City docs reveal Rudberg spin control

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

3 comments

Internal documents reveal contradictory media messaging from City Manager Penny Ballem and her communications staff

spin_bikeEmails made available to CityCaucus.com reveal a carefully planned media spin that was developed in response to Friday afternoon's resignation by Vancouver's Head of Olympic Operations Dave Rudberg. Rudberg was in the final stretch of a 31-year long career with the City and planned to make the 2010 Games his swan song achievement after five years as Vancouver's Olympics Top Dog.

Leslie Boldt of the City's Corporate Communications Department run by Laurie Best provided talking points that suggested all is well with Olympic operations, and there is no reason to be concerned that Dave is leaving:

Dave has done an outstanding job in getting Vancouver ready for the 2010 Winter Games, and we’ll miss his experience and wisdom very much. We wish Dave all the very best in his retirement.

Plans for 2010 are proceeding well. Within the next month, the remaining Host City programs to be funded by the City's Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Reserve Fund will be submitted to City Council for consideration, and the City will then move into a new operational phase in Games preparations.

In a follow-up email a nervous sounding City Manager Penny Ballem has her own take on the reasons for Dave's departure, suggesting that Rudberg was simply too tired to make it to the finish line:

It was clear in our discussions that it has been a long hard run and the challenges of the next 12 months were looking less doable and retirement more inviting!

Rudberg's departure has shaken staff at Vancouver City Hall who are becoming increasingly nervous on the chances of the Games' success. Dave Rudberg is widely considered one of the most respected, loyal and non-partisan public servants ever in Vancouver, and his departure is a major indictment of the leadership style of Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver team.

As one city employee told us yesterday, "if they can drive someone like Dave out of City Hall, everyone's job is at risk."

The communications department did their best at spin control. They said Rudberg was leaving to "spend more time with his grandchildren." This is reminiscent of when Fire Chief Holdgate recently announced his resignation, the communications department explained that he wanted to spend more time sailing.

It's known by those who worked with him that Rudberg fully intended to end his career after the 2010 Games had wrapped up. City Hall insiders are saying the loss of Dave Rudberg may be a crippling blow to Vancouver's 2010 plans.

It's hoped by many that Mayor Gregor Robertson will step in to help prevent any future bloodletting among the City's leadership until at least the Games are complete. Rumours abound about future departures of Vancouver senior staff.

CityCaucus.com provides the complete text below of all internal documents and emails outlining how the communications department was preparing to deal with the fallout of the City's top Olympic organizer quitting on the eve of Vancouver hosting the Games.

Here is copy of the internal talking points document:

City of Vancouver COMMUNICATIONS BRIEF FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY

March 13, 2009

SUBJECT: Olympic and Paralympic Operations GM Dave Rudberg retires

Summary:

The City of Vancouver has announced that Olympic and Paralympic General Manager Dave Rudberg will retire later this spring, after 31 years of service with the City of Vancouver. Rudberg, 65, was appointed in 2004to lead Vancouver’s preparations as Host City for the 2010 Winter Games.

Key Points:

• Dave has done an outstanding job in getting Vancouver ready for the 2010 Winter Games, and we’ll miss his experience and wisdom very much. We wish Dave all the very best in his retirement.

• Plans for 2010 are proceeding well. Within the next month, the remaining Host City programs to be funded by the City's Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Reserve Fund will be submitted to City Council for consideration, and the City will then move into a new operational phase in Games preparations.

Qs and As:

Q: Why is Mr. Rudberg retiring, with only 11 months to go before the Games?
Dave is 65 and is looking forward to his retirement. We’d like to thank him sincerely for his many years of service and wish him all the best. Plans for 2010 are proceeding well. Within the next month, the remaining Host City programs to be funded by the City's Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Reserve Fund will be submitted to City Council for consideration, and the City will then move into a new operational phase in Games preparations.

Q: Who will be replacing him?
The City Manager will be working with the senior management team on plans for replacing Rudberg and a smooth transition for the City in the work underway to host the 2010 Winter Games.

Communications Protocol:

Corporate Communications will coordinate media interview requests for staff via the media line at 604-871-6336.

INTERNAL CONTACTS:

Lesli Boldt, Project Manager, 2010 Host City Communications, 604-873-7160

APPROVED BY:

Jennifer Young, Assistant Director, Corporate Communications
Penny Ballem, City Manager

We have also obtained the following email distributed from Project Manager Leslie Boldt:

From: Boldt, Lesli

Sent: Fri 13/03/2009 12:18 PM

To: Corporate Communications Staff - DL; Andrea Reimer; Anton, Suzanne; Cadman, David; Chow, George; City Manager's Admin Assistants - DL; Deal, Heather; Ellen Woodsworth; Geoff Meggs; Gregor Robertson; Kerry Jang; Louie, Raymond; Marg Coulson; Mayor's Office Staff - DL; Penny Ballem; Ridge, James; Stevenson, Tim; Wendy Au
Cc: Rudberg, Dave; Poon, Elaine

Subject: ISSUE: Dave Rudberg retiring this spring

Please find attached information on Dave's announcement today that he will be retiring this spring.

Key Points:

  • Dave has done an outstanding job in getting Vancouver ready for the 2010 Winter Games, and we’ll miss his experience and wisdom very much. We wish Dave all the very best in his retirement.
  • Plans for 2010 are proceeding well. Within the next month, the remaining Host City programs to be funded by the City's Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Reserve Fund will be submitted to City Council for consideration, and the City will then move into a new operational phase in Games preparations.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Lesli Boldt
Project Manager, 2010 Host City Communications
Olympic and Paralympic Operations | Corporate Communications
City of Vancouver
site office 3585 Graveley Street, Vancouver (near 1st and Boundary)
mailing address 453 West 12th Avenue, Second Floor, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V5Y 1V4

tel 604.296.2973 (City Hall: 604-873-7160)
fax 604.296.2977
e-mail lesli.boldt@vancouver.ca

The City of Vancouver is hosting the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games February 12 to 28, 2010, and the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games March 12 to 21, 2010. Visit vancouver.ca for information on the City's role, activities and commitments.
Please consider the environment before printing this email.

Then there is the internal email we obtained with Ms. Ballem's version of events:

From: Ballem, Penny

Sent: Friday, March 13, 2009 12:38 PM
To: Mayor and Council (COV) - DL
Subject: David Rudberg

Dear Mayor Robertson and Councillors - you will have just received a news release in regard to Dave Rudberg's planned retirement. Dave first spoke to me about this a couple of weeks ago. We were working through a transition plan before announcing it but there has been media awareness today so we are putting out a release. In last weeks executive team meeting, we agreed that it would be a good idea to have an experienced individual help us set up a process to evalute our current level of readiness for our hosting duties. It is our hope that we can get this done before Dave leaves - this will allow us to map out our strategy to address any risks or gaps in the same way VANOC does after their frequent reviews by the IOC. This process is underway. Dave has also agreed that he will be available if needed to assist on specific issues. It was clear in our discussions that it has been a long hard run and the challenges of the next 12 months were looking less doable and retirement more inviting! Not surprising and I think that the article on john furlong re the burnout and toll these olympic projects take is undoubtedly releted. I hope this is helpful as background - please call if any questions.

pb
Penny Ballem MD FRCP City Manager City of Vancouver

 

3 Comments

This stinks to high heaven.

Dave Rudberg has always been the most honest and straightforward of Vancouver senior bureaucrats. The fact that he is leaving so very close to the 2010 Olympics is not a good indication of what is happening in terms of the city's senior bureaucracy. While I have absolutely no knowledge or inside track on the new administration, I cannot help but have concerns at losing those who have long history with the city. At worst, such people should be mirroring to any transitions.
While is is not unusual for significant changes in elected leadership to change the senior management system; it is highly unusual for something so important as the 2010 Olympics to lose a senior manager with only a year to go...he leaves with much knowledge and connections that cannot be picked up by new people very well at this eleventh hour.
Dave Rudberg deserves better respect and recognition that this.

Oh come on now, Rudberg was hand picked by Dobell and to suggest that he was non-partisan is about as much baloney as a political party closely connected to the BC Liberals calling themselves the Non-Partisan Association (NPA).

No mention in the article that these mandarins are responsible and accountable for the Olympic cost overruns in the city.

Revisionist politics, ignore costs just talk about benefits.

Rogers herself tried to pull the wool over the eyes of her council in 2003 when see instructed her senior staff not to talk about costs during staff's Olympic briefing to the new council led by Larry Campbell.

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