Phil Sheegl, Winnipeg's chief administrative officer, has resigned from the City of Winnipeg — only days before the release of a review into the fire-paramedic station replacement program.
"This morning, executive policy committee accepted the resignation of Phil Sheegl," Mayor Sam Katz said in a statement. "I would like to thank him for his years of service to the municipality, and wish him well in his future endeavors."
Sheegl served as the head of Winnipeg’s public service since 2011. A close friend of Katz, he started with the city in 2008 as director of planning, property and development and was soon promoted to deputy chief administrative officer.
In 2012, Sheegl ran afoul of several councilors for selling an Arizona shell company to the mayor and reacquiring it several weeks later. He also faced public scrutiny for his oversight of several major city projects, including the over-budget conversion of the former downtown Canada Post building into new headquarters for the Winnipeg Police Service and the troubled fire-paramedic station replacement program.
The final external review into that program, which included the construction of a fire-paramedic station on land the city does not own as well as a since-cancelled land swap, will be made public Monday.
Katz told reporters this morning he does not believe that review is connected to Sheegl’s departure. He said he has no idea what is in the review and said Sheegl did not brief him on any aspects of its content.
City auditor Brian Whiteside has said individuals named in the review have been given the opportunity to respond to aspects of the document that pertain to them.
Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck said it is obvious Sheegl departed before the review came out. She said it is unfortunate both Sheegl and former fire-paramedic chief Reid Douglas – fired by the city in September – left the city in advance of the review’s release.
She said she would like to know whether Sheegl will receive severance pay. Katz said that matter is confidential, as all personnel matters are confidential.
Katz also said he did not consider Sheegl a political liability. He said he would be re-elected next year whether or not Sheegl remained Winnipeg’s CAO.
He also declined to say whether it was wise for the city to hire a friend of the mayor as CAO, but noted that was not his decision.
In an email to city staff and councilors, Sheegl said he remained proud of the construction of four new fire-paramedic stations and suggested the negativity surrounding the program has led to "a trying year" for many public servants.
Sheegl was the third CAO to work with Katz. Annitta Stenning served under Katz from 2004 to 2007. She was succeeded by Glen Laubenstein, who served from 2008 until shortly before the civic election in 2010.
Until a new CAO is selected, Winnipeg chief operating officer Deepak Joshi will serve as "acting interim CAO," Katz said.
Sheegl’s departure followed a closed-door special meeting of council’s executive policy committee.
Sheegl wrote the following letter to council today:
This is to advise that I am resigning as the CAO of the City of Winnipeg after nearly six years of public service.
Though it has been a trying year from many perspectives and for many public servants, especially those on the senior management team, I leave with a sense of thankfulness for their tireless efforts in serving the citizens of Winnipeg capably, conscientiously, and well. Together, we have accomplished a great deal for our City – in improving public planning, infrastructure, amenities, services, and safety – and are collectively proud of:
• Completing the Disraeli Bridges Project, the largest in Winnipeg history, on-time and on-budget;
• Completing the Chief Peguis Trail extension, on-budget and one year ahead of schedule;
• Nearing completion of the consolidated new HQ for the Winnipeg Police Service; • Completion of the first stage of the Southwest Transitway, and continued progress on Rapid and Active Transportation networks;
• Partnering in a revitalized Sports, Hospitality and Entertainment District downtown;
• Provision of enhanced recreational opportunities for inner-city children and youth; and,
• Consultation and preparation of OurWinnipeg, the City’s long-term plan for the future.
Despite so much negativity regarding the construction of four new fire paramedic stations, they, too, are an important accomplishment and a vital component of modern emergency services for Winnipeg families, especially in growing neighbourhoods like Sage Creek, where response times have been drastically improved. They are equally important projects in communities where antiquated stations were no longer suitable places for our firefighters to live and work.
Throughout my time as CAO, my purpose and focus has always been to approach every task in a constructive, positive way, and work to ensure the success of all our civic projects. I am glad to have had the opportunity to see so many important projects realized.
To my family, friends and colleagues who have supported me throughout these years of being in the public arena and the focus of endless media attention, I thank them for their constant encouragement.
As for my time at the City of Winnipeg, I would like to thank the Mayor and so many Councillors and staff who made my time both meaningful and productive. Winnipeg is and always has been my home, and I wish everyone the best, moving forward.