City Hall loses bylaw manager in latest staff realignment

By Dominic Abassi
September 11, 2017 - 5:45pm

Rod Davidson, former manager of bylaw services, is the latest manager to leave Nanaimo's City Hall.File Photo/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — The manager of bylaw services was dismissed amid another personnel shuffle at Nanaimo City Hall.

Rod Davidson was let go after more than four years with the organization, director of human resources John Van Horne told NanaimoNewsNOW. Van Horne would not say if Davidson received a severance package, but said the City has a duty to provide notice or pay in lieu of notice. He said the move was "not a commentary on Rod's work performance."

The move is part of a realignment at City Hall, the third such shuffle in the last 15 months. "The reality is we're always trying to adapt to changing priorities and assess what's coming at us in the future and trying to make sure we adjust and have the right skills in the right place to meet those challenges," Van Horne said.

Municipal governance consultant George Cuff said realigning an organization so many times over that period of time is not best practice. Cuff has been involved in local government since the 1970's, working as a consultant on more than 500 reviews of municipalities across Canada over the last 30 years.

He said it's reasonable for a new city manager to presume there's a desire for change but that should typically happen in the first 90 days. Cuff said there's such a thing as "change fatigue."

"If you're going to make change, you look at the organization as a whole and I would make a series of changes and I would say to the rest of staff, 'we've now done it and we're going to stick with it.' I wouldn't cherry-pick it, I wouldn't go at it like a dripping faucet because that's an ongoing torture test," Cuff said.

He said the constant uncertainty also impacts the staff still on the job. "You could end up having a degree of inertia in the organization because people are sitting around saying 'I wonder who's next.'"

The latest realignment structures the City's departments along four business service lines, Van Horne said. Chief operations officer Brad McRae's portfolio expanded to include public safety, police, fire, bylaw enforcement and emergency management. The City will now hire a director of engineering and public works, after deciding not to replace the position last summer.

The City's lone economic development employee will also be pulled into the community development department and will report to Bill Corsan, the City's real estate manager, who will now add business development to his role.

The realignment comes while Nanaimo's top employee, Tracy Samra, remains on leave. Van Horne declined to say where the directive for the moves came from. "The top levels of the organization discussed how best to meet the needs and priorities," Van Horne said.

Van Horne confirmed 11 mid-to-upper level managers have left the City for a variety of reasons over the last 12 months. That followed 21 departures between January 2015 and August 2016.

Cuff said the concept of a "brain drain" is real and important. "What you're losing is corporate memory...The folks that are walking out are taking with them a fair bit of information about how decisions are made in Nanaimo, here's the history of that particular issue."

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