Get Some Integrity At City Hall: Reader

ottawa logoBulldog contributor J.A. is concerned about City of Ottawa employees taking municipal vehicles home in the evening:

It’s just sad. They say they can’t discriminate against where an employee lives, but the employee can’t expect a free ride to work every single day when they decide to live 50 km or more away.

How many emergency calls do they actually answer?

Are they even able to answer an emergency call in time on either side of Ottawa when they live over 50 km away from one side of Ottawa? It seems if it really were an emergency, a condition of employment would be to actually be within reasonable distance to attend to urgent issues …

If they have enough time to drive 50-100 km to attend to an emergency, why not retrieve a city vehicle and equipment only when they have to answer an emergency call?

What kind of emergency needs immediate assistance that first responders can’t answer?

Integrity is sorely lacking at city hall

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11 thoughts on “Get Some Integrity At City Hall: Reader

  1. This issue reminds me of the credit card scandal at city hall, back in 2002, when a city audit found rampant misuse of its city corporate credit cards. Once again, city mismanagement is so frustrating for taxpayers.

    Enormous credit for this story has to go to Ashley Burke of CBC Ottawa News (“City of Ottawa workers drive fleet vehicles home on taxpayers’ dime”). Burke had originally asked for five years of city data on this topic and was told by the city that such a request would cost $8,640. Huh? I thought that we now live in a digital age? (Who knew that democracy, or freedom of the press, was such an expensive enterprise?) Anyway, the CBC had this city data narrowed down to one year (of on-call parks workers) at the reduced cost of $120 for the search.

    And yet, the city was still unable to provide a price tag for the practice of allowing on-call parks workers to drive fleet vehicles home: “An analyst with the city’s access and privacy department explained the city doesn’t collect the information we sought in any centralized database. Supervisors do track on-call workers’ mileage, and employees must submit monthly taxable benefit forms for the travel. Nevertheless the city told us collecting and calculating the information would be a monumental task, even for one branch of one department.”

    However, even without knowing this detailed information, the city maintains that: “allowing on-call employees to drive fleet vehicles home is the cheapest and fastest way to respond to emergencies after hours.” Indeed, city treasurer Marian Simulik stated that: “The city looks at this on a continual basis. Do we need to have all of these people on call? Is it better to have them use their own vehicles or use city vehicles? But ultimately this is the most cost effective [practise], from our perspective.”

    And lastly, Burke also discovered that: “The city was unable to tell us how much it costs to maintain these vehicles, or the cost of wear and tear on the vehicles some employees are allowed to drive home.”

    Alas, this mismanagement of city resources goes back to what Ron Benn has said many times about the city relying on assumptions to develop policy. We need the city auditor to step in and sort out the true cost of these take-home city vehicles.

    And where is Mr. Accountability, Mayor Jim Watson? Oh yeah, he is off in his chauffeured city vehicle to the latest bake sale or awards ceremony.

    Again, special mention to journalist Ashley Burke: Bravo! I hope other Ottawa journalists, covering city hall, will follow her lead.


    1. Sheridan:

      And I wonder who broke that credit-card scandal. I don’t know who he is but I understand he has a great dog.




  2. JA’s question: “What kind of emergency needs immediate assistance that first responders can’t answer?” is quite valid as the CBC Ottawa News report only looked at data from the parks, buildings and grounds department.

    The irony is that parks have had a rough time in recent years with many cut backs, from reduced outdoor hockey rinks to neglect of grass maintenance, especially weed problems. There have also been mistakes in that department, for example, the problem with the new artificial turf at Nepean Sportsplex injuring football players; as well as the foul up on the namesake of Jack Purcell Park and the expensive giant badminton rackets.

    And then there is always the issue of Lansdowne with problems such as the dead trees, lack of shade and the failed water plaza — also, the city was unable to provide journalist Sue Sherring with the cost details of that water plaza. (Lansdowne was in the news today because an indoor TD Place concert dislodged ceiling tiles at the fitness club — yup, a great decision to renovate this old building.)

    The point is that while cutbacks have been in place, nonetheless the city deemed it feasible to allow 62,000 kilometres of unnecessary city-owned truck travel.

    At least these emergency parks vehicles will be primed for action should Mayor Jim Watson experience any problems with his sodded bridge, during the Ottawa 2017 celebration.


    1. This past winter, a water pipe in our neighbourhood park used for flooding our rink burst on the weekend. We had to call 311 to fix this, not 911. Police, fire or paramedics are not going to fix a burst pipe in a park. It was actually fixed within a few hours. While I am not commenting on the appropriateness of staff using city vehicles for personal use, I can comment that emergencies can arise that 911 first responders cannot address.


  3. But is it discrimination? It works in the private sector, companies ask that their sales staff live within their territory.

    Also if they use these vehicles for emergencies, what are the using for day to day maintenance of the city parks? That city staff must live further from the city or they are slower vehicles.


    1. Kosmo,

      That is an excellent point, namely that when these vehicles are taken home, then the fleet is down those vehicles which are effectively unavailable for other workers. And if someone comes down sick for a few days, then the fleet is short that vehicle for a few days while the truck is parked at their house. Indeed, this would mean that the fleet would have to be larger to accommodate those factors, especially as a few vehicles are tied up in normal maintenance at any time.

      Imagine the chaos and cost if emergency vehicles like ambulances (or fire trucks) were to follow this system of being driven to and from home and the workplace each day.

      Lastly, how are these city workers to participate in public transit when they are driving their city vehicles from their home to work? Does Mayor Jim Watson not encourage city workers to take public transit to work? And especially since Watson claims that all this new public transit money is meant to reduce vehicles on the Queensway.


    1. Earle Rheaume,

      That is an excellent analogy! The green bin numbers were assumed to be correct; no one at city hall was double-checking those fictional tonnage numbers, even though this was a huge multi-year/multi-million dollar city contract.

      The city has admitted that it does not even have a system to collect and analyze the data that would make such an assessment.

      Again, time for the city auditor to get involved.


  4. The city claims it’s the most cost effective solution, but as Ken’s original post pointed out, no private sector firm does this. Makes no sense. If it was “discrimination” where are the “discrimination” complaints against private companies?

    This is not about handling emergencies, this is just giving out company cars to city workers. Let’s just call it what it is.

    Stop treating tax funds like a blank cheque and start managing resources like grown ups.

    And for goodness sake don’t spend a quarter million to ask a consultant what to do here.


  5. The City of Ottawa could write a book … 1001+ way’s to wast taxpayers’ money.

    They have the cases to substantiate it.


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