NEWS

Council moves to hear Samra and Mema ahead of firing vote

Decision to invite CAO and CFO to plead their cases signals council believes it has grounds for termination
Council room
The two top managers will get a chance to plead their cases behind closed doors
Nanaimo city council has given its strongest signal yet that it is prepared to vote on terminating the city’s top two managers, News Nanaimo can reveal today.

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.

Tracy Samra and Victor Mema
Tracy Samra and Victor Mema

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.

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  • Dominic, you reported on March 21st that Ms. Samra’s release provided that she have no contact “direct or indirect” with the named persons in the peace bond application. Unless contact through lawyers is specifically provided for, it would be indirect contact. City council may want to check that out, as we know that are very respectful of the rule of law. Also, it is a separate criminal offence to aid and abet a breach of release.
    Given her demonstrated sense of entitlement, it is hard to believe that Ms. Samra does not have further strategies to pursue.

  • There’s a lot at play here. At first blush, it is only fair to let these two have their say before they are terminated.
    And then the cynical side kicks in, that council is following legal advice as a way to minimize potential litigation that one or both may bring.
    And it would be damn interesting to hear what they might say (or relay through a lawyer) at such a meeting, which raises more questions. While it would be in camera, it is not likely to be priveleged, i.e. lawyers for plaintiffs naming either in suits against the city could apply to examine the transcripts and seek to use relevant portions in court.
    And don’t forget the possibility of future investigations by outside agencies, which would also closely scrutinize such statements.
    But will they seize this opportunity? Likely not. Silence is their best option if they find themselves in a heap of trouble, beyond firing, for their actions while working for the city.
    They’ve gotta be hoping that firing is as bad as it gets. And there are others, and not just the Fab 5, who also don’t want the lid lifted on this mess and hope everyone pipes down after these two are sacrificed at the employment altar.
    “Move along folks, nothing to see here.”
    Meanwhile we are staring at the smoking heap of a train wreck.
    Well, we cannot and will not “unsee” this.
    Yes, in October we will vote out the Fab 5, and Samra and Mema can have their final defence before firing if they choose; but Nanaimo citizens have a right to know not just what this all cost, but how it came about and what our elected officials were doing as all this went on under their noses.

  • I will be very disappointed if both Samra and Mema are not fired for cause. Considering the list of offenses and the fact that they have been receiving full salaries, while suspended, neither deserve severance.

    I hope that the hiring of replacements is done in a thorough, professional way to avoid future similar problems. It’s a job for HR Professionals, not in-house.

  • It is wise to follow correct procedure in the termination of Tracy Samra, especially since she was hired outside normal process. The circumstances of her being offered another job in Sechelt, accepting that job without giving notice is, I would have thought, grounds for termination in itself. It is hard to see why such a person should be sheltered by the veil of professional consideration, when they have made such a mockery of their position.

    Otherwise, it is good to see more comments on this article. Thanks again Dominic for keeping us informed.

  • …..following a process……yes; a process that will not make them look like the bad guys…..a process that insures that the blame stays on Samra and Mema……when everybody knows that there is plenty of blame to go around ( McKay, Brennan, Bestwick, Kipp, Fuller, Hong & Yoachim)……we have 6 more months of THE BLAME GAME…..

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