Tracy Samra leaving City of Nanaimo

Chaos as First Nation announces that Nanaimo's city manager will be their new CAO but Nanaimo city council still not officially informed
Tracy Samra
Tracy Samra
Tracy Samra, who for 26 tumultuous months led the City of Nanaimo, will leave her position as city manager — but council has not been officially informed.

The 49-year-old bureaucrat’s departure was announced in chaotic fashion Wednesday afternoon on the website of her new employer while the City of Nanaimo had no official information to provide.

Mayor Bill McKay said he had still not been informed two hours after the announcement was made by shíshálh Nation in Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast.

By 4:30pm, Mr. McKay said he had been told Ms. Samra was packing up her things from her office but he still had not received any formal communication from her. That remained the case at 8:00pm.

The city’s director of human resources John Van Horne initially did not respond to an email early Wednesday morning. A follow-up email Wednesday afternoon elicited an automated response saying he is away from the office until Thursday.

Other council members also had no information about Ms. Samra’s decision. Six members of council are currently out of town at a conference in Richmond. Only the mayor and councillors Jerry Hong and Bill Yoachim are in town.

Samra’s appointment was announced on a members-only area of the First Nation’s website

As reported exclusively by News Nanaimo Monday, Ms. Samra is expected to start work mid-February as the new chief administrative officer for the shíshálh Nation, a position she has been in discussions about for several weeks.

Chief financial officer Victor Mema is expected to take over as acting city manager until council appoints a permanent replacement for Ms. Samra.

Suspense over

The announcement by shíshálh Nation, which was independently confirmed by another source, ends two days of suspense for city staff members who have had to endure multiple management changes and reorganizations under direction of Ms. Samra and her council backers.

Rank and file discontent over council and the city manager’s leadership boiled over last December when most union members boycotted a city Christmas lunch to draw attention to poor morale and a culture of “fear and vitriol.”

Said one manager: “We’re all relieved. Since Monday, the waiting has been the hardest part. But we’re happy she has decided to go. A lot of staff will be having celebratory drinks tonight!”

No apologies

Bill McKay and Diane Brennan
Bill McKay and Diane Brennan

The news came after a Jan. 30 deadline expired for Mr. McKay and councillor Diane Brennan to make written apologies to Ms. Samra as recommended by a council censure hearing on Jan. 9.

Mr. McKay and Ms. Brennan confirmed that they did not provide apologies to Ms. Samra, who filed workplace complaints against the two council members early last year.

Vancouver labour lawyer Roslyn Goldner investigated the complaints and issued a report to council last July, but it has not been made public. A Globe & Mail news article based on a leaked copy suggests that the two council members were not solely at fault.

Councillor Brennan has called the censure panel’s ruling biased, in part because it ignores the roles of other councillors and Ms. Samra.

“I have done nothing wrong,” said Ms. Brennan. “The censure panel was biased and did not bring an open mind to the hearing. I have lots of evidence of that and if necessary I will release it.”

Samra might seek payout

Ms. Samra might seek a payout from the city in a legal claim that would likely heap blame on the mayor and Ms. Brennan for her departure.

That would almost certainly serve the political interests of the five-man majority led by Bill Bestwick that appointed Ms. Samra in November 2015.

But the fact that Ms. Samra has been making plans for a new job for several weeks could complicate any claim she might seek.


Click here to post a comment

  • Good news for Nanaimo and all those poor city employees who have endured this reign. Now Nanaimo can start a long healing process which should include a new council come October. In the meantime, please council, DO NOT hire a replacement. You just don’t have the competence to carry out such a process. Leave it to the new council.

    • Indeed. Get rid of Samra (she has done most of the work herself!). Let Victor act as CAO until October elections. Make a clear point by not re-electing the 5 councilors responsible for this mess which has resulted in loss of amazing staff, wasted tax dollars, and instability of YOUR municipal government. Let the new council hire/choose the next CAO.

      If all that transpires, 2019 is going to be Nanaimo’s year!

  • That should save the City over $200,000 in severance pay. Please tell us she will not get severance pay. I only hope the City of Nanaimo follows proper procedure for the next managerial hiring. Everything about this person’s tenure was highly irregular.

  • All of this stems from day one of this council’s tenure. The faulty way that Ms. Samra was hired has now proven the objections of councillor Diane Brennen and Mayor Bill McKay’s to be right on. Ms. Brennen raised the red flag of truth about that which irked the gang of five MIGHTILY.

    The gang of five closed ranks and built a bunker, so to speak, which excluded all who did not agree with their domination of the city of Nanaimo, and that included the majority of the tax paying citizens. And now we feel nervous about that other expensive hire, CFO Victor Mema, who is not registered as a chartered accountant in the Province of B. C. as of this writing.

  • thanks dominic..

    speaking of serving the political interests of the five-man majority led by Bill Bestwick that appointed Ms. Samra in November 2015 – it will be interesting to know who the five are, cause i sure ain’t going to vote for them come election time 2018…

      • Every Nanaimo voter should know who is standing for office. Shame on anyone who does not vote. They should be struck from the voters list. Municipal elections affect our lives more than any other level of government. Bestwick is a hockey scout for the St. Louis Blues. No wonder he promoted the hockey arena. Ruttan owns a travel agency. No wonder he promoted the cruise ship terminal. Neither project has any benefit to the city. None at all. The “Events Centre” design cost you $800,000 in fees, and ll for nothing. Are you beginning to get the idea yet?

  • Good riddance… One down, now lets get rid of the “Gang of Five” who have thrown roadblocks throughout this council – Do NOT vote these people back in October 2018. Bill Bestwick, Jim Kipp, Gordon Fuller, Jerry Hong and Bill Yoachim. Judy Clark

    • If, as reported, her contract stated she would receive twice the usual severance payout if she was fired, it would seem to follow that if it is she who breaks the contract she would have to buy her way out of that contract.