Vancouver's City Manager shrugs off criticism of costs for private staff parties
What follows is the next installment in our ongoing CityCaucus.com 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?