An apparent letter from Tsisserev to Penny Ballem was in fact provided by the City – click for full letter
Alex G. Tsakumis' dogged coverage of the Ark Tsisserev affair continues. If you thought that the 40-page memo leaked to Frances Bula last Friday evening was the end of the story, think again. Tsakumis has a full on the record interview with the City's former Chief Electrical Inspector, under the condition that he gives no opinions based on suppositions, and that he does not speak disparagingly regarding anyone or anything at City Hall today – terms required by his agreement with the City of Vancouver.
After reading Arkady's statements, one detail really jumped out at me. It concerned the curious page 13 letter signed by Tsisserev sent to the attention of Penny Ballem. It very much looks like a home printed memo, in a tightly spaced Times Roman font that looks nothing like memos from the City. If you read the letter too quickly, you would think that Tsisserev had completely capitulated. He dismisses "media coverage" as being wildly inaccurate. The letter is co-signed and date-stamped by Ark's lawyer Russ Chamberlain.
Tsisserev tells Alex Tsakumis that the letter was in fact prepared by city staff, and he had to sign it as a condition of receiving his payout. Here is how he describes his reaction to receiving the letter in the interview with Tsakumis:
AGT: ...how on earth can you have then signed a letter on February 12th, not even a month later, a letter which the City, specifically Dr. Ballem, cites as proof of your lack of knowledge of any potential life safety issues? How can both be true?
AT: You mean the letter that appeared out of nowhere? (Laughs…)
AGT: What do you mean by that? (Long pause…)
AT: I was negotiating a settlement through my lawyer while I was shocked and deeply hurt by the treatment I received…I am still hurt because I loved serving the people and working with the people I worked with. But it was actually the city that sent the February 12th letter over. My lawyer Russ Chamberlain did not draft it at all. I didn’t write it either. It came over from the city just as I signed it and it was made very clear to me that if I did not have any “current” first hand knowledge, like on that day, of specific life safety issues, if I did not sign I wouldn’t get a settlement. It was an essential part of the deal for the city. They insisted I sign as a key part of (the) deal.
AGT: So, in order for you to achieve an exit with settlement, the city demanded you sign that letter…
AT: Correct. I objected a lot originally to Russ but it was no use. Look, Alex, I was not employed by that time, so they could make me sign this and be technically correct, even though I did not feel good about this kind of move.
The letter is addressed to the City Manager, subject "Media Reports". As of February 12th there had only been two media covering the story, CTV, who ran it on their Feb. 6th & 7th weekend newscast, and Alex Tsakumis. CTV's and Tsakumis' stories ran during the Olympics, virtually guaranteeing that no one would pay attention to the report. The letter seems to been written over concerns raised by Tsakumis' persistent blog posts rather than the more limited mainstream coverage.
The letter reads:
Ms. Ballem, I have been listening to the various news reports which allege safety issues in light of my departure from the electrical inspections branch. I want you to know as I have instructed my lawyer, that the "leaks" which the media seem to find are not from me and I have not passed on any emails or information of any kind to compromise the reputation of the City or the department.
The letter goes on to make vague statements full of qualifiers such as:
I confirm that while I was at the department there was absolutely nothing wrong whatsoever with the manner in which the electrical department was carrying out its responsibilities. I can also say that since my departure on January 21, 2010, I am not aware of any facts that would suggest in any way that there is anything wrong in the way the electrical inspections branch is being operated and I am not currently aware of any safety issues or dangers whatsoever.
This letter was written to serve one purpose, to squash any independent media reports of electrical problems. It concludes with this line:
I hope this helps to address some of the misinformation which has been circulating in the press.
The page 13 letter was produced to look like it was a correspondence from Tsisserev himself, when in fact it was anything but. The letter is a complete fabrication, and it was signed under duress.
What could they have been possibly thinking to cook up this deceit? What a horrible way to treat a loyal and competent employee like Arkady Tsisserev.
Our hat goes off to Alex for his report. Now it's time for Gregor Robertson and Penny Ballem to answer even more questions on this file.
- post by Mike