CityCaucus Redux: City Manager says $34,000 a "drop in the bucket"

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


Vancouver's City Manager shrugs off criticism of costs for private staff parties

What follows is the next installment in our ongoing Redux series whereby we republish some of our more popular stories. Mike Klassen first published this doozie back in April 2010. Our next redux will feature a previous post focusing on low staff morale at Vancouver City Hall.


There was a time before Vision Vancouver governed that the public would never see the City Manager nor her deputies in the public eye. When Gregor Robertson hand-picked Penny Ballem to run Vancouver's civil service, no one suspected that the former Deputy Minister of Health would spend so much time in the limelight. For the city's government Ballem's sometimes blunt remarks have had some embarrassing consequences.

The first example of how the City Manager felt about due process was when she approved a "double-dipping" public relations contract for James Hoggan & Associates. Later, council changed the bylaw that required sign-off by elected officials for expenditures over $30,000, and upped that number to $2,000,000 that the City Manager could spend without prior approval.

When asked about staff's concern over her micromanaging style, Ballem responded "tough, eh?" to columnist Allen Garr. Then there were concerns about Ballem landing work with the now defunct eHealth Ontario at $3000 per day, before cutting off the contract to begin work at Vancouver City Hall. Ballem defended receiving $34,000 for just under 2 weeks work.

Now there are the recent dismissive comments by the City Manager regarding another $34,000 of taxpayer dollars (and untold staff time) to orchestrate a private party for up to 9000 members of Vancouver's civil service. Ballem told GlobalTV reporter that the money was "just a d

If anyone else in government made a statement like that, they would be eviscerated by the media and the public. If a government minister anywhere, or a city councillor or mayor, or a public official said $34,000 is "just a drop in the bucket" anywhere else, we somehow think that it would grab a little more attention.

You've got to give Penny Ballem credit – she gets away with some pretty incredible statements, and rarely gets called on it. Can we be comfortable, however, giving someone so much discretionary spending power when she appears to be so cavalier about the real cost to taxpayers?

I bet that $34,000 could be better spent in my neighbourhood, or yours, than on a big staff party. What do you think?


This airhead has to go after election

W had Cheney and uber-mimbo Robertson has Ballem. Unfortunately, she can't be voted into the ether - but her clueless enabler can be. Too bad for the city that he's running against an unelectable, irritating tea-granny from hell. Look for the maddening mishigas to continue...

This woman's comments constantly disgust me. It's shameless.

Wow. You are pushing a story that's over a year old! Slow day. But when your job is to never let up on the smear campaign against Robertson ... What can a guy do? You are truly a joke as a "news" writer. Political hack is closer to the truth.

April, is there any statement of fact in the article you would like to refute, or is it actually you that is the political hack, resorting to insults for lack of any other argument?

Hey April; you really should learn more about the Democratic process before posting another apologist screed. In a democratic system, politicians are held directly accountable for their decisions during their tenure AT ELECTION TIME. Expect to hear a lot of old stories that were never resolved adequately or at all. They will be re-visited and evaluated now in a way that informs people's choice of who to vote for. See how that works?

April is your last name fool? Cuz that what you sound like right about now. I hope a lot more of these old scandals come out in the weeks to come. Now is the time for the public to know about them.

Can you believe that in my business - I have bbq's and dinners with my staff goes a very long way to show appreciation, and goes a long way to motivate and make your employees feel appreciated.
A "function" with 9000 invites is anything but private.
Again this site smears the facts... if you wanna play smear you should know I also am a City Worker - maybe I can describe the work environment in the previous govt. (the one when the previous manager (Judy Rogers) never did anything.... she did send out a great letter about being a whistle blower and how to tell on your fellow staff...that was great for morale and motivation...she also challenged virtually every union grievance.. - and of those after hundreds of thousands in legal fees and expenses (arbritrations etc) ...she lost 97% .... not bad though that she was correct 3% of the time....!! lol....This government (who lets not forget is run by a mayor with a business and staff).... so I would suggest he has some knowledge in this area...the grievances are so low now....I havent heard any crazy stories -- What about the grievance and arbitration costs of the past 3 years??? Hey Daniel where are those "facts" lieu of your slanted smears? ...What are the Judy's hundreds of thousands in arbitrations and grievances lawyers fees etc...a drop in the bucket??
I have seen it from both sides and trust me its much better now...and the taxpayer is getting very exceptional value for their tax dollar.....and there is no Judy winning 3% of her cases at cost huge costs for taxpayer....
I have many more comparisons and facts....thats right facts....not slander!! (and it is an old story -- but lets bring out the other old stories too ..!!! )

Cutting a cheque every 2 weeks

Well, Jeremy, it's fascinating to discover that one can obtain a supervisory position with an expense account at city hall without being able to string a coherent sentence together. Or is your post an incredibly bizarre and convoluted joke?

thats not joke..those are factual points and numbers.... I couldnt make that crap up.....but glad you think the 3 years previous to the vision change is "a joke" ....

Check out!

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