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Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/10/2019 (391 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The employment history at city hall will record that Stan Dueck retired. He left without public comment as he was about to be called to discuss the debacles of the building inspection division that he managed.
Unfortunately, the silent departure of Mr. Dueck does nothing to restore trust in the department that was plunged into turmoil by an investigation showing many inspectors aimed to do as little work as possible, a dishonourable goal at which they succeeded.
The public can’t be expected to accept on good faith that the division’s many problems have been resolved by the retirement of Mr. Dueck or the earlier firing of eight city staffers and the suspension of seven others, all of whom were casualties of a probe launched after the Free Press published accounts of surveillance videos and notes supplied by a group of citizens frustrated with their dealings with the department.
It’s past the point where public confidence can be restored by assurances from city hall managers and councillors who, after all, are the same authority figures who repeatedly heard complaints about the inspection division but didn’t act until private citizens took the initiative of hiring private investigators. At this stage, the public deserves to be offered details on how the system is improving accountability and management oversight, with ongoing data that chronicles how the changes are raising Winnipeg’s inspection division to industry standards.
City council made a limp effort in that direction on Thursday, when it approved an administrative plan to hire a consultant to review department operations and work with the department director to review management operations. Administration is to report to council by March 2020, with a status update on the implementation within all civic departments, of changes that have been prompted by the investigation.
But unfortunately, council didn’t require administration to measure and report publicly whether staff are actually following the changes and whether the changes are making a difference.
How will the public know when the inspections division is working efficiently and professionally? Perhaps the judge of that should be people who need their buildings inspected. Lots of retail establishments — hotels, car dealerships and banks — regularly ask their customers for feedback, so they can improve customer service. For a probationary period of perhaps one year, administration could contact building contractors after they use a city inspector and ask the contractors to rate their inspectors on aspects such as prompt response and quality of service. This information can be compiled and reported to city council in public session.
It’s a challenging time to be employed by the city’s planning department. Regular council watchers know the department regularly ignores current policies, such as getting external appraisals for sale, purchases and exchanges of land, repeatedly saying it wouldn’t make a difference in the final decision. This department is also at the heart of increasingly common conflict about infill housing, a goal prescribed by long-term city planning but resented loudly by some homeowners when lots are split near their backyard.
But it can also be a time for the overhauled planning department to look forward to a fresh start. With the retirement of the inspection division’s manager, and the firing of eight employees who dishonoured the high calling of public service, there is an influx of new people whose work habits can be formed by supervisors who learned from the mistakes that have publicly embarrassed the department in recent months.
Details of the inspection division’s successful transformation must be made public, however. It’s not enough for administration to say it’s all good now. Let the public judge.
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