Chief administrative officer (CAO) Tracy Samra and chief financial officer (CFO) Victor Mema are being invited to plead their cases against being fired at a future council meeting that will likely be held in-camera.
The move came after the city’s legal counsel presented the results of internal investigations into the two at a closed council meeting yesterday morning.
It indicates that the evidence against the two supports termination and most council members do not currently see a path forward for them to return to their duties.
‘Following a process’
Since both bureaucrats are “officers” under municipal law, they must be given an “opportunity to be heard” prior to council deciding their fate.
No dates have been set for the meetings but council members are said to be anxious to have the matter dealt with quickly. Both managers are currently suspended with full pay.
The decision to invite the two to state their cases was confirmed in a Facebook post yesterday afternoon by councillor Gord Fuller, who said council was “following a process.”
A majority vote of five council members is needed to terminate an officer for just cause, meaning no severance is paid. Six votes — a two-thirds majority — is needed to fire them with reasonable severance.
Under their current contracts severance would total about $300,000 — $210,000 or one year’s pay for Ms. Samra, and six months or about $90,000 for Mr. Mema.
As News Nanaimo reported earlier, Ms. Samra is likely facing termination without pay. There was some support for paying out Mr. Mema, but that may have changed after council heard the case against him yesterday.
Samra barred from city hall
If Ms. Samra decides to plead her case to council she will most likely have to do so through a lawyer.
That’s because she is barred from going within 100 meters of city hall or having contact with mayor Bill McKay and councillors Diane Brennan and Sheryl Armstrong.
She was released from RCMP custody following her arrest for allegedly uttering threats during an incident at city hall on Jan. 31. She is prohibited from having contact with nine people, including this reporter.
Authorities are seeking to extend the CAO’s release conditions for up to a year in a peace bond application in court. The twice-delayed hearing is set for May 1 in Nanaimo.
Mr. Mema, who lives in North Vancouver, may also decide to state his case through a lawyer rather than in person.
Since there’s no obligation on them to participate, it’s possible that neither of the senior staffers will seek to be heard.
McRae fired without hearing
Council last met to discuss terminating an officer on Jan. 10 when former chief operating officer Brad McRae was fired for cause without being heard.
Mr. McRae had notified council that his doctor wanted him to wait another week before attending the hearing. However, council proceeded without him on Ms. Samra’s advice.
The vote was 5 to 4, with councillors Bill Bestwick, Bill Yoachim, Jim Kipp, Jerry Hong and Gord Fuller voting to terminate him for cause and no severance.
In media coverage after the vote, Mr. Hong said a majority of council had merely upheld Ms. Samra’s recommendation to fire the COO for cause.
“If Ms. Samra’s recommendation is to terminate, we as council, will support that,” he told the Nanaimo News Bulletin. “If the choices were wrong then it is council’s job to deal with Ms. Samra.”
Mr. McRae has filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal claiming that council violated his rights. He is seeking an order for his reinstatement.