The Dobbie Report: Was the damning document hijacked?

city_scope_logo-cmykAfter reading the unabridged version of the Dobbie Report, it’s not so much the concerns raised by the author, London consultant Tim Dobbie, are troublesome — and they most certainly are — it’s the manner in which the document itself was withheld from the previous council.
And we’re not certain all members of this council received “a thorough presentation of this report and an implementation update as part of their council orientation,” a critical recommendation of the report.
But let’s step back for a moment to get up to speed on the report itself.
The organizational review of the environmental services department — budgeted at $20,000 — was undertaken in the summer of 2014 and involved interviews with staff, department heads, members of council and outside stakeholders. Along with 10 sweeping recommendations, the review details major issues facing the City of St. Thomas, including the almost $300 million infrastructure deficit.
A highly edited version was presented to the outgoing council on Nov. 3, 2014. The report was endorsed that evening by a slim 5-3 margin with aldermen Cliff Barwick, Tom Johnston and Dave Warden opposed.

What council did not know — but perhaps Mayor Heather Jackson had been appraised by CAO Wendell Graves — is most revealing.                                                                                        The Dobbie Report cited “a lack of respect” between roads staff and sewer/water staff and concerns about the “management style” of Water and Wastewater Supervisor Cyril McCready.


Cyril McCready inspects excavation on Elgin St. in St. Thomas in this 2010 file photo.

It went on to question whether McCready “might be in a conflict of interest with his private business. He was identified as a bully by many staff.”
So, who made the decision to shield this from council? Did the mayor — in consultation with Graves — feel this information was too sensitive for the seven aldermen, in light of the fact most of them would not be returning following the 2014 municipal vote?
If that was the case, it’s a shocking case of censorship.
Did Graves go lone wolf on this and make the determination himself as to what reports are made available to council.
Wasn’t that the knock against former CAO Roy Main — released in 2003 — and accused of withholding material from council?
Did Jackson leave the decision up to Graves, in essence ceding authority to a non-elected official instead of asserting her authority as head of the corporation.
While mayor in 2010, Barwick warned there can only be “one captain.”
But to return to the environmental services department, why would McCready be promoted to a manager’s position when the Dobbie Report warned of “management style” and the possibility of a conflict of interest.
Why was this not acted upon by HR Director Graham Dart?
Hold on though. Do you remember our anonymous environmental services department staffer ‘Dave’ who contacted this corner last June because he was completely frustrated with the investigative process laid out for staff dealing with what they felt were harassing situations.
“There are a lot of different situations going on and HR doesn’t seem to want to do anything about it and they’re the ones who create these policies,” Dave wrote.
“We’re told there is zero tolerance against bullying, harassment and violence. Well I’ve been with the city for 25 years and I’ve yet to see anything happen to people who are doing this.”
Dave warned, “it’s getting worse. It’s getting to a dangerous point where I don’t know what’s going to happen. They just don’t seem to care.”
That would appear to be evident in how the full version of the Dobbie Report was held back from council.
Do you see now how the Dobbie Report is such a key piece of the puzzle?
And reading the complete document raises so many more questions.
Wendell GravesHow did the issue of dividing the duties of Graves — who had been CAO/clerk and is now city manager — become what appears to be the most important part of what was to be a review of the environmental services department?
Will the city act on the recommendation to move the sewer/water staff out of the Burwell Rd. operations centre to the new community recycling centre?
There sure doesn’t appear to be any indication of that based on floor plans for the new facility.
Or how about the recommendation Graves “implement a formal approach to the use of corporate teams ensuring all major issues and priorities of the City of St. Thomas are managed by corporate teams with membership on those teams available to staff at all levels of the organization.”
The key there being staff at all levels.
It’s a highly critical report that should have been presented as is to council. The fact it wasn’t adds credence to the suggestion the process was highjacked along the way.

Related posts:

Workplace harassment: ‘a dangerous point at city hall

Diplomacy has disappeared at the top

When will the mayor deliver on her parking promise?

Sutherland insurance policy is somewhat reassuring

Should council consider purchasing its downtown nemesis?

Three positions axed in city hall organizational shuffle


One thought on “The Dobbie Report: Was the damning document hijacked?

    Looks like your getting closer to unearthing the pot of gold; while the Dobbie Report may indicate a “possible conflict of interest” on McCready I think you will find possibly something more serious if you keep digging. When you do, be sure to ask the RCMP to conduct the investigation.
    Can you post the Dobbie Report?

    In 2009, stemming from a lack of accountability, an aversion to transparency and repeated occurrences of financial mismanagement by the City of St. Thomas, I asked then-Minister Jim Watson, of Municipal Affairs and Housing to undertake a provincial audit of the City of St. Thomas under the Municipal Affairs Act, Part II General; Section 9. (1), The Ministry, upon its own initiative or whenever requested by any municipality expressed by resolution of its council, or on a petition in writing signed by not less than fifty ratepayers assessed as owners and resident in a municipality, may direct a provincial municipal audit of the financial affairs of the municipality.
    Watson declined to investigate then as he said the matters identified were best left to local government; well that really didn’t work out. Sounds like it’s time to gather up fifty (50) signatures and request a provincial municipal audit.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s