NANAIMO — The City's senior management team continues to erode, as NanaimoNewsNOW learned acting-chief administrative officer Victor Mema was suspended pending an investigation.
During a more than four-hour in-camera meeting on Thursday, Council voted to suspend Mema, who is also the City's chief financial officer, pending an investigation into unspecified allegations.
The information was confirmed by multiple people with direct knowledge of the situation speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak at this time.
In a statement released late Friday, the City said it received various inquiries about "key members of staff at the City" but they were unable to speak to any specific employees due to privacy laws.
"We can advise that Mayor and Council have learned about an allegation of significant concern. We have requested a thorough and independent investigation which will be undertaken immediately to help the City move toward effective resolution."
The move leaves Nanaimo without its two top employees and it's unclear at this point whether Council or the City will appoint an acting-CAO or how the corporation will move forward.
CAO Tracy Samra is on paid leave following a Jan. 31 arrest and release for allegedly uttering threats. She has not been formally charged. The City previously confirmed there was an arrest due to an "incident" at City Hall on the same day Samra was taken into custody. An independent investigation commissioned by the City into the incident is ongoing.
Meanwhile, chief operations officer Brad McRae was fired in early January.
It's also unclear who will head the City's finance department, as the deputy director of financial services role is currently vacant following Deborah Duncan's departure last year. The Community Charter requires the City appoint a financial officer.
The move to suspend Mema came shortly after councillors received a copy of a report completed by auditors KPMG related to the City's business expense policy.
In a highly unusual move, the City issued a release at 11 p.m. on a Saturday in early February announcing the findings of that review . It said the review found "No defalcation, fraud or misappropriation of City funds" and also claimed the City allowed staff to incur personal expenses on City-issued purchase cards for more than a decade.
However, an internal cardholder agreement provided to NanaimoNewsNOW said: "I understand that under no circumstances will I use the BMO MasterCard to make personal purchases, either for myself or for others. Using the card for personal charges could be considered misappropriation of City funds and could result in corrective action up to and including termination of employment."
In December, the City denied a Freedom of Information request filed by NanaimoNewsNOW asking for purchase card statements for Mema and Samra. A late disclosure of management expenses showed Mema had claimed more than double his budget in only nine months in 2017.
Since joining Nanaimo in 2015, Mema expensed more than $28,000 to taxpayers. Between 2012 and 2015, his predecessor Brian Clemens claimed an average of $2,100 in expenses per year.
In September 2017, Mema's previous employer, the District of Sechelt, filed a notice of civil claim seeking nearly $10,000 for allegedly charging "A significant number of items to the District credit card without proper approval from his supervisor...These unapproved items were personal in nature and not related to legitimate District business."
On Twitter: @domabassi
— Note to readers. This is an updated story. Updated to include contents of the City's statement.
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