Senior staffer takes fall for Pandora fire, City claims Robbins "quit"

Post by Mike Klassen in ,

38 comments


The legal notice posted after the fire on Pandora Street property

UPDATE #4 - 8:00PM: Where's Gregor? Vancouver's most famous under-his-desk-at-the-whiff-of-controversy politician hid in a food policy meeting (see: Hollyhock/chicken post for a visual image) waiving off all media requests, which came in fast and furious once we broke this story.

Media coverage from today includes: Globe and Mail, GlobalTV, News1130, CKNW, CTV & 24 Hours.

UPDATE #3 - 3:55PM: Dave McLellan claims to be 'surprised' that Robbins 'quit' her job, but admits that he's heard that lawyers may become involved. This is starting to sound like Ark Tsisserev deja vu.

UPDATE #2 - 3:20pm: We've learned that Robbins was given an ultimatum by her employer prior to her week departure. She could either resign, or be fired. The City will insist that she "quit," when it's more accurate to say that she was forced out of her job.

UPDATE #1 2:00pm: Dave McLellan, General Manager of Community Services has been tasked with doing media on this story. The line out of City Hall continues to be that Robbins "quit" after 38 years of service.

The Mayor's office is refusing any comment, and as with all other reporting on the Pandora fire, Mayor Robertson is nowhere to be found.

An FOI filed by CityCaucus.com after the fire requested all records relating to action by the City on 2862 Pandora Street resulted in us receiving links to two documents.

  1. The December 23, 2010 Notice of Evacuation which is signed by Carlene Robbins (posted above) prepared following the fire.
  2. A previously released series of inspection reports from the City relating to 2862 Pandora Street. Both Carlene Robbins and Will Johnson's names are on the most recent reports. The letter signed by Johnson dated August 26, 2010 demanded that the owner cease occupying the building by October 31, 2010. The most recent letter is dated November 5, 2010, where Robbins name is also on the form showing an inspector followed up on the August notice.

Original story posted this morning...

CityCaucus.com has learned that the City of Vancouver's Deputy Chief License Inspector Manager, Property Use Inspection Carlene Robbins has been let go as a result of the Pandora Street fire in December which resulted in three deaths. Robbins was away for a week when colleagues were horrified to learn yesterday that she had been sacked.

Early details on this story are still coming in, but it's believed that senior management are trying to spin that Robbins quit her post at the City. Robbins, who is listed on the City staff directory as Property Use Inspection Manager, is was a 38-year employee of the City of Vancouver.

We are also trying to confirm a rumour that Robbins is proceeding with legal action against the City of Vancouver for wrongful dismissal (note: this has now been confirmed). We are also looking into questions about when alarm bells were raised with senior City staff on the problematic property on Pandora Street. Our sources say that Robbins and Chief Building Official Will Johnson were notified about problems at the Pandora property weeks before the incident (documents now linked above confirm the City was in regular communication with the property owner).

Councillor Suzanne Anton requested council to launch an independent third party review of the Pandora fire and all the factors leading up to it. However, the Vision Vancouver majority voted against her motion and is only asking for a coroner's inquest.

Robbins was regularly featured in media stories relating to problem properties, such as grow-ops and unlicensed sex shops. She was considered a close colleague of former City Manager Judy Rogers.

Our sources say that there were many tears among staff on Wednesday. One person was quoted as saying "you never go against the higher ups" at City Hall anymore, as the workplace is so political now you'll never keep your job.

Last year many City Hall observers were stunned to learn that Vancouver's Chief License Inspector Barb Windsor left her job. Windsor's title as CLI was handed over to Will Johnson, who according to sources seems out of his depths on many files.

One year ago this week Mayor Gregor Robertson and City Manager Penny Ballem fired Chief Electrician Ark Tsisserev. They did so by misleading many members of city council in an in-camera meeting (Tsisserev was a council appointment). Will Johnson took up the post as acting Chief Electrical Inspector, and recently hired Mehrdad (Mark) Roozbahani in the new managerial position of Assistant Director of Electrical Services.

Robbins is yet another senior manager who the City has either fired or has quit under Gregor Robertson's accountability-challenged Vision government.

- post by Mike

38 Comments

You're Fired !

And so the blame game begins...

Who wants to bet that this mayor and his Vision council get the boot in Nov.

Ps why wasn't Ballem or Sadhu Johnson Fired for lying on TV and to the public?

It looks like Rogers, Robbins, Tsisserev, Windsor, et al will soon have enough to initiate a class action against the City.

Hey, it's all good! This was the easiest from them all...firings! Why didn't this happened with Ark Tsisserev, eh?
Do you think for a moment that this firing was done with great sorrow and after utmost consideration Nope, as a matter of fact, Vision would have welcomed this kind of behavior throughout the previous two years. Would have helped their Aryan plan of reforestation by replacing the 'dead wood' and replanting with green, photosynthesized Hollyhockers. Funny, because in my opinion, Ballem and Johnson ARE THE DEAD WOOD!
Ahem...and Robertson too.

@ NCC
Lets not forget Andrea Reimer and if I'm not mistaken didn't Kerry Jang have a few words to say....

Time to ban civic parties now.

This shows that the City of Vancouver is in part responsible for the deaths of three people due to not acting on the orders to re-mediate the problems on Pandora street address in question.

You know, I was thinking to myself this morning that all has been pretty 'quite' at City Hall the last week or so.....

I should be shocked, but given past history and the pattern that has arisen, I am sadly not.

@ Max
What I find a little confusing is that it is being reported on CKNW that Charlene Robbins quit ...due to "constructive dismissal"....they are stating that this post is inaccurate...

I personally am not buying it...

You have to be here at city hall this afternoon. It's just too funny. Everyone is scrambling around trying to avoid the media cameras. Penny and co realize this is going look VERY bad on them and there is no way to message their way out of it.

These guys are simply out of their league and shouldn't be running any government.

@George. Even if this valued employee of 38 years "suddenly" quit, does this not look a tad strange to you? Word at the hall is that this all blew up in the last 48 hours and her departure was very acrimonious. I think they call it constructive dismissal.

It will be good to hear from her directly to get her version of events. That is unless the City gives her a big severance and imposes a confidentiality clause. Don't put it past Vision, they've done it before. Look at Arc and Judy.

Lets hope she doesn't sign anything...

Need to clarify.... I'm not buying the report from NW...

Well that is a mistake. A sudden termination of a 38 year employee will be difficult to explain to the courts. I suspect the real problem at City Hall rests with the current City Manager.

George, I would assume that 'constructive dismissal' means that she was put into a position where she had no recourse but to resign, typically a sign of a dysfunctional workplace. It's certainly not compatible with previous assurances, however, whether justified or not.

Oh well, at least we are now being looked after by a graduate of the University of Phoenix. An institution that for some reason, when Googled, has a tendency to appear with 'scam' attached.

Thanks for the update Mike.

Ironic isn't it that a Do Not Occupy sign goes up the day after...

Can't be much space left under Gregor's bus.

Fun to watch him channel his inner Obama and just jettison long serving staff without so much as piffle of remorse.

What's that smell ? ?

She can have a thrid party leak for her.

C'mon, Ms. Robbins, give someone a call...this bunch at City Hall will take down your rep, regardless.

So you may as well come out swinging.

for both david and George:

'Constructive Dismisal'? What is 'constructive' about be fired.

Is that where you are given no option?

They are hanging her out to dry, plain and simple.

S. Johnston is on record as saying 'The City would not have done anything different'. So now they are blaming this employee for .....what????

I would be curious to know if family members of the victims have files a law suit aginst the city.

To be honest Max, just based on principle, after Council did not even allow Councilor Anton to read the entire letter from Mrs. Yellowquill.. If I were her I'd sue on disrespect alone.

I was shocked when at the last Council meeting they stuck to the 5 minute limit and wouldn't let the entire letter to be read aloud... total disregard for the fact that this Mother took time out from grieving to write to the Mayor and council.... they didn't want to hear it...heartbreaking

if memory serves me correctly it was Andrea Reimer that stopped the reading of the letter in it's entirety..

I would guess there are a few wandering around the hall with:

1) guilty consciences

2) trying to figure out damage damage control

The firing of Ms. Robbins seems to fall under 'damage control'. (Must look like we are taking this incident seriously - even though our good Mayor had zero time to address the families at the time of or after the fact)

I can't help but wonder if Ark Tsissereve hadn't been illegally fired, if this tragic situation would not have occurred.

And on another 'catty note' - why is it Reimer always looks like she has partied hard the night before and needs a good scrub???? The girl is a hot mess.

@ Max

I really hope Ms. Robbins is reading this blog.... we are behind you and wish you well...

Funny, AGT told us last year that Gregor was making us less safe with the firing of Ark....perhaps his prediction was right on the money.

I hope there are guilty folks walking around..Charlene worked many years and to walk away so close to her pension, does not sit well.

and Max.... meow ;-)

I don't know if the term 'constructive dismissal' is usual in Canada but I do know that it is the term used in English law to describe a situation where the actions of the employer, deliberately or not, have effectively broken the contract of employment forcing the employee into resignation.

Presumably similar provisions exist here but I'm not a lawyer so you might want to confirm that!

It will be interesting to see whether we get yet another substantial payoff and gagging clause from this council committed to openness and fiscal responsibility.

@ david
on Global news tonight there was a very disingenuous story that Ms. Robbins just up and quit..... staffers approached reporters and denied this, stating that she was given a week to resign or be fired...I think I understand the constructive part of the dismissal now...very creative...

Thanks for the updates Mike
Glad to hear lawyers might be involved..constructive dismissal my a**

The Thought of The Day

“Constructive Dismissal...in a Vancouver City Hall context, has become the equivalent of the Constructive Snitching...in street talk. “

‘Constructive Snitching’ is a made up term usually used by the law enforcement officers throughout the policing world. Works like this...you pick up a non expectant future Snitch. You plant ‘some’ evidence and then bust his ass. If the snitch cooperates, you jump directly to the ‘go to Disneyland, all inclusive, see ya’ later alligator’ part. If it doesn’t work out, you place the Snitch in a High Security level, temporary accommodation, usually in the company of lifers and other rough individuals with knuckle tattoos and no necks. Give your Snitch 24 hours in there. His bruised face, roughed pants and an absent minded presence, will tell you that there was a change of hearts after all. Now, he’ll talk, and yes, he will also always remember his first manly love making!

These Hollyhock punks threw out the same punches and most probably used the same methods on their last victim. Little did she know what hit her... Thinking now, of the two frauds, calling themselves City Manager and Deputy, who are collectively scamming Vancouver taxpayers for more than half a million per year , makes me seriously thinking of throwing my hat in the municipal circus ring.

I’ll run on a green platform. Literally.
Promise to take the Holly garbage out, and do a complete Vision fumigation. I’ll use all the right words, in all the right places, even the ones that changed their meaning. Remember the times when ‘coke’ meant ‘soda’? Or ‘gay’ meant ‘happy’? Those ones, only much, much greener.

It is of my opinion that sooner or later someone WILL talk. They can’t just all go away cowardly (attn. Ark and Judy) salivating over their severance packages and hiding behind confidentiality agreements. That’s already sick...the bottom line is, it doesn’t matter who you are and what you did, no one steals from me, without my permission.

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

Let's hope Robbins just opens the floodgates of dirt.
38 years and at her recent salary, she can go into the sunsent with at least $5k/month in pension. No tears for her there.

To try and pinch another $200,000 in damages and severance would be a little filthy.

Hit them where it hurts Charlene. You're set for life anyway. The taxman's going to take half of what you settle for anyway.

Who's Charlene? Is that someone else who got fired?

This just up:

City inspector was not fired
VANCOUVER/CKNW(AM980)
Mike Bothwell
1/28/2011


A Vancouver City inspector dealing with the tragic fire on Pandora Street was not fired. That from an official at City Hall.

The City says it was surprised when Carlene Robbins left her job as Deputy Chief Inspector. She'd worked for Vancouver for 38 years.

General Manager of Community Services, David McLellan, says Robbins was not fired and was not being blamed for the fire that killed three men, "She didn't indicate Pandora had anything at all to do with her leaving yesterday when we spoke with her."

McLellan says Robbins believes it was a case of constructive dismissal. He says the City doesn't agree, her job had not changed and there was no plan to change it.

Jeez....rampant, baseless, rumour mongering speculation much here people?

I've got a bowl of words waiting for you to nibble on when you get hungry, boo. Best to hold fire on this one as this story is far from over.

Exactly my point Mike. The story is far from over. Maybe you're right, maybe it's something no one has pointed out. But the comments on here sure indicate many people here have already tried and convicted without a shred of evidence.

perhaps boohoo
since you never know who you are chatting with....
maybe some folks posting here know more about this situation, from the inside, than you do... you never know...

You missed my point. He called her "Charlene". Her name is "Carlene". My comment was facetious. Take care.

I knew that John, Sorry.
I was just offering more info, sometimes this medium is tough...

George,

Again, you prove my point. But I'm told to hold fire by Mike cause all the facts aren't in while the previous 30 posts fire away?

lol.

no boo
that isn't what Mike said...

he has internal sources that is what journalists do to get their stories, many of us reading this blog...have internal sources..

don't play the victim card again...naivete does not suit you, you are much smarter than that

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