8 city employees fired following investigation into improper conduct
Published Wednesday, September 11, 2019 10:45AM CST
Last Updated Tuesday, September 17, 2019 10:13AM CST
Eight City of Winnipeg employees have been fired and another seven have been suspended following an investigation into property inspectors allegedly slacking on the job, the city said Wednesday morning.
The city began the investigation after an anonymous citizens’ group paid a private investigator to follow and record inspectors.
The group alleged the videos show the city employees doing personal activities during work hours, like long shopping trips and coffee breaks, a visit to a gym, and snow blowing.
Interim chief administrative officer Mike Ruta told reporters Wednesday morning: “we are deeply disappointed to have found there was truth to the allegations."
“We realize this matter was more than just breaking trust between us as an employer and our employees. We also broke the trust of the public and the trust of our elected officials.”
The city conducted nearly 100 interviews with staff members, reviewed employee files, work logs and mileage claims from January to March of this year. It also reviewed the surveillance video which it paid $18,000 to obtain from the anonymous citizens’ group.
Results of the investigation
The investigation found a number of employees in the development and inspections division took extended and sometimes excessive coffee and lunch breaks on a regular basis. It also found some employees went shopping, ran errands and did family or personal chores on city time. Some left work early, misused paid city time, made inappropriate mileage claims and accepted money as a result.
“Unfortunately what we’ve discovered was even more than the broken trust, it was also theft,” said Ruta. “Theft in the form of time and theft in the form of fraudulent mileage claims.”
An exact dollar value for the losses isn’t known but Ruta said the total would be “smaller in terms the city’s financial statement.” While there are no plans to recoup the money it hasn’t been ruled out.
Mayor Brian Bowman said he’s satisfied with the report and the outcome of the investigation.
“What I had said when the allegations were first made is that if in fact they were true we expected people and processes to be held accountable,” said Bowman.
Discipline 'doesn't go far enough': councillor
Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood city councillor Kevin Klein said the disciplinary measures don’t go far enough.
He said the situation highlights a need to do a top down review, starting with the chief administration officer and department heads.
“It wasn’t just the inspectors,” said Klein. “It was about permits and how long it takes to get those permits, it was about the inconsistency when you make applications to the City of Winnipeg. So it’s more than just staff, it’s a leadership issue.”
The report found management had suspicions of some issues, however, not enough was done to enforce workplace rules.
Ruta said the investigation didn’t find the conduct of the workers led to any significant delays in issuing permits. As a result he said the city will be reviewing field operations across all departments including in the PP&D department.
“We want to restore trust and we have work to be done inside our operation,” he said.
John Prystanski, a lawyer representing the anonymous citizens’ group, said the group is happy the city’s taking its concerns seriously but hopes improvements are made to the building inspection process.
“The videotape that the citizens undertook went to confirm all along, the city of Winnipeg – some of their employees were not doing the work they committed to doing,” said Prystanski. “The question now becomes how quickly is the city going to complete the work.”
Four additional employees have received a written reprimand. One received a letter on file that was non-disciplinary.
The respective unions for the employees have grieved the disciplinary action taken.