NEWS

Nanaimo CFO suspended, sources say

Victor Mema was relieved of his duties pending an internal investigation after "allegation of significant concern" heard at in-camera meeting on Thursday morning
Victor Mema
Victor Mema
Nanaimo’s chief financial officer Victor Mema, who was also the municipality’s acting city manager, has been suspended from his duties, News Nanaimo has learned.

Multiple sources confirmed that Mr. Mema was relieved of his duties pending an internal investigation into unspecified allegations after an in-camera meeting on Thursday morning.

In a statement at 4:15pm on Friday, council said it had learned about “an allegation of significant concern” and had asked for “a thorough and independent investigation which will be undertaken immediately to help the city move toward effective resolution.”

The move leaves the two most senior positions at the city vacant and will add to public concerns about the city’s governance amid ongoing infighting and dysfunction on city council.

“We take these concerns very seriously and share Nanaimo residents’ commitment to prudent and thoughtful governance and processes,” said council’s statement.

Interim city manager sought

Mr. Mema’s suspension comes on the heels of the arrest and release of city manager Tracy Samra in January on allegations of uttering threats.

She is currently on an undefined leave of absence and prohibited from going to work under conditions of a RCMP release order.

Mr. Mema had been acting as city manager in Ms. Samra’s absence under a bylaw adopted last March before Ms. Samra took an extended leave of absence for health reasons.

He attended Monday’s committee of the whole meeting in his capacity as deputy city manager.

At this stage, council has not appointed anyone to act in the city manger role, which is not a required position under provincial law.

The city is known to be currently searching for an interim city manager from outside of the organization and may have already identified suitable candidates who are available at short notice.

Unclear who is now financial officer

Mr. Mema’s absence comes at a particularly busy time for the city’s finance department as it prepares for its year-end financial audit and various mandatory annual reports.

It is unclear who is performing Mr. Mema’s duties as financial officer, a position that all municipalities are required to have.

That position is usually filled in the CFO’s absence by the city’s deputy director of financial services. The city’s website shows that position is vacant following the early retirement of Deborah Duncan last year.

Mr. Mema at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting

However, in January, a report to council showed that Nick Mloyi, about whom little is known, was filling Ms. Duncan’s role.

News Nanaimo has learned that Mr. Mema hired Mr. Mloyi ostensibly on a temporary basis late last year.

Both men previously worked for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in Fort McMurray, AB.

Mr. Mloyi is not a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA), which is listed as a requirement for the deputy director role.

It is unlikely that council will want a temporary employee without a CPA filling the role of chief financial officer.

It is expected that council will appoint a new financial officer on Monday from among the city’s finance staff or possibly from an outside accounting firm.

Mema’s credit card statements blocked

Mr. Mema joined the city on September 8, 2015 as director of finance. He was promoted to Chief Financial Officer in June 2016 by Ms. Samra, and made her deputy in March 2017.

In January this year, News Nanaimo revealed that Mr. Mema had been flouting provincial law by using the CPA designation without being registered with BC’s accounting watchdog.

Mr. Mema has come under scrutiny for his expenses while in Nanaimo. Most recent records have disclosed that he spent $28,425.83 in the 21 months between January 2016 and the end of September last year.

That is almost six times more than his predecessor Brian Clemens, who retired from the city in June 2015, spent in his final three years at the city.

Last December, News Nanimo revealed that the city had blocked access to corporate credit card statements for Mr. Mema and Ms. Samra even though it provided statements for three other senior managers.

The denial of access, which followed publication of an article based on receipts for $16,000 in expenses incurred during the first six months of last year, is currently under appeal to BC’s information authority.

Last month, the city issued a rare Saturday news release acknowledging for the first time that auditors KPMG had reviewed purchasing card records. The release, however, claimed that staff had previously been allowed to incur “personal expenses on City-issued purchase cards and credit cards.”

That claim has been disputed by several former staff and is not supported by city policy documents obtained by News Nanaimo. The documents clearly state that no personal expenses are permitted on city cards and abuse can lead to termination.

The unusual release also said there had been “no defalcation, fraud or misappropriation of City funds” through the use of city cards.

Although the city claimed staff had previously been permitted to bill personal expenses to city credit cards, policy documents obtained by News Nanaimo show that was not the case.

Last September, Mr. Mema’s previous employer, the District of Sechelt, filed suit against Mr. Mema seeking repayment of almost $10,000 related to allegedly personal expenses he charged to a corporate credit card.

In a statement to local media after the lawsuit became public, Ms. Samra said Mr. Mema was “an exceptional CFO” whose work had been recognized with an award from the Union of BC Municipalities.

In October 2016, News Nanaimo revealed Mr. Mema had left Sechelt after running up expenses totalling $67,185.54.

Mr. Mema, who lives in North Vancouver, could not be reached for comment.

In its statement, city council said it would provide “periodic updates within legal and privacy constraints.”

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  • thanks dominic!

    “Although the city claimed staff had previously been permitted to bill personal expenses to city credit cards, policy documents obtained by News Nanaimo show that was not the case.” who makes these claims in light of the documents stating otherwise?

  • When will this insanity end? If the people of Nanaimo want a public trustee to run the city, they should apply to the province.

  • By the way, the issue of non-resident managers is a long-standing one. I felt uncomfortable with it 20 years ago, when the Parks Manager lived in Cedar and the City Arborist lived in Qualicum Beach. It may not be reasonable to expect every city employee to live in the city boundaries, but those making decisions that affect the lives of tens of thousands of people should have some skin in the game. A city CFO living in North Vancouver is a stretch.

  • I wonder if Mema has been suspended with or without pay. How long must the public wait to learn all the facts and the truth behind this issue? Is it possible the City is actually paying out both Samra’s and Mema’s salaries (I don’t know how much that is but I am guessing it is more than $35,000 per month!) while this fumbling council debates about rabbits and censure hearings and issues silly BS statements? Who is refusing to release the credit card statements and related info which has been requested by FOI? I doubt a member or even council as a whole has the authority to micromanage this FOI process. All of these facts and information should be flushed out and appropriate consequences sought by the new council after the upcoming election.

  • The Beswick Gang is out of control. We need BC Government intervention immediately. They need to assign an interim official until the election in October. How bad does it have to get before the NDP will act?

  • Agreed, it’s time for the province in some capacity to step in given the unsavoury history of this senior city staff that has shown over and over it is incapable of discharging its duties in a responsible or effective way — the city manager arrested for uttering threats and now the CFO removed in suspicious circumstances. Bizarre. Crazy time.
    As for the trio of elected clowns who have enabled and enhanced this embarrassing situation — Bestwick, Kipp and Fuller — we are stuck with them until October when they either bow out or are booted out by voters.
    But Nanaimo citizens need to be thinking long term. Much damage has been done at city hall and in council chambers that needs to be fixed. We need good people, not just intelligent but wise, with experience and skill in politics and administration, to run this fall.
    We need a council with nine adults in the room, not two, who will be able to restore best practices and establish rigorous oversight. The stakes are too high. Business and investment won’t come near the city and relations with other districts and municiplalities and the higher levels of government are at risk of being impaired.
    While provisions of the Community Charter, and perhaps the courts, may address some of the egregious problems around city staff, citizens need to address the equally serious problems on council at ballot box.
    The best scenario is a solid slate of credible candidates and a big turnout at the polls. The conservative agenda spearheaded by Bestwick is now revealed to be as ruinous as it was immoral.
    Fixing this damage is now up to us and letting democracy work. Vote!

  • Should the City’s Human Resources Department not be held accountable for hiring people without the proper credentials? Are there no background checks being done? Time to step it up.

  • The District of Sechelt has a pending lawsuit against their former employee, Mr. Mema. The allegations are serious and it dumbfounds me as to why there were no red flags raised before the City of Nanaimo hired him. Seems that it’s very similar to the reason he is “suspended” whilst there is an investigation being conducted here. I smell a rat…..a rich one!

  • Is this part of the “phased reorganization” too? I can’t imagine anyone with the qualifications for an interim CAO position wanting to be subjected to the absurdities of this council. No doubt we will be paying through the nose for “Consultants/Contractors” to carry out some of the duties of the CAO and CFO for some time until we can complete the final phase of this reorganization which will be a totally new and competent council in October. BTW just think what $35,000 per month would accomplish if it were applied to the homeless problem we have in Nanaimo.

  • Suspended!? The two of them should be fired. Why continue their juicy salaries and benefits when they’re not at work for disciplinary reasons. The original hiring of these two should be questioned and investigated and the HR person responsible held to account. It’s time to clean house at the staff level and at Council!

  • Maybe the city’s HR department has something to answer for, but what is more likely to emerge is that they were pushed to the side by certain special interests (possibly some pro-business neocon agenda) who hijacked city hall with the help of a few councillors. It’s council that needs to be held to account here, not so much city HR staff.
    By the time Mema arrived the exodus from city hall had begun and he looked like a good catch. But then we now know that he had his own reasons for running to Nanaimo. If HR ignored his background, it’s likely because they were told to. And it would sure be nice to know how Samra rose to the top in the CAO hiring process. Was there no one better qualified? What vetting was done?
    All of this needs to be exposed, and I hope there are FOIs in the works for emails and other documents that will make clear who was behind this debacle that has done serious damage to the reputation and administration of this city.

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