Newly released information on page 3 of this Pandora Street inspection report
CityCaucus.com has obtained new information relating to the tragic Pandora Street fire which resulted in the deaths of three individuals on December 22, 2010. A heretofore unreleased "Note to File" indicates that on the morning of December 8, 2010 Property Use senior manager Carlene Robbins posted a "recheck order" on 2862 Pandora Street referring her superiors Will Johnson and/or Tom Hammel to follow up on the property.
The note to file – printed on page three of the above attached report – was not released to the media despite the fact that all other files relating to Pandora Street were given to journalist Chad Skelton of the Vancouver Sun for his December 23rd story on the fire deaths. The documents relating to 2862 Pandora Street were released by the City of Vancouver, which the paper posted here.
The original 48-page attachment provided by the City of Vancouver on December 23rd included a three page covering "info bulletin" which tried to explain away the circumstances of the incident:
"It is important to note that City bylaw inspectors have very prescribed circumstances under which a property can be evacuated and shut down immediately, and at no time did City inspectors find a situation which would have allowed them to do so at the Pandora Street property."
The City of Vancouver through its communications department, within 24 hours of the fire deaths, was circulating the conclusion to the media that "at no time City inspectors [found] a situation which would have allowed them" to shut down the rooming house at 2862 Pandora Street before the fire. It has the appearance of spin doctoring a story where three men died.
Furthermore, in an interview with Skelton, Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnston said:
Looking back on the file, "there's not a lot we would do differently than what we did with this property."
And Councillor Kerry Jang claimed on CKNW radio (mp3 clip) on Dec. 23rd that:
"[The bylaws] were actually being enforced…when they don't come into compliance, when they repeated fail to listen to staff that we take them to court… This particular property was one of those that was coming to council in the New Year to get that court injunction to shut them down… Action was imminent."
How did they arrive at these conclusions so swiftly, and will questions be raised about this at the coroner's inquest? We know now thanks to a report by CTV's Lisa Rossington that the claims by Jang and Johnston that "action was imminent" were not accurate. Why should the public believe any other claims by the City on this matter?
Skelton's December 23rd story provides details from the released documentation. If the Sun reporter had received the complete documentation with the December 8th note to file would the City's explanation that "nothing would have allowed them" to close the rooming house stood up?
What we know from the previously released documents is that after an August inspection the property owner was given notice to cease occupancy of the building by October 31st (see pages five, six signed by Will Johnson) if several updates to the building were not completed by that date.
The November 5th inspection shows that no permits were taken out for any work by the property owner, and that not all of the required updates – such as installing hardwired smoke alarms – were done. The City had grounds to evict and close the rooming house in November, but that didn't happen. A month after the November recheck Carlene Robbins followed up with her superiors, as the note to file reveals.
Why wasn't action taken after the November 5th inspection, and Robbins' December 8th note?
In light of the utter silence from the Mayor's office, and the apparent involvement by the City Manager in a decision to move the coroner's inquest date until AFTER the 2011 election, it is absolutely urgent that the City of Vancouver finally opens up ALL of its files relating to the Pandora Street property.
If the City failed to release this note to file when it gave the documentation to the Vancouver Sun the day after the fire, what other documentation is being held back from public and media scrutiny?
For example, upon hearing the news that Carlene Robbins was leaving her post after 38 years as a City employee (going on later to sue the City for wrongful dismissal and "humiliation"), another inspection report was released. See the link to the PDF here.
Note that it's a six-page report. However, pages one, two, five and six are blank. If it is innocuous, then why not release all the text on those other pages?
In our very first post on the Pandora Street tragedy we asked several questions that should be put to the City in a public inquiry. Now with this additional information about the December 8th note to file, and the fact it was not released earlier to the media, more questions need to be asked of the boss at Vancouver City Hall, Gregor Robertson.
The Mayor can no longer in good conscience avoid being accountable on this matter.
- post by Mike. Follow @MikeKlassen and @CityCaucus on Twitter.