Document released to CityCaucus.com outlines recent Vancouver senior staff departures
Dr. Penny Ballem has been making a concerted effort to discredit critics who say that under her watch Vancouver has been bleeding talent at the top. A document released to CityCaucus.com shows that the City Manager's claims do not square with reality.
Since Vision Vancouver took power in December 2008 there has been an unprecedented exodus of senior staff, and simply looking at the City's turnover rate across the 9000 citywide staff does not tell the real story. In the case of the Corporate Management Team (CMT), the core group of managers who are responsible for the direction of the City's affairs, there has been a staggering 75% turnover since Vision took office.
The recent sudden departure of the admired Manager of Property Use Carlene Robbins brought the whole topic back to light. The City has been on a jihad with local media to get them to believe that Robbins jumped from rather than was pushed out of her position, but they're not providing any tangible evidence for their case. What we do know is that a 38-year employee who began as a clerk with the City at age 17 and worked up to one of the top jobs has left without so much as a thank you or a gold watch. She is now suing the City.
We've written about the large numbers of top management who've left the Hall, and taking all that experience and institutional knowledge with them. The costs of these losses are impossible to measure. We've dubbed them Vancouver's "fallen soldiers" in Vision's campaign for systemic social change.
The Vision Vancouver caucus have for the most part not made public remarks about the changes sweeping through the public service. You can go through the party's 2008 platform promises and nowhere will you read "we'll blow out senior management and re-shape the public service in our own image." But that's exactly what has happened.
According to the letter we've received, the patient (City of Vancouver) is on life support. From the sounds of things many are sticking around with the hope that Vision loses power.
Seeing the numbers of now departed staff all on one list is simply stunning. There are forty-five (!) senior employees who are now gone. The writer of the document puts the numbers into perspective:
"If you look at the org charts on the City's website, you can begin to figure out what percentage this number of people is of positions at the most senior levels. A ballpark would be around 30%."
Of course, not all senior staff can be said to be leaving simply because of the despair Vision's management style has caused. Many have simply reached the end of their careers. But the scale of losses cannot be explained by retirements alone. The writer of the document adds:
There are likely several more people not included in this list. There are also many others who would leave if they could and then others who are waiting to see if the environment changes later this year...it is safe to conclude that more than half have left because work life was untenable.
The names on the list (numbers 10-45) have been scratched out, but most City Hall insiders would know who the writer has listed.
Last summer in another CityCaucus.com exclusive, we revealed an internal memo from the VACMPS exempt staff which indicated plummeting morale around senior staff. Then in November a citywide staff survey indicated a workforce deeply unhappy with senior management – only 27% approval.
Back in April 2009 Mayor Gregor Robertson blamed his new government's "increased tempo" and focus on "productivity" for causing people like 40-something Deputy City Manager James Ridge and other top brass to pack their bags. Yes, the swift pace of systemic social change can be a bit much for some people, your worship.
Vancouver has been an immensely successful city thanks in part to the imagination and leadership from its traditionally non-partisan public service. To regain the spirit of non-partisanship after Vision's alterations will be challenging, and tough on the taxpayer's bottom line. At the very least it is likely the NPA, should they form government later this year, will conduct a full third party review of all senior management appointments done during Vision's term.
The public as well as any future governments must have the confidence that the work of City staff is not tainted by politics, and the attempt by Vision Vancouver to politicize the public service.
- post by Mike