The City of Winnipeg has parted ways with Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Chief Reid Douglas -- before a review into controversial fire-paramedic station replacement program has been released.
St. James-Brooklands Coun. Scott Fielding characterized the departure as a termination.
Winnipeg chief operating officer Deepak Joshi told members of council today Douglas is no longer employed by the City of Winnipeg.
"To ensure continuity in this important public safety leadership position, acting fire and paramedic chief William Clark will continue in the role. Acting Chief Clark has provided over 39 years of service to the City of Winnipeg and is currently a member of the WFPS Executive," Joshi wrote.
"I am confident that Acting Chief Clark’s leadership will facilitate a smooth transition while recruitment for a new Chief takes place over the next few months."
Earlier this month, Douglas was offered a departure package, according to multiple city sources. He denied it at the time.
The fire-paramedic review, which looks into the procurement and construction of four new Winnipeg fire-paramedic stations, is expected to criticize several senior city officials, including the chief. It is expected as soon as early October, city auditor Brian Whiteside said.
Whiteside declined to comment about Douglas's departure. "The report will be made public in the coming weeks," he said.
Fielding, chair of council's protection and community services committee, said it was improper for the city to dismiss Douglas before the contents of the review are known.
"I have some concerns about the timing of this. I wasn't involved in the decision. For the most part I thought Reid was doing a good job, beyond some issues with the fire halls," Fielding said.
"I don’t think it’s appropriate because action has been taken before an audit comes out. I don’t have any details why he was terminated I think the timing is inappropriate, to say the least."
Couns. Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) and Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) also took issue with the timing of the personnel move.
"It just adds to the suspicion something's wrong," Vandal said.
Mayor Sam Katz refused to comment.
Chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl was asked to comment. In response, Joshi said he could not comment on the timing.
"What I can tell you is that the chief's departure has nothing to do with the audit. It is a human resources matter," Joshi said in a statement.
Consulting firm Ernst & Young has spent almost a year reviewing the $17.8-million fire-paramedic station replacement program, which involved the construction of a new Station No. 27 on Sage Creek Road, the reconstruction of Station No. 18 on Roblin Boulevard, the replacement of Berry Street's Station No. 11 with a new station on Portage Avenue and the replacement of Grosvenor Avenue's Station No. 12 with a new station on Taylor Avenue.
Last fall, council raised questions about the way the project was procured and expressed particular concern about the new stations No. 11 and 12.
The new Station No. 11 on Portage Avenue, which remains under construction inside a cloverleaf at Route 90, was beset with cost overruns.
The new Station No. 12 on Taylor Avenue was built on land owned by Winnipeg developer Shindico Realty. That land was slated to be swapped for three city surplus properties: the old Station No. 12 on Grosvenor Avenue, the soon-to-be-decommissioned Station No. 11 on Berry Street and a parcel of vacant city land on Mulvey Avenue East in Fort Rouge.
Council canceled the three-for-one land swap last fall and instructed city real estate managers to sell the surplus properties and negotiate the acquisition of the land on which the new Taylor Avenue fire-paramedic station is being built.
After council called an external review into the program, Ernst & Young was asked to look at the initial impetus for building all four new stations, scrutinize the way contracts for the facilities were awarded, assess the value for money received by taxpayers and examine all processes, controls and policies involved in the program.
Ernst & Young also was asked to make recommendations to the city and suggest disciplinary action, if required.
Douglas, Joshi and Sheegl were all questioned about the fire-paramedic station replacement program -- but it's unknown what the review says about any of their actions.