An anonymous group of citizens whose covert surveillance of City of Winnipeg employees exposed time theft and fraudulent mileage claims alleges the city hasn’t adequately addressed the role supervisors played while misconduct took place under their watch.
Last week, the city announced its internal probe into building inspectors’ workplace misconduct had resulted in a total of 20 reprimands — eight firings, seven suspensions, four written warnings and a non-disciplinary notice added to an employee’s file.
"We strongly believe that the issue of supervision hasn't been dealt with," John Prystanski, a lawyer representing the anonymous group, told reporters Tuesday. "How can you find only front-line employees at fault if there were supervisors that knew about this problem, then they condoned this behaviour and they're part of the structural problem?"
The footage that led to a public service probe documented employees with the city’s planning, property and development department doing personal errands, including taking extended coffee breaks, going on shopping trips and leaving work early, on the clock.
The city’s report on a five-month-long internal investigation confirms and details such inspector misconduct. It also states that management had "suspicion of some issues related to staff activity" and that not enough was done to enforce workplace rules.
During an Executive Policy Committee meeting Tuesday, Prystanski raised concerns about a reporting process between employees and supervisors. "This investigation is yet to be complete. We think that if you want to see true systemic change, change still has to continue from within," Prystanski said. The lawyer later told reporters the group he represents wants to see everyone, including supervisors who were aware of the misconduct, held accountable.
A breakdown of the positions held by the employees implicated in the investigation has not been made public, but City of Winnipeg interim chief administration officer Mike Ruta said Tuesday supervisors were not exempt from those penalized. Ruta said the suspensions given out range from between two to 10 days of unpaid leave.
No disciplinary action was taken against department director, John Kiernan, who has previously said he was unaware of the misconduct.
"I am pleased to see a number of individuals held accountable ... While some will feel that things should've gone further, others including the unions — as is their right — are grieving the terminations," Mayor Brian Bowman told reporters Tuesday.
Bowman said that as mayor, he expects the public service to gather evidence and act accordingly. As per the anonymous group's allegations, he said there didn't appear to be additional evidence to back up their claims about potential supervisor misconduct.
During the meeting, the mayor pressed Prystanski on the identities of the members of the anonymous group. Prystanski said the group consists of individuals and small business owners who are "terrified" at the prospect of dealing with the PPD.
The city has already taken action to require inspectors to provide a detailed daily log of daily activities outside the office. Its report following the investigation also states "management will continue to conduct audits of daily logs and mileage claims."
In the coming months, PPD plans to work with an external consultant to review operations and look into using technology to track employee hours and using a fleet of public vehicles for field staff instead of allowing the use of private vehicles.
The department will have to provide the executive committee with an update on its progress in six months.
Maggie is a cub reporter who covers every beat in the newsroom. She appreciates alliteration, when newspaper ink stains her fingertips and, more importantly, tips on social and environmental equity issues.