The City of Winnipeg Chief Operating Officer Deepak Joshi has been appointed the interim chief administrative officer after Phil Sheegl stepped down from the position on Thursday.
A damning report implicated Sheegl in what it called a poorly managed fire hall land swap deal that cost taxpayers over $18 million.
Councillors were tasked with finding an interim replacement for Sheegl on Tuesday morning, when Joshi was suggested.
Major concerns about using Joshi as a temporary CAO were aired by a number of councillors, including John Orlikow, who pointed out Joshi was implicated in the mishandling of the land deal.
"The public has lost faith in city council, and how do we respond? We're going to appoint someone who was named in the report to be the CAO," said Orlikow.
The report noted Joshi was appointed by Sheegl himself in 2011.
"Mr. Deepak Joshi is named in this [report]. He sat there and told us there was nothing wrong," said councillor Paula Havixbeck."There's something really wrong!"
Some councillors suggested Dave Wardrop, the head of Winnipeg Transit, would be a better man for the temporary job.
But Mayor Sam Katz attempted to downplay concerns about Joshi, saying anyone who filled the role would seek guidance from Joshi anyway.
"Let's all be honest with each other. Mr. Deepak Joshi would still be pulling the strings. They'd be going to him for every single decision," Katz told councillors.
Joshi sat directly behind Katz while he argued for Joshi being the best person for the interim position.
"We need somebody," said Katz, who added Joshi wasn't involved in the fire hall deals.
The Ernst and Young report tells a different story. It says Joshi was made fully aware of the mismanaged fire hall land swap deal as it was happening.
"Both the CAO and the COO were informed by the Chief WFPS of the specifics of the land exchange," the report reads. Later, it says, "The CAO, COO and Legal Services were aware that Taylor - Station #12 was being constructed on land the city did not own."
Despite the concerns, Coun. Justin Swandel said Joshi had the skills and the knowledge to do the job, urging his councillors to vote in favour of Joshi.
"Let's stop looking like idiots," Swandel told his fellow councillors.
The vote was part of a special council meeting in the wake of the fire hall land swap audit release on Monday, and Joshi was appointed acting CAO by a vote of 11-5.
Katz said the city will now "do a thorough search" for the next permanent CAO.
In the mean time, councillors have voted to have the report revisited by its external authors, Ernst and Young. They want interviews with all members of council added to the report, despite the fact the report clearly stated the deal was deliberately kept from councillors until after it was well underway.Competing interests: A history of Sam Katz’s questionable business deals