City fires 8, suspends 7 for doing personal errands on public dime

By | September 11, 2019

The City of Winnipeg has come down hard after it says an investigation proved some staff in the property and planning department abused work hours to run errands, shop and take lengthy coffee and lunch breaks.

Eight people have been fired, seven suspended, four given written reprimands and one given a non-disciplinary letter.

“I want to say that we are deeply disappointed to have found there was truth to the allegations. The employee-employer relationship is built on a solid foundation of trust and when that trust is broken, it is difficult to repair,” said interim CAO Mike Ruta.

In this case, trust was not only broken between those two groups, it was broken with the public, he said.

“Unfortunately, what we discovered was more than broken trust. It was theft — theft in the form of time and theft in the form of fraudulent mileage claims.”

The investigation was launched in April after an undisclosed group paid a private investigator to videotape city inspectors conducting personal business during their shifts.

The unions representing the employees have grieved the disciplinary actions, Ruta said. As a result, he is unable to provide more details of the investigation.

The city had said in July that six employees had been fired, but the investigation was still ongoing.

Ruta’s announcement on Wednesday is the updated number.

City of Winnipeg interim CAO Mike Ruta says a review of all field operations in every city department will take place. (CBC)

The city reviewed 80,000 documents and 1,500 daily work inspection sheets, did some 100 interviews and looked through driving logs, video and other materials provided by the secret group that first came forward with the allegations.

“While we are disappointed in the finding from this investigation, it is also important to remember this shall not be a reflection on all city staff,” Ruta said.

“We know we have many hardworking staff and dedicated professionals employed by the City of Winnipeg, who take pride in doing their jobs and serving the public.”

Beyond focusing on the immediate disciplinary action that had to be taken, the city is now looking at making improvements across all departments to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.

As a result, it will be conducting a review, with the help of an outside consultant, of all field operations in every department.

The review will also cover the structure of each department, the management and the hiring practices.

The city will also look at how to use technology to account for staff time and tracking productivity.