Chief Electrical Inspector Ark Tsisserev (right) interviewed by CTV's Lisa Rossington
Historians agree that it wasn't the break-in to Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel that led to Richard Nixon's ultimate resignation as US President. Rather, it was when Nixon and his staff conspired to cover it up in the years that followed.
Denials by Gregor Robertson that he knew anything about the dismissal of Ark Tsisserev have some wondering if Vancouver's Mayor needs brush up on his political science in the face of a scandal some are now dubbing Gregorgate.
The most recent damaging new revelation for Robertson is an interview which took place between him and CKNW news reporter Nafeesa Karim last Wednesday, March 10th (clip):
Robertson is asked a simple question – did he know if Ark Tsisserev retired, or if he was let go? After stumbling on his words for a full nine seconds, Robertson (as with his interview with Michael Smyth last Friday) claims no knowledge of Tsisserev's dismissal and that it was a "human resources action" and that HR were "taking care of it". He deflects any further questions on the matter to the City Manager.
As for Penny Ballem, she responded to the question by CKNW reporter Janet Brown about Tsisserev's dismissal, saying "he fell victim to restructuring. We are an organization that uses best human resources practices and these are always difficult things. Being laid off is a difficult time for employee and employer."
Former Chief Electrical Inspector Ark Tsisserev was replaced in a decision made by Mayor and council during an in-camera meeting which took place on January 21st, 2010. All meetings involving discussion and decisions regarding personnel are held in-camera, and the closed door gathering on the 21st was chaired by Mayor Robertson.
An inside account of the meeting reveals that the deliberation on the matter was brief. Unlike situations where people are being let go for cause, where discussion can typically last an hour or more, council swiftly approved staff's recommendation to replace Tsisserev with Will Johnston (the city's Chief Building Official). The decision is noted in council minutes from February 2nd.
The fact that city council ended Ark Tsisserev's award-winning career at the City of Vancouver in mere minutes suggests that in all likelihood they were duped by one or more party involved in getting rid of the Chief Electrician. And there is evidence to prove this, according to one City Hall watcher.
Google Ark Tsisserev's name and you'll immediately find evidence that he is one of the most qualified and heralded figures in his profession. In 2004, Tsisserev was awarded the Canadian Standards Association's most prestigious honour, the John Jenkins Award, for which he was recognized by city council. In January after receiving the news from a senior manager, Tsisserev was frog-marched in front of his colleagues to his desk to get his personal belongings, and walked off of city property.
Tsisserev's abrupt removal from his job sent shockwaves through the community of electrical professionals in which he is held in high regard. As we reported earlier, CTV's Lisa Rossington questioned Mayor Robertson directly on February 7th, and he deflected the question with the excuse that the Olympics were too much of a distraction. The dogged reporting by Alex Tsakumis followed, uncovering many more strange twists in the Tsisserev affair.
Perhaps the most shocking revelation of Tsakumis' reports was the admission by Coun. Geoff Meggs (in a private meeting with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) that he and his colleagues were led to believe that Tsisserev had retired:
[Meggs] long-standing union involvement found him at the table with the IBEW. They discussed several safety issues, raised by a number of individuals, and were looking for explanations about how their professionalism has been compromised... Councillor Meggs was shown several sources, including copies of the original breaking news and follow-ups from this website.
After some discussion, Clr. Meggs dropped a bombshell admission...that Vancouver City Council was advised by city staff that Arkady Tsisserev, HAD RETIRED!!! Council was then presented with a report insisting that a new ‘City Electrician’ had to be hired and that a city staff report recommended Mr. Will Johnston, a structural engineer without a stitch of electrical knowledge or experience.
This proves beyond any doubt that the termination of Arkady Tsisserev was a clear and unmistakable violation of the Vancouver Charter by senior City of Vancouver management, who are attempting to cover up their tracks by deliberately misleading city council with respect to the reasons Canada’s most respected electrical life safety engineer was wrongfully dismissed...
Even after many questions by media over the past several weeks, Mayor Robertson continues to insist that he knows nothing about the file. Remember, Robertson chaired the meeting where Tsisserev was let go. What can we conclude from the Mayor's statements that he has no knowledge of the Tsisserev dismissal? Many are beginning to have doubts about whether Robertson is being entirely forthcoming on this matter.
If city council was deceived, Robertson will have no choice but to terminate those responsible. If he doesn't, then it's possible that his legacy in office will be remembered for this brewing Gregorgate scandal.
UPDATE: We can confirm that according to lawyer Russ Chamberlain, Arkady Tsisserev has settled with the City of Vancouver for an undisclosed sum and will be making no further comments on this matter.
UPDATE #2: GlobalTV BC interviews Alex Tsakumis and Coun. Suzanne Anton on the matter of the wiring at Olympic venues & the firing of Tsisserev – video link.