'The right decision:' CFO Victor Mema no longer employed by City of Nanaimo

By Dominic Abassi
May 14, 2018 - 9:58am Updated: May 14, 2018 - 7:20pm

Former CFO Victor Mema, seen here as part of a promotional blitz from the City.City of Nanaimo

NANAIMO — Controversial chief financial officer and deputy chief administrative officer Victor Mema no longer works for the City of Nanaimo.

In an email Monday morning, the City confirmed to NanaimoNewsNOW that Mema "is no longer employed," adding there would be no further comment from the City or Council on the matter.

The announcement comes following a lengthy in-camera Council meeting on Friday, May 11 discussing Mema's status. The City would not confirm reports Mema was terminated without severance.

Mema was on paid leave since March 1 after Council suspended him based on details received in a serious misconduct complaint filed by staff. At the time the City would only confirm it launched an investigation into "an allegation of significant concern."

Statements obtained by NanaimoNewsNOW showed Mema made more than 60 charges over 16 months on his City-issued credit card that staff deemed to be of a personal nature, a direct contravention of purchase card policy. Mema reimbursed the City for the charges, although it's unclear over what period of time or if the repayment was forced or voluntary.

A subsequent report from KPMG, the City's auditor, found staff were formally disciplined by CAO Tracy Samra for bringing forward complaints about Mema's spending. KPMG also found the practice of the CAO and CFO approving each other's expense reports "provides the opportunity for collusion" and was not appropriate.

The City previously blocked freedom of information requests from NanaimoNewsNOW asking for credit card statements for Mema and Samra. It also released several bizarre statements on the topic of staff expenses, repeatedly claiming there was no improper use of City funds by staff.

CUPE Local 401 president Blaine Gurrie said the union is happy the issue with Mema is over "for all staff."

"Especially those very brave employees who brought this complaint forward. We believe the City has made the right decision and signalled that we can start to heal some of the damage that's been done to morale throughout the organization."

During his tenure with Nanaimo, which began in September 2015, Mema charged taxpayers for at least $30,000 in personal expenses. However, the true figure is hidden because the reimbursed personal amounts spent on his City credit card would not appear on management expense reports. The amount of the personal credit charges is unknown because they City redacted the information when releasing the statements.

Mema is also currently facing civil action by his previous employer, the District of Sechelt, over nearly $10,000 in credit card charges the District claimed were personal. While the claim has not been proven in court, Mema admitted some of the expenses in question were personal in a filing to the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

Mema did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

It's unclear if the City will move to hire a replacement for Mema. Manager of accounting services Laura Mercer is currently serving as the City's financial officer, a role required by the Community Charter.

With the Mema matter behind them, Council is now left to deal with the status of Samra, who remains on paid leave following her arrest on Jan. 31 for allegedly uttering threats at City Hall.

Her first court appearance to answer to the Crown's application for a peace bond was delayed on Monday for a fourth time, pushed back to June 5. The majority of Council recently granted a request from Samra to delay a meeting about her employment future. The City said a future date for that meeting has not been set.

 

 

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On Twitter: @domabassi

— Note to readers. This is an updated story. Adds more information and comment from the earlier brief version.

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