"Ms. Ballem has lost the confidence of the people she must lead, therefore she must step down"
While the Mayor does photo ops, not a word from him on the scandal surrounding his hand-picked City Manager
In light of new reports and persistent questions about her conduct relating to work done for eHealth Ontario, Dr. Penny Ballem must step down in her role as Vancouver's City Manager.
Last night CBC News posted another national report on the eHealth Ontario scandal, with a focus on Penny Ballem's involvement with this file and her relationship with RPO Management Consultants.
The statements by Ms. Ballem in the CBC News interview are disingenuous and misleading, and seriously undermine the trust City staff and its political leadership must have in Vancouver's top bureaucrat.
CBC reports that a $600,000 untendered contract has surfaced between eHealth Ontario and RPO Management Consultants. Penny Ballem worked as a senior adviser with RPO until, they claim, she moved on to her job as City Manager. Whether it was a technical oversite or intentional, RPO kept Ms. Ballem on their website until CityCaucus.com raised the matter on May 28th.
In an interview with CBC News Penny Ballem states,
I have no concern; I did some honest work for eHealth Ontario...It never occurred to me that I wouldn't ever get paperwork, and frankly, I never tested that because I had to go back to them and say that I was taking another position.
As CityCaucus.com pointed out, Ms. Ballem began working the first "six-month block" mere days before confirming her position with the City of Vancouver at over $300,000 annual salary. Two months after taking on the new job Ballem sent in a $33,000 bill for her unfinished work.
CBC points out that when Ballem dropped the eHealth gig RPO took over. We contacted Kate Parker at RPO's Vancouver office with questions about possible referral fees and other financial arrangements between her company and Ballem. Parker hung up on us.
Ms. Ballem again reiterates that she sees nothing egregious in her outrageous compensation, blaming "the relatively small community" of health care experts for her high price. Ms. Ballem also suggests in the interview that her fees included travel and living expenses, when her invoice very clearly shows that she billed Ontario taxpayers for airfare and a meal allowance over and above her $3,000 daily rate.
Penny Ballem negotiated a contract with the City of Vancouver that allowed her to "practice medicine" outside of her role as City Manager. Does this arrangement include consulting with outside agencies such as her work with eHealth Ontario? Is it possible that Ballem received a referral fee from RPO for their receiving the $600,000 untendered contract?
What are City Hall observers to make of someone who is so cavalier with the public's money and is dismissive of questions relating to her working without a contract or a competitive procurement process?
It's time that Mayor Robertson get off his bike and demonstrate leadership on this matter. Penny Ballem has become the latest poster child for abuse of public funds, as today's editorial in the Vancouver Sun shows. The City of Vancouver is getting a black eye over this eHealth scandal, and this is the last thing an Olympic destination needs before the world arrives here.
Ms. Ballem has lost the confidence of the people she must lead, therefore she must step down.
UPDATE: Toronto Star updates this story with "A tale of big contracts and small receipts."