Public works rejects mismanagement allegations Special meeting called in response to researcher’s findings in Free Press investigative series

Winnipeg’s public works department responded publicly for the first time Thursday to allegations of financial mismanagement within the traffic signals branch at a special meeting of the city’s finance committee.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/03/2022 (334 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg’s public works department responded publicly for the first time Thursday to allegations of financial mismanagement within the traffic signals branch at a special meeting of the city’s finance committee.

Chairman Scott Gillingham (St. James) called the session in response to the recent Free Press investigative series Red Light, Green Light, No Oversight, based on the findings of independent traffic researcher Christian Sweryda.

Public works director Jim Berezowsky disputed allegations his department has engaged in widespread patterns of financial mismanagement and wasteful construction practices dating back more than a decade.

Public works director Jim Berezowsky disputed allegations his department has engaged in widespread patterns of financial mismanagement and wasteful construction practices. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“We believe there is an explanation for each and every Google picture,” Berezowsky said, referring to Sweryda’s research, the result of hundreds of hours spent analyzing Google Street View images and cataloguing changes to traffic infrastructure in Winnipeg.

Berezowsky said he stands with department staff and is proud of the work they do, expressing displeasure the matter was aired publicly by the media and councillors before city staff had an opportunity to respond.

The Free Press reviewed Sweryda’s research and shared it with several experts in the field. The newspaperrepeatedly offered to walk city staff through Sweryda’s research if Berezowsky and David Patman, manager of transportation, were made available for interview.

Those requests were declined.

Sweryda — who has been studying traffic-related issues in the city since 2009 — delivered a summary of the information he provided to councillors recently.

Christian Sweryd spent hundreds of hours spent analyzing Google Street View images and cataloguing changes to traffic infrastructure in Winnipeg. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

When he was done, Couns. Janice Lukes (Waverly West) and Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo) suggested there are good people doing good work in the public service but there are systemic issues with administrative turnover and mismanagement.

Red Light, Green Light, No Oversight

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS A traffic light on the north median (facing southbound traffic) of Osborne Street and St. Mary Avenue in Winnipeg on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. For Ryan Thorpe story. Winnipeg Free Press 2022.

Posted:

Christian Sweryda has spent hundreds of hours cataloguing and tracking the changes to intersections in Winnipeg. His findings point to financial mismanagement in the public works department.

That research is the basis of a Free Press investigative series by Ryan Thorpe: Red Light, Green Light, No Oversight.

 

 

Read full story

Engineer Roger Petursson explained the department’s justification for changes made to traffic-control infrastructure at a handful of the intersections Sweryda highlighted and discussed the impact road renewals can have on the lifespan of traffic-control equipment.

Berezowsky defended the department’s record-keeping practices, and said design drawings and work orders will justify changes to traffic-control infrastructure in the council-ordered investigation conducted by city auditor Bryan Mansky.

Public works chairman Matt Allard called for an audit after the Free Press series was published.

After the meeting, Coun. Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) said it felt, at times, like a “kangaroo court,” but she was happy public works staff had been able to respond to the allegations and “speak truth to power.”

Jason Schreyer (Elmwood-East Kildonan) and John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry) are the other members of the committee.

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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Updated on Thursday, March 10, 2022 10:10 PM CST: Fixes typo.

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