Feb. 3, 2018

Council majority should not make rash decision on CAO job

Nanaimo City Council is at a real crossroad right now. Even though we have not seen confirmation of City Manager Tracy Samra officially out of her job, some critical decisions lie on the immediate horizon.

After Samra was alleged to have uttered threats against some city council members and others, it is reasonable to assume that the Chief Administrative Officer job is open. That means council has to make some wise decisions in the next few days.

Though the process is in place for the Chief Financial Officer to step into that job in the event of a vacancy, city council needs to do some serious self examination before filling that post on a permanent basis. Council cannot afford the risk of continuing with the haphazard decisions made by the majority group of five in the past three years.

CFO Victor Mema has been in the crosshairs of a lot of local citizens, particularly with his number juggling on the events centre proposal, which thankfully went down in flames in a referendum. Controversy seems to follow Mema in a lot of areas. Prior to taking the job in Nanaimo he had problems with his previous employer over expenses charged to the municipality. Most recently there have been two other issues, one which is in black and white – he overspent his expense account by 100 per cent, running up charges of more than $15,000 in only nine months. On top of all that, there’s the question about Mema using the designation of CPA, certified professional account. We’re told he’s not registered with the B.C. body that governs such designations. To be fair, I’ve been told that was not a condition of employment with the city, but it certainly adds up to a professional gaff, if nothing else.

The mess at city hall needs to be cleaned up very quickly, and the big decision will be whether to name an acting or interim CAO until at least October when the next civic election takes place.

The majority on city council needs to face the fact that they’ve screwed up royally and need to finally do what’s best for the city, and that is not to make any decisions that will bind the future council just nine months from now.

The minority group on council – Mayor McKay, Councillors Brennan, Thorpe and Armstrong – will have to do some serious lobbying to get at least one or even two of the other five to act with reason and make sure the right thing is done.

Just thinking out loud, even though some councillors have personal axes to grind, it would be prudent to offer a one-year contract for the CAO job to a to someone with a load of experience.

I know of a couple of people who would fit the bill. One is Jerry Berry. I have no clue whether he would even consider it, but he has the experience to clean up this mess. He has the reputation as one of the top experts in municipal government in our province. Then, if things turn around, the next city council could decide whether to make it a permanent appointment.

If anyone has any better ideas, now would be the time to speak out. Send your thoughts to me, I'll take the best ones and post them here. Send your comments to news@nanaimonet.com

Readers' Comment

Graeme Roberts - Disgusting — beyond all imagination. This is serious. The Province should immediately step in, appoint an interim city administrator and conduct a full scale audit and  investigation into the function of City Council including RCMP interrogation of the Mayor and certain members of council. This has gone far too far and it seems it could be beyond just a civil matter.  Employees appear to be in certain jeopardy and the citizens and taxpayers have been left in the dark. They have a right to know what has and is taking place behind the grey walls of City Hall.


TerryLynn Saunders Same crap happening at the School Board! The Superintendent is retiring at the end of June, the election of a new Board is in October. There are so many options available to have an interim Superintendent but this Board wants to make decisions for a new Board despite the fact that they don't know whether or not they will be re-elected and some have already stated they will not be running again. Waiting until after the election is the most appropriate thing to do but since when has this term's City Council or School Board done the right thing!

Mike Thompson I agree with you Merv. There’s a massive mess to clean up and it needs to be done with Nanaimo’s best interest at heart. I want to be positive about ‘what’s next' but, like you, have my worries about the Majority Group of Five. They have not even come close to showing the city they have anything but their own best interests at heart. 

Nevertheless a wrong step now would be disastrous for the city. Much needs to be done to straighten everything out and it requires a professional. Jerry Berry would be an outstanding choice.

Bill Allan Jerry Berry? Nanaimo is lucky to have a such a capable person of integrity so close by. And who knows, based on his affection for the city he might be tricked into pitching in until October. But several of the Fab 5 do not hold Mr. Berry in the high regard he deserves - it would be like admiting they were wrong - so unlikely he'll be tapped. Could that be another measure of how right he actually might be for the job?