No word on CAO’s status a month after threats allegedly uttered

Tracy Samra remains employed with city, in-camera process ongoing

The City of Nanaimo’s chief administrative officer remains on paid leave from her duties one month after an incident of alleged threats uttered at city hall.

On Jan. 31, a woman was arrested by RCMP Island District for allegedly uttering threats. The woman was not identified by the police, however, it was widely reported that Tracy Samra was the woman involved.

Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay confirmed a death threat was made against him and that Coun. Diane Brennan was also threatened, and the city launched an internal investigation. The B.C. Prosecution Service also announced that it was conducting an investigation into the incident and appointed special prosecutor Michael Klein.

Cpl. Tammy Douglas, spokeswoman for the RCMP Island District, said in an e-mailed statement to the News Bulletin this week that charges have not been filed and that police cannot release any additional information.

McKay said this week that there is an in-camera process “at play” and that council does not comment on personnel issues. He said it’s unfortunate that the public might believe that council isn’t dealing with the situation and stressed that process needs to be respected and followed.

“I am disappointed that they think we are doing nothing because in an employment relationship there is always due process,” he said, adding that Samra’s absence is not impacting the day-to-day operations of the city.

Samra, who was hired by as the city manager on an interim basis in 2015, officially became the city manager in March 2016. Concerns raised by two members of Nanaimo council members about the interim hiring process are detailed in a series of in-camera documents recently released.

The documents lay out a chronological timeline of events that took place between November 2015 and February 2016 related to Samra’s hiring. They also show that during that time, McKay raised concerns about the process multiple times, going so far as to hire his own legal counsel on the matter and contact the provincial government.

McKay said his concern was not about Samra specifically, but about the process of how she was hired. He said not a single candidate was even interviewed and that he left a November 2015 in-camera interim hiring committee meeting because he felt the proper process was not being followed.

“This was a highly irregular process and we went in there that day to determine who we might short-list to interview,” he said. “I couldn’t support appointing someone that day without interviewing a whole group of people.”

The documents also show that following two legal opinions from the city’s own lawyers stating that the interim hiring process was legal, McKay went and got his own legal opinion without the authorization of council and eventually asked Peter Fassbender, who was then the province’s minister of community, sport and cultural development, to step in and help address the issues and assist with the hiring process of a permanent CAO. However, the province informed McKay in February 2016 that it would not be stepping in to address his concerns after receiving a letter signed earlier that year by seven councillors, supporting Samra.

McKay said, as the mayor, it is his responsibility and the duty to ensure good governance in the community and that he had every right to hire an he independent legal firm, but didn’t disclose information about what his lawyers told him. He also said he was disappointed when he learned that the province did not want to step in and help.

“I did want the ministry to be involved in the permanent process,” McKay said. “I did want the ministry to oversee it and I did want council to ask the ministry to do so.”

Another part of the report states that McKay called Samra a liar, untrustworthy and untruthful, which the mayor denied.

“I have never, ever, ever called Ms. Samra a liar,” he said.

The city manager publicly addressed what she called a challenging and hostile work environment and referenced the mayor’s contact with the provincial government in a statement at a city council meeting in May 2016.

At a censure hearing in January 2018 related to the workplace environment at city hall, McKay – as well as councillor Diane Brennan – were directed to comply with the city’s respectful workplace policy and it was recommended that they apologize to Samra by the end of that month.

Phone calls and e-mails to Samra were not returned.


nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook or follow Nicholas Pescod on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo woman leaves friend’s home, now considered missing

Ashley Sheppard, 31, has not been heard from since Feb. 10

Francophone festivities in Nanaimo this weekend

French Canadian culture and cuisine highlight Maple Sugar Festival du Sucre d’Érable

Nanaimo Redmen become Nanaimo Seahawks

Football Nanaimo says new moniker reflects West Coast heritage

Nanaimo woman to compete in new season of ‘Big Brother Canada’

Carol Rosher, a cancer survivor, is one of 16 houseguests appearing on reality TV show

Nanaimo Buccaneers win in overtime in playoff opener

Bucs goalie Austin Dendl makes 46 saves to lead his team to 2-1 win over Campbell River Storm

B.C. residents in Wet’suwet’en territory have right to police presence: Public Safety Minister

Nevertheless, Bill Blair said officials remain ‘very anxious’ for the barricades to come down

Canada’s 13th coronavirus case confirmed as husband of 12th patient

More than 81,000 cases of COVID-19 have occurred since the virus emerged in China

Shuswap boy wins hockey stick from NHL hero with rock, paper, scissors

Chase’s Payton Koch’s exchange with Minnesota Wild’s Kevin Fiala caught on camera

Surrey will replace its RCMP force with municipal police, province confirms

City of Surrey has been authorized to set up its own city police force

UPDATE: Son, 5, dies in hospital after crash that killed dad, older son on B.C. highway

Mike Cochlin and sons Liam and Quinn were travelling on Highway 5A

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to meet today with federal and B.C. governments

Nationwide rail and road blockades have been popping up for weeks

Chinatowns across Canada report drop in business due to new coronavirus fears

Around the world, about 81,000 people have become ill with the virus

Endangered butterfly species to be reintroduced to Hornby Island

Hornby Island is about to play a major role in the saving… Continue reading

VIDEO: Province promotes ‘lifting each other up’ on 13th annual Pink Shirt Day

Students, MLAs, community members gathered at B.C. Parliament Buildings Wednesday

Most Read