Nanaimo council agrees to pay double severance if they fire city manager

Previously paid out $75K after just seven months at city, Tracy Samra is in line for a huge payout if council wants to replace her
Tracy Samra
Nanaimo city manager Tracy Samra
Nanaimo taxpayers will have to pay city manager Tracy Samra a minimum 12 months’ pay or $180,000 if she is let go at anytime in the next three years.

The severance amount is double the normal six months without-cause severance that the city is required to pay under its bylaw that covers managers (PDF).

Typically, a manager would have to work at the city for 12 years to qualify for the severance payout Ms. Samra is entitled to.

When Ms. Samra joined the city on a six-month contract in November 2015, she was entitled to only one month or $14,500 in severance, according to city documents obtained by News Nanaimo.

However, just four months later when councillors appointed her on a four-year contract they agreed to the massive new severance payout.

They also increased her pay to $15,000 per month and agreed to waive the usual six-month probation period for new managers.

Previously received $75,000 severance from city

City records show that Ms. Samra previously received a $75,000 payout from the city in 2013. She had worked as legislative services manager for just seven months before receiving the payout.

Under the previous settlement agreement, $17,500 was for her legal costs and $57,500 was a retiring allowance.

The city was also required to provide Ms. Samra with a prescribed letter of reference and agree to say that Ms. Samra had decided to return to practice indigenous law if asked about why she had left the city.

No salary increases required

Under her current contract, council has no obligation to increase Ms. Samra’s salary over the four-year contract.

Her pay is fixed at $180,000 per year until March 2020 and she is “excluded from any further salary adjustments unless agreed to by the city in writing,” according to the contract.

The contract required Ms. Samra to live within “the boundaries of the City of Nanaimo” within 90 days of signing the agreement.

She was provided with a $7,500 allowance for relocation costs. Ms. Samra previously commuted between Victoria and Nanaimo.

Legal expenses and receipts still not disclosed

The city released Ms. Samra’s current employment agreement in response to a information access request by News Nanaimo. The request was made Aug. 30 but delayed almost three months.

However, the city is still refusing to disclose receipts for Ms. Samra’s expenses as well as details of any personal legal expenses the city has reimbursed related to a legal wrangle over her hiring.

In December 2015, councillors voted to give themselves and Ms. Samra $5,000 each for “independent legal advice.”

This came after a lawyer for councillor Diane Brennan questioned the process used to appoint Ms. Samra as interim city manager without an interview a month earlier.

The lawyer asked Mayor Bill McKay to suspend Ms. Samra pending an independent investigation. The mayor later complained to Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Peter Fassbender about the controversial hiring.

Councillors Bill Bestwick, Bill Yoachim, Gord Fuller, Jerry Hong and Jim Kipp have disclosed that they spent more than $14,500 for Victoria law firm Cook Roberts to represent them in the matter.

The five councillors have never disclosed why they needed personal legal advice related to the circumstances of Ms. Samra’s hiring.

Meanwhile, Ms. Samra’s expenses do not list any legal expenses for her personal lawyer George Cadman, QC, in Vancouver, whose bills have been paid by the city.

However, a News Nanaimo investigation revealed that Ms. Samra was reimbursed her for flights and a hotel bill related to a visit to see Mr. Cadman in February this year, suggesting she must have incurred personal legal expenses that have not been publicly disclosed.

During the February trip, Ms. Samra accompanied her lawyer to Minister Fassbender’s annual campaign fundraiser. Both the minister and Ms. Samra have said they never discussed the controversy in Nanaimo.

When she was appointed on an interim basis in November 2015, Ms. Samra was on a six-month contract at a rate of $14,500 per month.

However, she was given approval to continue teaching a course at Vancouver Island University.

In her current agreement, she is expected to work “whatever hours” are needed to do the job “fully and effectively.”

Ms. Samra’s current appointment letter is embedded below: