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City councillor, CAO cleared in street-twinning controversy

Auditor highlights communication issues within city hall

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/6/2018 (795 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

An internal review has cleared Charleswood Coun. Marty Morantz and Doug McNeil, the city’s CAO, of any wrongdoing in the south Charleswood-Wilkes twinning scandal.

A report from city auditor Bryan Mansky concluded "miscommunication" among staff was to blame for the failure to properly disclose the south Charleswood route and that there was no "conclusive" evidence showing that Morantz or McNeil had attempted to mislead the community and other council members.

"From our review of correspondence, there did not appear to be any intent to purposely withhold information from senior administration, elected officials or the public," states the report from Mansky, which was published Thursday morning.

"The audit department did not identify any evidence that was conclusive in confirming that either the area councillor (Morantz) or the CAO (McNeil) had knowledge of the refinements to" the Wilkes corridor route.

Mansky makes 15 recommendations in his report on how to improve the internal flow of information, pointing out that the public service had already reviewed the report and agreed to implement all 15 recommendations.

Recommendations

15 Recommendations from the City of Winnipeg Audit of the William R. Clement Parkway/Sterling Lyon Parkway Extension Project, May 2018:

15 Recommendations from the City of Winnipeg Audit of the William R. Clement Parkway/Sterling Lyon Parkway Extension Project, May 2018:

1: The Chief Administrative Officer create a map of the capital planning process to be included in the city’s project management manual, and provided on the city’s website for all major capital projects.

2: The Chief Administrative Officer create a process to ensure that major infrastructure commitments contained in secondary plan by-laws are completely captured in master plan documents for the City.

3: The Chief Administrative Officer establish a process to submit options for roadway alignments to council in cases where the alignments have not already been adopted in secondary plan by-laws.

4: The Chief Administrative Officer ensure that any project detail sheets related to a major capital project in the capital budget include the following minimum disclosures: 1. Description of the major components (project scope) 2. Reference to the city planning by-law from which the project originated 3. Major benefits of constructing the projects 4. Significant risks of constructing the project 5. Significant risks of not constructing or deferring the project.

5: The Chief Administrative Officer ensure that any administrative report related to an amendment to a capital budget for a major capital project include the following minimum disclosures: 1. Description of the major components (project scope) 2. Reference to the City planning by-law from which the project originated 3. Major benefits of constructing the projects 4. Significant risks of constructing the project 5. Significant risks of not constructing or deferring the project.

6: the Chief Administrative Officer direct corporate human resources to developing courses for report writers to provide guidance and hands on training through classroom sessions.

7: The briefing note template be reviewed and revised by the Chief Administrative Officer to provide more detailed guidance on the types of risks that should be noted in briefing notes, and that part of that guidance include risk associated with significant changes in groups of impacted citizens.

8: The Chief Administrative Officer should ensure that appropriate guidance is included in the project management manual that would identify when public engagement should be part of a project and develop a minimum set of communications, activities and events that should occur for a capital project. This set of communications, activities and events should be adjusted to reflect the size and sensitivity of the project.

9: The Chief Administrative Officer should direct the office of public engagement to develop guidance and criteria for the project management manual which discuss the requirement to document the process for incorporating public feedback and input received through public engagement activities in the decision making process for capital projects. The process for incorporating feedback may cover a broad spectrum and should be tailored to the type of project.

10: The Chief Administrative Officer should direct the office of public engagement to develop guidance for the project management manual which discuss the requirement to communicate to the public how feedback obtained through public engagement activities will be and was used in the decision making process.

11: The Chief Administrative Officer should ensure the roles and responsibilities of corporate communications and of the office of public engagement are formalized, documented and communicated to all departments.

12: The Chief Administrative Officer should direct the office of public engagement to develop guidance in the project management manual to define the approval process for public engagement materials.

13: The Chief Administrative Officer should develop appropriate guidance for the project management manual to advise staff against the use of technical terms in public engagement materials. When determined to be necessary, then additional definitions should be included to ensure an understanding by individuals of various technical and language abilities.

14: The Chief Administrative Officer should direct the office of public engagement to develop criteria for determining when a neutral facilitator would be appropriate for public engagement on a project, and include the criteria in the PMM guidance.

15: The Chief Administrative Officer should develop appropriate guidance to support project management staff regarding the timing for when an environmental assessment proposal should be submitted for a project that is in an early planning phase such as a functional design study phase.

Morantz is out of town and could not be reached for comment but his office provided the following statement: "I am pleased that the audit Coun. (Janice) Lukes (South Winnipeg-St. Norbert) and I called for is reporting results consistent with my initial and ongoing statements regarding Sterling Lyon Parkway. I extend my thanks to the auditor for the review and recommendations which should lead to improvements in how material matters are reported to elected officials and to the public."

McNeil said he was pleased with the auditor's findings and will work to implement all of the recommendations.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>City Coun. Marty Morantz

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

City Coun. Marty Morantz

"I’ve been maintaining all along that I wasn’t aware of route 4 until last fall when the public became aware of it," McNeil said. "The auditor confirmed that."

The review was prompted by the public outrage that erupted after it was revealed city engineering staff and a private consulting firm chose a previously undisclosed corridor option as an alternative to the twinning of Wilkes Avenue. Meantime, the project has been suspended indefinitely.

The new route would have resulted in a new roadway, an extension of Sterling Lyon Parkway, running in a southwest direction through south Charleswood, which would have required city hall to acquire — either through purchase or expropriation — several rural, large-lot properties.

Area residents had earlier been shown three options and believed a consensus had settled on the twinning and widening of Wilkes Avenue, but staff subsequently focused on a fourth option and developed that route to the point where it was eventually submitted to the province in a detailed environmental assessment review.

Area residents only learned of the new route when informed during a series of private meetings with city staff in early October. Morantz and McNeil said they had not been told by staff and they blamed the public works department for failing to disclose it to them.

However, the preferred route was identified on maps contained in appendices to confidential briefings to McNeil, who claimed he had never read the material.

Morantz called for an internal review in late December to clear his name and reputation. Council approved the review in January. The review involved all correspondence to and from senior staff in the public works department, and all members of council.

GRAEME BRUCE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The four options listed by the City of Winnipeg for the south Charleswood corridor project. Note: Road positions are approximate and based on city drawings.</p>

GRAEME BRUCE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The four options listed by the City of Winnipeg for the south Charleswood corridor project. Note: Road positions are approximate and based on city drawings.

The existence of the fourth route also appeared to have been repeatedly referenced in email exchanges among city staff but McNeil insisted he was never told of the fourth route.

The series of emails, which were made public as a result of FIPPA requests, revealed key city staff were aware of the fourth route except McNeil.

Mansky’s conclusion seems at odds with the claims of the former director of public works, Lester Deane, who told CBC both Morantz and McNeil were thoroughly briefed on the project development and knew of the fourth option before it became public.

Deane was fired for his job in April 2017, before the route option became public. No explanation has been given for Deane's dismissal. Two other senior traffic planners in the public works department subsequently quit their jobs after being singled out by McNeil and Morantz for blame.

Area resident David Ames said he is puzzled that the audit didn't find any fault with McNeil or Morantz.

"Then who authorized the public works department and the consulting firm to develop another route and take it to the province?" Ames, president of the South Wilkes Community Association, asked. "The only individuals who seem to be at fault are the ones who no longer work for the city."

Ames said he hopes the city does implement all the recommendations and that no other neighbourhood goes through a similar experience.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>City of Winnipeg CAO Doug McNeil.</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

City of Winnipeg CAO Doug McNeil.

Mansky found that "many" engineers in the public works department considered the fourth route option, the Sterling Lyon Parkway extension, merely a refinement of one of the three options previously presented to the public, and it wasn’t necessary to bring it back to the community. However, Mansky said the changes to the route were significant, impacting a new set of residents and should have been treated as a new route and disclosed to the residents.

McNeil said while the actions of the public works department were found lacking, he said the audit confirmed his belief that no single individual was at fault.

Mayor Brian Bowman said he was pleased to see the report cleared McNeil and Morantz of any wrongdoing, adding however he will focus on ensuring the recommendations are implemented.

"There's some good recommendations for how we can improve some of the processes and internal and external communications at the city," Bowman said. "Coming out of an audit, the most important thing is the recommendations get acted upon."

Timeline

Jan. 19, 2016: City officials disclose three options for an east-west corridor through Charleswood and request public feedback. None of those options would be chosen as the preferred route.

Late January-February 2016: The public works department chooses a fourth option, the Sterling Lyon Parkway extension, as the preferred east-corridor route and begins detailed planning.

Jan. 19, 2016: City officials disclose three options for an east-west corridor through Charleswood and request public feedback. None of those options would be chosen as the preferred route.

Late January-February 2016: The public works department chooses a fourth option, the Sterling Lyon Parkway extension, as the preferred east-corridor route and begins detailed planning.

Nov. 28, 2016: Then-public works director Lester Deane sends a confidential memo to CAO Doug McNeil, requesting permission from McNeil to contact the 92 private property owners whose land is located on or adjacent to the recommended corridor route. Deane does not identify the corridor route in the text of the memo but of the four options considered by the department only the route ultimately known as Option 4 or the Sterling Lyon Parkway extension, involved that many pieces of private property. The route of the SLP corridor is identified in attachments to the confidential memo. McNeil later said he never read the attachments. McNeil would deny the request.

April 18, 2017: email from CAO Doug McNeil to Lester Deane. McNeil refers to Clement Parkway “concept plans” that have never before been made public and instructs Deane to contact the south Charleswood property owners who will be impacted by the east-west corridor. The only “plans” not disclosed at that time was the Sterling Lyon Parkway extension.

May 12, 2017: Members of council are informed that Lester Deane is no longer employed with city. No explanation is given for his dismissal.

July 2017: The public works department and its consulting firm submit a detailed report to the province for an environmental review of the entire Clement Parkway extension project. The east-west corridor route identified in the report was the never-disclosed Sterling Lyon Parkway extension

July-August 2017: The public works department and the city’s office of infrastructure planning review the Clement Parkway extension project, along with two others, for a cost-benefit analysis to determine which should be submitted for consideration for federal funding.

Early October 2017: South Charleswood residents are informed for the first time at a series of public meetings that an extension of the Sterling Lyon Parkway had been chosen as the east-west corridor route, affecting 92 property owners, which would require the city buying or expropriating all or portions of their properties, and would require demolition of some of their homes.

Mid-October 2017: CAO Doug McNeil and Coun. Marty Morantz said they were unaware the Sterling Lyon Parkway extension had been chosen as the east-west corridor route.

Nov. 8, 2017: local commercial appraiser Brett Ferguson appears before executive policy committee and says he had been hired by MMM Group (later known as WSP Canada Group) in the fall of 2015 to estimate the cost of expropriations for the Sterling Lyon Parkway extension route – that was several months before city hall launched its own public consultation process on three possible corridor routes, none of which were the SLP option; and two years before MMM Group went to the province for an environmental review of the SLP route.

December 2017: Former public works director Lester Deane tells CBC that CAO Doug McNeil and Coun. Marty Morantz were aware that the Sterling Lyon Parkway extension had been chosen as the preferred east-west corridor route through south Charleswood.

Jan. 25, 2018: Council orders a review by City Auditor Bryan Mansky into the south Charleswood project, including a review of all emails and reports to and from members of council and senior officials. The report is due by May 1,

April 26, 2018: Council approves an extension of the city auditor report to its June 21 meeting.

June 7, 2018: City Auditor Bryan Mansky releases report, clearing McNeil and Morantz of any wrongdoing and recommends several changes to policies for internal and external communications and consultations with the public.

Coun. Lukes, a critic of the city's communications process, said the auditor's findings confirm her criticism of how the public service deals with elected officials and the public.

"I've said from day one that the city lacks a clear internal communication process," Lukes said.

Mansky also found no fault with the work of the consulting firm, WSP Group and concludes that city hall lacks a clear internal communication process.

"In developing the chronological timeline and identifying key milestones and communications related to the project, miscommunication in various areas throughout this project emerged as a consistent theme," Mansky states in his report.

"Critical information related to changes from what had been previously prevented to the public resulting in material impacts to a new group of citizens should have been highlighted to ensure decision makers are clearly aware of all critical information."

Mansky’s report is part of the agenda for the next executive policy committee and expected to be forwarded to the June council meeting.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, June 7, 2018 at 10:23 AM CDT: Headline fixed.

9:48 PM: Adds that project suspended

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