Nanaimo city council made the decision to terminate Mr. Mema at an in-camera council meeting on Friday. It is understood that council handed him its harshest sanction — immediate termination without severance pay.
City human resources director John Van Horne said: “I can advise that he is no longer the CFO for the City of Nanaimo. Beyond that, the City won’t be making any other comment on this matter.”
The decision will likely unnerve suspended city manager Tracy Samra, who played a leading role in the expenses scandal and also faces possible termination later this month.
She was due to appear in court on Tuesday to face a peace bond application for allegedly uttering threats against this reporter, three council members and five current and former city employees during a Jan. 31 incident at city hall.
However, her appearance was rescheduled Monday morning for a fourth time to June 5.
Mr. Mema, 45, was invited to address Friday’s closed-door council meeting at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. He was present but let his lawyer make representations on his behalf.
After getting the news about council’s decision, he left Nanaimo in his white Mercedes for his home in North Vancouver.
Although he has informed close associates about his firing, he has not updated his LinkedIn profile to show that he is no longer employed at the city.
Mr. Mema’s axing closes one chapter in a year-long saga involving an elaborate cover-up of the CFO’s repeated use of a city-issued credit card for personal items, including vacation expenses.
City staff have identified at least 64 personal charges by the finance chief over a 17-month period thought to total about $14,000.
All personal expenses on city credit or purchase cards are considered violations of city policies and serious abuses can result in termination. Employees are required to immediately reimburse the city for any personal expenses.
In early 2017, Mr. Mema bounced a cheque he wrote to cover about $7,000 in personal vacation expenses he had billed to his city purchase card, sources have said.
Ms. Samra sought to help Mr. Mema by arranging a highly unusual retroactive living expenses allowance for him worth $7,200, according to city records. The arrangement is unprecedented at the city.
She also approved the city extending credit to Mr. Mema for his personal expenses through a special receivable account that functioned much like an interest-free line of credit.
Mr. Mema paid off his debt to the city over time through $500 payroll deductions.
Despite knowing that her CFO had violated city financial policies, the city manager promoted him in March 2017 as her deputy and boosted his salary by 10 percent.
When the CFO continued using his card for personal items, staff members who tried to blow the whistle on Mr. Mema were targeted for retaliation.
Mr. Mema also appointed two former colleagues from Alberta above long-time members of the city’s finance department.
Media requests for Ms. Samra and Mr. Mema’s credit card records under freedom of information laws were obstructed, it has been alleged.
After it emerged that Mr. Mema was being sued by his former employer, the District of Sechelt, for almost $10,000 in personal expenses on its credit card, Ms. Samra once again defended her deputy.
She commissioned a study by KPMG of all instances where staff in the past 10 years had reimbursed the city for personal expenses on a city credit card. This was done to justify her own and Mr. Mema’s personal charges.
The expenses study has not been made public but sources say it found no examples comparable to Mr. Mema or Ms. Samra’s personal charges.
Finally on March 1 this year, city council suspended Mr. Mema with pay after receiving a complaint from a union member in the finance department.
The city’s auditors KPMG last week presented findings related to the scandal to council’s finance and audit committee.
They reported that there had been failures in governance, expense controls, hiring practices and that staff who complained were punished with disciplinary letters in their files.
Mr. Mema joined the city in September 2015 as director of finance on a salary of $136,245. In June 2016, Ms. Samra promoted him to chief financial officer and upped his pay to $166,601.
During his tenure in Nanaimo his expenses amounted to more than $30,000.
No announcement has been made on when the city will seek a new CFO. Laura Mercer, the city’s manager of accounting services, is currently filling Mr. Mema’s role as “financial officer” for the city, a position required under provincial law. She has worked in the city’s finance department for the past 16 years.
Termination from the city is unlikely to be the only outcome of the scandal for Mr. Mema. Last week, members of the board of the Canadian Association of Government Finance Officers met to discuss Mr. Mema’s position as treasurer of the organization.
Association president Lorrie Schmalenberg told News Nanaimo on Friday that members of her board were awaiting more information on Mr. Mema’s status at the city before deciding whether to ask him to stand down from the board.