A number of reports have been coming out all day that Raj Hundal, the hapless Chair of the Vancouver Park Board, is not amused by the Mayor's office attempts to interfere with the hiring process for the new General Manager position. If you recall, we reported last week that City Manager Penny Ballem had written a terse note to the Park Board advising them that she was not prepared to stand by as they went ahead and backfilled Sue Mundick's position on their own.
Supporters of an independent Park Board watched closely after Ballem's salvo to see if Hundal would come out of his shell and make any kind of media statement.
Under the headline which read "Councillor worried over Park Board emasculation", Hundal finally spoke out today against what is being perceived as a power grab by the Mayor's office. He told reporter Jeff Hodson of Metro News:
The hiring of the general manager will be done by the park board, consisting of all the commissioners.
We can also confirm that Hundal is going to make some sort of announcement just prior to the commencement of tonight's (7 pm PST Monday) Park Board meeting. He's not providing anyone with hints as to what his announcement is about, however, it likely has something to do with the hiring of a new General Manager.
Hundal's comments to Metro News seem pretty clear to me regarding the independence of the Park Board. They are however in stark contrast to Penny Ballem's email whereby she stated:
First as I indicated last night you will be missed by the city as you move to retirement. Your contribution over the last 11 years has been very significant and is much appreciated. As we move forward over the coming weeks I would like to clarify a few issues related to your plans for retirement. I think I understood from our conversation last night that you were planning to proceed with the process of the recruitment of your successor.
Your offer is appreciated to do this however I have signalled to the chair that it would be appropriate for me to work with the parks board to undertake this work. The general manager of parks and recreation has a line of accountability to me as well as a reporting relationship to the parks board and I will work with Raj and the other commissioners to support this work in relation to choosing your successor. Secondly I understand that you are contemplating some organizational restructuring and potentially naming a deputy general manager.
I would like to ask you not to proceed with these plans...
This is shaping up to be a real battle at the O.K. Corral. When all the dust settles, someone is going to have egg on their face. Either the Chair of the Park Board is going to look completely complicit in handing over the reigns of his governing body to the Mayor's office, or Ballem will look like she's not as powerful as some claim.
If I were a betting man, I'd lay money that Hundal and his Vision colleagues will do everything in their power to keep control of what little independence remains at the Park Board and force Ballem to back down.
If Ballem doesn't like Hundal's decision, perhaps he could simply send her an email response and say "tough, eh."