Attention Vancouver City staff: If you can negotiate separation terms before you leave your employer, see if you can get a clause that says the City Manager won't impugn your reputation before you leave. Former General Manager of Olympic Operations Dave Rudberg probably wishes he had done so.
City Manager Penny Ballem went a little off script on Friday when describing to CKNW why her 2010 Olympics Top Dog was leaving just months before the Games, after a 31-year career at Vancouver City Hall. Yesterday we reported that Ballem and her communications staff run by Laurie Best had developed a contradictory media spin on Rudberg's departure.
Corporate Communications recommended the message should be that Dave had done a great job, he would be missed and that the Olympic operations were already running on cruise control now. However, the City Manager suggested it was Rudberg's age that caused his unexpected early departure, saying he'd had "long hard run and the challenges of the next 12 months were looking less doable."
Ballem topped her email comment in a Friday CKNW News interview. In it the City Manager made the following statement about her outgoing Head of Olympic Operations:
"He's tired, getting grumpy, and felt that really it was the best time to choose to take advantage of his retirement, sit back a little and enjoy the Games when they come around."
Here's the audio clip (email subscribers download here):
There are strong rumours that more of the City's top leadership are on their way out the door in the weeks to come. Initially there was a widely criticized attempt by the City Manager to keep resignations under wraps, as with Fire Chief Ray Holdgate.
Rudberg's departure resulted in a more coordinated effort at communications spin instead of sweeping it under the rug, but unfortunately for the City's communications advisers Ballem decided to ad lib.
We predict that with future departures of senior staff this mistake will probably not be repeated.