June 17, 2019

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Top city bureaucrats pack their bags

Both CAO, parking boss announce departures; moves rekindle fears of broken system

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/9/2010 (3196 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The pending departure of two of Winnipeg's top public servants has stunned some city councillors and left others claiming the city is too dysfunctional to retain senior managers.

Both Winnipeg chief administrative officer Glen Laubenstein and Winnipeg Parking Authority chief operations officer Dave Hill gave notice late Tuesday of their intention to leave the city.

Their decisions surprised politicians, several of whom heard the news from media reports, and again raised questions about the high rate of turnover at the top of the City of Winnipeg's public service.

Laubenstein, who moved to Winnipeg in April 2008, plans to return to the Alberta tarsands in mid-November to resume his role as the chief administrative officer for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which he helped found before taking on CAO jobs in Brandon, Kingston, Ont., and Winnipeg.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/9/2010 (3196 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

City manager Glen Laubenstein is shown in Brandon in 2005 after he announced he was relocating to Kingston, Ont. He is now leaving his job with the City of Winnipeg.

FILE PHOTO

City manager Glen Laubenstein is shown in Brandon in 2005 after he announced he was relocating to Kingston, Ont. He is now leaving his job with the City of Winnipeg.

The pending departure of two of Winnipeg's top public servants has stunned some city councillors and left others claiming the city is too dysfunctional to retain senior managers.

Both Winnipeg chief administrative officer Glen Laubenstein and Winnipeg Parking Authority chief operations officer Dave Hill gave notice late Tuesday of their intention to leave the city.

Their decisions surprised politicians, several of whom heard the news from media reports, and again raised questions about the high rate of turnover at the top of the City of Winnipeg's public service.

Laubenstein, who moved to Winnipeg in April 2008, plans to return to the Alberta tarsands in mid-November to resume his role as the chief administrative officer for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which he helped found before taking on CAO jobs in Brandon, Kingston, Ont., and Winnipeg.

Laubenstein broke the news to Mayor Sam Katz before Wood Buffalo made the appointment public.

Hill, who helped found the Winnipeg Parking Authority and is credited with winning awards for the special operating agency, plans to return to the private sector to resume work as a parking consultant. He notified his staff via email and also spoke to Laubenstein.

Although the two departures are not related, they've returned attention to a concern raised by the city auditor two years ago: The City of Winnipeg has trouble attracting and retaining senior managers.

"I think this denotes this is a very difficult place to work at the highest levels of administration," St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal said of the departures. "The timing of it is also very much a surprise, coming right before an election. It contributes to the dysfunction of city hall."

Laubenstein and Katz, however, refuted the notion the city is not a desirable workplace. All municipalities in North America have difficulty retaining top administrators, thanks to competition with each other and the private sector, they said.

"There aren't that many CAOs wandering around, knocking on doors, looking for jobs," Katz said.

"Look at my age," added the 61-year-old Laubenstein. "If I'm being recruited, that means it's difficult to find good people at any age level."

Laubenstein said Wood Buffalo gave him an offer he could not refuse, even though the job involves moving away from his daughter, grandson and son-in-law in Winnipeg.

Dave Hill helped found city's highly praised parking authority; lauded for ambitious vision.

Dave Hill helped found city's highly praised parking authority; lauded for ambitious vision.

The tarsands around Fort McMurray represent "the biggest economic-development initiative in Canada right now," said Laubenstein, adding he has the opportunity "to be involved in something that's incredibly significant for Canada."

During his 21/2 years in Winnipeg, Laubenstein was credited with averting a transit strike but criticized for the way he handled the creation of the city's new utility. He also led a $600,000 civic reorganization that saw almost $190,000 spent on sole-sourced contracts involving a human resources consultant he previously hired in Kingston and Brandon.

Katz had nothing but praise for Laubenstein, calling him a "brilliant individual" who was headhunted by his former employer. Deputy CAOs Phil Sheegl, Alex Robinson and Mike Ruta will handle his duties until a permanent chief administrator is hired, Katz added.

The move means Winnipeg will be led by a fourth top administrator since 2007, when Annitta Stenning resigned as CAO. She was replaced by Robinson in an acting capacity before Laubenstein was hired.

Parking authority boss Hill could not be reached for comment. Councillors praised him as an innovator and expressed confusion about his departure.

"I thought the parking authority was moving in the right direction," said St. Vital Coun. Gord Steeves. "I don't mind telling you, I was very surprised to hear he's leaving, because he seemed to be really enthusiastic about his job."

Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi described Hill as a trailblazer and said she fears he's leaving because the city sold off the Winnipeg Square Parkade, which used to be the WPA's biggest revenue-generator. She also complained a downtown parking strategy prepared by Hill has never seen the light of day and accused members of Katz's inner circle of suppressing the report.

"Objective, well-written reports come forward and they disappear into a black hole," Gerbasi said. "My concern is innovative people who don't toe the party line are leaving."

Hill presented some ideas to the public before elected officials had the chance to hear about them, said North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty, who chairs the council committee responsible for the parking authority.

"You want it to be creative and entrepreneurial," Browaty said. "In some ways, it was too controversial and entrepreneurial."

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

 

No decision due for months on health-inspections standoff

Winnipeg will have to wait at least another two more months to see whether the city and province will end their 38-year-old dispute over health inspections.

Mayor Sam Katz's inner circle voted Wednesday to delay a decision on harmonizing Winnipeg's health inspections, which have been split between city and provincial employees since the creation of Unicity in 1972.

The split jurisdiction has led to inconsistent inspections, as restaurants, pools and daycares under city jurisdiction are roughly five times more likely to be inspected than those under provincial jurisdiction.

Council voted to hand over the entire inspection job to the province — or have the city take on the role — in 2007. But executive policy committee has voted six times since January 2008 to put off a decision, citing ongoing negotiations between the city and province.

Other significant decisions made Wednesday at the final EPC meeting of the current council term:

911 operators: EPC approved a plan to spend $1.2 million next year on more civilian and police communications officers to improve 911 telephone response times.

Head shops: EPC voted in favour of a plan to license head shops, possibly as soon as next year.

Le Nordik spa: EPC voted in favour of a lease that would allow a Quebec company to build a $6-million spa at the Crescent Drive Golf Course grounds.

The latter three items face council approval on Sept. 22.

Wyatt faces a rival for his job

Coun. Russ Wyatt finally has some competition in his quest for a third term as the council representative for Transcona.

Vlad Kowalyk, the owner of an engineering consulting firm, has registered to run against Wyatt this October.

Kowalyk has never run for public office before. His registration means the only councillor currently facing acclamation is St. Boniface's Dan Vandal.

In order to appear on the Oct. 27 ballot, council and mayoral candidates must register and submit nomination papers by Sept. 21.

— Kives

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