to begin in June.
“The interviews have been arranged with the shortlisted candidates, they’ve all been booked and now we are finalizing the questions and we will be going for interviews for the week of June 18,” Van Horne said.
Councillors decided Samra’s fate through an in-camera vote and according to Coun. Gord Fuller, who declined to comment on the way he voted or why, the vote came down to whether or not to dismiss her with or without cause.
“There were two things, fire with cause or fire without cause,” he said, adding that the vote was to fire with cause.
Samra “had to go” but that the decision wasn’t about her ability to get work done, said Fuller. He said the decision was personal for people, that some members of the public as well as some members of council wanted her gone.
“It got personal and not only did they want her gone, but they wanted to ruin her life, and Victor [Mema’s] as well,” he said. “To me that is the saddest part about this thing.”
Calls to Jim Kipp, Jerry Hong, Bill Bestwick, Bill Yoachim, Sheryl Armstrong, Ian Thorpe, were Diane Brennan not returned. Messages to Samra were not returned.