In our Dec. 27 issue, the News Bulletin detailed our story of the year for 2018, Discontent City. That article can be found at this link. Here is one of the runner-up stories of the year:
Events that took place at city hall over the year were significant, if not historical.
The city’s two highest ranking employees would be dismissed from their duties by the middle of the year and their improper use of purchase cards exposed.
In addition to the firings of chief administrative officer Tracy Samra and chief financial officer Victor Mema, the year also saw numerous city staffers fired and a number of lawsuits filed against the city.
Less than two weeks into January, Brad McRae, the city’s chief operations officer, was fired.
On Jan. 31, Samra was arrested, with RCMP Island District saying that nine individuals, including then-mayor Bill McKay, have reasonable grounds to fear that Samra could cause them harm. McKay would later tell the News Bulletin that he received a call from RCMP advising him of a death threat.
In March, the B.C. Prosecution Service announced intentions to have Samra bound to conditions of a peace bond following the Jan. 31 incident.
In March, the city announced it was investigating an “allegation of significant concern” following rumours and accusations of improper purchase card use by city staffers.
Days later, it was revealed that Mema was on leave for an indefinite period of time.
Also in March, McRae launched a human rights complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal in March, claiming his rights were violated when he was fired. A mediation hearing took place in August, but a public hearing has yet to be scheduled.
In April, the News Bulletin published an article detailing personal airfare expenses that Mema made while using a city-issued purchasing card. The CFO, according to documents, used a city credit card to book 11 separate flights for personal use between 2016-2017, with Samra approving the transactions.
Mema would later launch a human rights complaint against the city, arguing the city discriminated against his “ancestry, race, place of origin and colour” according to tribunal documents obtained by the News Bulletin.
In May, Samra was fired following a vote by council. It would later be revealed that Samra made $3,208 worth of personal purchases over a 22-month period using a city-issued purchase card.
In July, the city hired Jake Rudolph as interim chief administrative officer.
McRae filed a notice of civil claim against the city in September. He accused the city of firing him because he refused to “co-operate in covering up her misuse of Nanaimo corporate credit cards for her own personal gain.” The city would later deny the claims.
A few days before Samra’s hearing in the B.C. Prosecution Service’s case against her, the ex-city manager fired her lawyer, causing the case to be delayed further. A three-day hearing in her case has been scheduled for March 2019.
In December, Samra launched a human rights tribunal complaint against the city and McKay.