December 12, 2019

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Councillors exchange heated words over embattled city department

Winnipeg city councillors Sherri Rollins, left, and Kevin Klein got involved in a shouting match Monday, over lingering questions in the city building inspectors scandal.</p>

Winnipeg city councillors Sherri Rollins, left, and Kevin Klein got involved in a shouting match Monday, over lingering questions in the city building inspectors scandal.

Two rookie councillors got involved in a shouting match Monday, over lingering questions in the city building inspectors scandal.

Couns. Kevin Klein and Sherri Rollins exchanged heated words and calls for apologies, after Klein attempted to use the remaining minutes of a day-long property and development committee meeting to explore a lack of management supervision.

Eight city staff were fired and seven others suspended as a result of an internal probe into the workplace habits of the planning department's building inspectors. Some councillors said they believe the probe failed to hold management and supervisors accountable.

Last week, Klein had hoped to question Stan Dueck, City of Winnipeg manager of development inspections, at Monday’s meeting, but Dueck unexpectedly retired Friday morning.

Klein then said he would request Dueck’s replacement, Alana Crocker, be made available for questions.

While Crocker attended the meeting Monday, along with department director John Kiernan, committee chairman Coun. Brian Mayes directed Klein to avoid any pointed questions about civic staff or Dueck's retirement.

"We obviously have very serious issues. Maybe somebody can identify whether other supervisors will be watched (or) disciplined in this process?" Klein said.

That prompted Rollins to ask Mayes to close the meeting to the public, on the grounds Klein’s questions were a human resources issue.

"I’m not really interested in hearing any of this," she said.

Rollins said Klein had been quoted in the news media as describing Monday's meeting as his opportunity to "subpoena staff" — which Klein denied, and demanded she apologize.

"I’ve read, as everyone else has in the news, that Coun. Klein has characterized this as a subpoena of staff and that is why I’m ready to throw my body in front of the public service," Rollins said loudly.

"If he is going to characterize this as a subpoena and create a kangaroo court out of the standing policy committee, I will lay my body down."

"I haven’t seen that anywhere and you need to apologize, because I have never said it," Klein fired back. "I have never once made that statement."

While some civic employees in the gallery snickered at the exchange, Mayes unsuccessfully tried to restore order. However, Klein and Rollins continued to fire words at each other.

"I’m not giving up on the fact I never once said it was a subpoena, and I want (Rollins) to apologize," Klein said.

"Well, she’s not going to," Mayes said.

"Of course, she’s not," Klein responded.

Klein said Mayes’ restrictions would prevent him from asking questions the public has been seeking answers to.

The committee then went into closed session to consider a property acquisition issue.

After the meeting, Klein told the Free Press that Rollins’ comments were inappropriate. but not surprising.

"I’m not shocked or surprised by the door being slammed shut," Klein said. "It seems nothing has really changed other than we make more claims of an open and transparent city hall… I will continue investigating and asking for accountability."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.

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