The government body tasked with supporting municipalities in British Columbia has no intention of stepping in and dealing with the ongoing situation at Nanaimo city hall.
According to an e-mailed statement provided to the News Bulletin, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has monitored what’s happened, but has no intention of intervening in any capacity.
“We have been following the situation at Nanaimo city hall. There is no formal role for the ministry but we have offered to work with the City of Nanaimo and would consider possible supports and guidance if the mayor and council decide to formally request assistance from the ministry,” said Kate Mukasa, communications manager for Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson, in an e-mailed statement.
Tracy Samra, the city’s chief administrative officer, has been on leave since she was arrested at the end of January following an alleged incident involving her making threats. The B.C. Prosecution Service is seeking to have Samra bound to conditions of a peace bond. A court date for Samra’s case has been scheduled for April 10.
Meanwhile, Victor Mema, the city’s chief financial officer and deputy CAO, has been on indefinite leave since early March. The city has remained tight-lipped about the reasons for his leave of absence, but issued a press release stating than an independent investigation would be launched regarding an allegation of a significant concern.
The city is also being sued by its former manager of bylaw, regulation and security, Rod Davidson, who is arguing that he was fired without cause. In addition, Brad McRae, a former city senior manager, told the News Bulletin earlier this month that he has submitted a complaint to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal against the city, claiming that he was fired without cause and that his rights were violated.
McKay said city council has to move forward because it is clear that the province won’t bother assisting the city without a formal request. When asked whether Samra should resign given the latest developments, McKay said he is “not really at a place to comment ” on personnel issues.
“I just don’t believe that is proper,” he said. “It’s in front of courts right now and we will let that process run its course.”
Leonard Krog, Nanaimo MLA, said he’s very concerned about what is going on at Nanaimo city hall, regarding both the division on council and the behavior of some members of council.
“It’s unprecedented,” he said.
Provincial ministers and bureaucrats in Victoria are very aware of the situation at Nanaimo city hall according to Krog, who said Nanaimo’s image is being hurt because of the dysfunction at the city.
“It is just bad news in every way for the City of Nanaimo,” he said.
Krog said he’s spoken with Robinson, as well as the previous minister Peter Fassbender, multiple times about assisting and dealing with issues at Nanaimo city hall. He said the general opinion of both ministers is that councils are elected and while the provincial government may not exactly approve what is going on, it doesn’t believe it has the legal authority to step without being asked.
“The essential message is that government, the Province of British Columbia, the minister does not have the legal authority to dismiss this council or take over management of the city’s affairs,” he said.
Krog said the ministry is also busy dealing with a number of other priorities, such as promises made during the campaign. He said introducing legislation to allow for local recall for mayor and councillors or amending the local government act to include more situations that would allow the minister the authority to intervene into local affairs, could be ways to solve the dilemma the government faces.
“I am not a fan of recall, but it exists at the provincial level and I think that would be a far more democratic approach,” he said. “Giving more power to a minister to dismiss somebody, is somewhat anti-democratic because after all these people are locally elected.”