Tracy Samra out as Nanaimo CAO

By Dominic Abassi
May 25, 2018 - 1:31pm Updated: May 25, 2018 - 9:18pm

City of Nanaimo

NANAIMO — Tracy Samra's tumultuous tenure at the top of Nanaimo City Hall is over.

Mayor and Council, via a City statement, said Samra is "no longer employed as the chief administrative officer." The City declined to confirm any other details about the departure and said there would be no further comment on the matter. The announcement comes after Council held a multi-hour in-camera meeting on Friday morning.

Samra was on paid leave following her arrest for allegedly uttering threats at City Hall on Jan. 31, earning more than $60,000 in wages while off the job. The Crown is currently seeking a peace bond against Samra, claiming several current and former staff members, and councillors have reason to fear harm or injury.

Following the alleged incident, the City launched an independent investigation which concluded several weeks ago. Council was originally scheduled to discuss Samra's fate on May 9, however five councillors (Bestwick, Kipp, Fuller, Hong and Yoachim) approved a request from Samra for an extension.

Under a section of the Community Charter, Council is obligated to offer an appointed officer the "opportunity" to be heard before a termination vote.

Two months after Samra went on leave, former chief financial officer and deputy CAO Victor Mema was suspended by Council based on a serious misconduct complaint brought forward by several staff members.

It was then revealed that Samra and Mema were approving each other's City credit card statements which contained scores of personal expenses, a contravention of cardholder policy.

KPMG, the City's auditor, found the practice of the CAO and CFO approving the expense reports "provides the opportunity for collusion" and was not an appropriate internal control.

KPMG's 2017 review also said Samra formally disciplined employees who brought forward concerns about Mema's "questionable activities" and a "poor tone at the top" of City Hall provided an opportunity for senior management to override various protocols.

Mema and the City parted ways earlier this month.

NanaimoNewsNOW also recently revealed Samra approved three separate pay increases for Mema in 2017, all coming after she was made aware of staff concerns over Mema's spending habits.

Samra was appointed interim city manager in November 2015 under contentious circumstances.

At a meeting designed to review candidates and create a shortlist for the interim role, a motion was brought forward to offer the position to Samra. That motion was supported by councillors Bestwick, Fuller, Hong, Kipp and Yoachim.

It is known that Council did not conduct an interview or reference checks for Samra before offering her the interim position.

Coun. Diane Brennan and mayor Bill McKay challenged the hiring process, with Brennan sending a letter via her lawyer calling the process illegal.

In March 2016, Samra was appointed as the permanent chief administrative officer. Only McKay opposed the move, in-camera minutes showed.

The same five councillors who initially voted to hire Samra also saw fit to give her a raise in late 2016, despite her contract at the time of her hiring stating there would be "no adjustments over the term" of the four year deal.

In-camera documents from November 2016 showed Bestwick, Kipp, Fuller, Hong and Yoachim approved a 13 per cent raise for Samra retroactive to her permanent appointment, plus a $24,175 bonus and an additional week of vacation.

In December 2017, CUPE Local 401 members, accounting for more than 500 City employees, boycotted the City's Christmas luncheon. Union president Blaine Gurrie said at the time staff morale was at an all-time low due to an environment of "fear and vitriol" at City Hall.

Samra is due to appear in court on June 5 to answer to the peace bond application. The court appearance has been delayed four times.

The City meanwhile is moving ahead with the process to hire an interim CAO. The list of candidates was whittled down and interviews are scheduled for early June.

 

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On Twitter: @domabassi

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