May. 26, 2018

Citizens need to be told all the facts in Samra departure

A two-sentence statement issued by the city seems intent on secretly concluding the Tracy Samra saga as an employee of the city.

“This message is to inform citizens that Ms. Samra is no longer employed as the Chief Administrative Officer of the City of Nanaimo. The City will not be making any further statement on this matter,” was the full content of the announcement.

Mum’s the word. Well, that’s not good enough. The citizens who are paying for this disaster deserve to know what happened. 

Samra’s performance is not the question here – that’s another topic. We should be clear from the outset, the problem lies at the feet of the infamous Group of Five – Councillors Bestwick, Kipp, Hong, Fuller and Yoachim. They initiated this fiasco by virtually terrorizing council members who did not toe their line on their methods of operation.

It wound up with the resignation of Councillor Wendy Pratt, leading to a costly byelection. It also included harassment which forced Coun. Diane Brennan and Mayor Bill McKay to seek legal assistance in defending themselves – all at their own personal expense. Strangely, the G5 voted themselves city-paid legal advice.

What has come to light, among other things, is what appears to be blatant abuse of city credit cards and purchasing cards, with Samra and departed Chief Financial Officer Victor Mema approving each other’s expense claims, including vet services for a cat. It’s not like this was a surprise to council members, vigilant city employees were reporting this for some time. 

Whether there was a financial settlement with Samra’s departure is something the citizens of Nanaimo need to know. If so, this would be the second payout to the same employee after leaving the employ of the city, for the second time. That depends heavily on whether Samra resigned, was fired with cause or without cause. Dismissal with cause, or resignation, should not carry a payout. Dismissal without cause would likely trigger the severance agreement that Samra had in her contract.

Keep in mind, Samra drew a considerable salary during the time she was suspended from her job.

Given the short two-sentence announcement it is extremely likely that a non-disclosure agreement was agreed to.

Now saying there will be no further comment is not sufficient. Transparency demands that we be told what the final separation terms were. Under the circumstance, council members who would have approved a non-disclosure agreement were not acting on behalf of the people they claim to represent. In an issue as controversial as this one the city should not have agreed to such a condition, if in fact they did.

The vibes I get are that there was likely no "payout", so it's time to come clean so the slate can be cleared for the remaining few months of this council. Nanaimo citizens deserve nothing less.