Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Respect suffers at city

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Deepak Joshi, the city's acting chief administrative officer, was acting appropriately when he asked Coun. Paula Havixbeck to exercise greater discretion when making comments that reflect upon the integrity of civic staff.

Ms. Havixbeck said last week mismanagement and possibly corruption were to blame for nearly $100 million in cost overruns at the new police headquarters building.

There may have been mismanagement, but she crossed the line in saying corruption in the administration may have played a role in the debacle. It's possible she was referring only to former CAO Phil Sheegl, even though there is no evidence he did anything illegal or immoral. In fact, there is no evidence of corruption at any level.

Coun. Havixbeck owes an apology to city staff, many of whom, including Mr. Joshi, worked on the headquarters building in some capacity. Her thoughtless remarks have tarnished all of them and needlessly poisoned the relationship between council and the administration.

As the senior manager at city hall, Mr. Joshi was simply standing up for his staff when he warned Ms. Havixbeck her comments were hurtful and disrespectful.

It would have been better if he had talked to her privately, where the nuances of the issue could have been better explained, rather than in a formal letter, which Ms. Havixbeck believed was intimidating.

It would have been better still if Mayor Sam Katz had delivered the message, but poor relations between the mayor and the councillor made that impossible.

It's not unusual for mayors and councillors to spar behind the scenes with administrators, but council has had a tendency over the tenure of the last three mayors to manage city hall rather than lead and set policy.

Some cities have policies that outline the appropriate professional interactions between councillors and staff. The city should conduct a similar exercise to ensure both sides at city hall understand their rights and limitations.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 11, 2013 A8

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Updated on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 7:51 AM CST: adds image

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