Winnipeg CAO under fire from city councillors

At least one Winnipeg city councillor wants Phil Sheegl to resign as chief administrative officer, while others want to reel in the power of the CAO and administration.

Some want his duties reduced, others want Phil Sheegl to resign

Some Winnipeg city councillors are demanding the resignation of Phil Sheegl as chief administrative officer, while others want his powers reined in. 1:55

Winnipeg city Coun. Paula Havixbeck wants to reel in the power of the city's CAO Phil Sheegl and administration.

Coun. Russ Wyatt, though, has gone much further and issued a written statement saying he wants Sheegl to resign.

Russ Wyatt

Russ Wyatt letter

I have never seen our senior administration in the state of mismanagement as I have seen today.

At best, segments of our very senior bureaucracy now represent a system of well organized and sophisticated incompetence.

The CAO, Mr. Phil Sheegl, should immediately resign. Failing that, he should be dismissed and his contract terminated.

As a member of Council, I have lost all confidence in his ability to carry out the significant duties of the chief administrative officer.

I recognize that I was one of five city councillors who, only 17 months ago, voted against Mr. Sheegl’s appointment as the CAO. However, I must stress, that no one more than I wanted him to succeed in the capacity of CAO and prove me wrong.

It is therefore with a heavy heart and deep regret that I must now publically [sic] call for his resignation. The responsibility and duty will befall to city council to rise to new levels of leadership at this time.

Wyatt has been unavailable for interviews. In his letter, he refers to the city's senior bureaucracy as "a system of well organized and sophisticated incompetence."

Meanwhile, Havixbeck and fellow Coun. Devi Sharma are drafting a motion to present at the city council meeting on Wednesday.

It would mean property decisions would have to be OK'd by city committees. It comes on the heels of controversial land swap deals involving firehalls.

Havixbeck says councillors face the public on these issues and the motion would put accountability back in the hands of those politicians.

"The intent [is]to avoid similar kinds of scenerios from going forward that we've seen over the past few months. So I think it's a good step forward that puts council in a positive light," Havixbeck said.

"To put the accountability back with the elected officials where it should be, because we are the ones that face people daily about some of these municipal buildings and changes that go on with them."

The city's administration, headed by Sheegl, has been pushed under a bright spotlight recently, sparked primarily by the firehall controversy which is undergoing an outside review.

A tentative deal had been struck by city administration to flip two abandoned fire halls and some land over to Shindico Realty in exchange for property on Taylor Avenue, where a new fire-paramedic station has already been built.

Details of the land swap began to emerge after Shindico advertised a lease on one of the former fire halls, located on Grosvenor Avenue, even though the deal had not been finalized.

In September, Mayor Sam Katz ordered a financial review of the land deal, despite repeated assurances from city officials — Sheegl included — that proper procedures were followed.

Arizona property

Katz and Sheegl also had the attention of the media this month when CBC News broke a story about the mayor buying an Arizona company from the CAO.

The transaction of March 29, 2012, did not appear on the mayor's statement of assets and interests that is required to be filed under Manitoba's Municipal Council Conflict of Interest Act.

Katz claimed the city clerk ruled he didn't have to disclose the company transfer because Duddy Enterprises, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, is a dormant "shell company" that currently transacts no business.

However, a deal between the mayor and the city's top bureaucrat shouldn't be kept from the public record, said critics.

The fallout prompted Katz to sell the company back to Sheegl to "get closure" on the issue and clear the air of controversy.

Another question surrounding administrative decision-making surrounds cost overruns on a new fire hall under construction on Portage Avenue, pushing the $5.8-million budget ever higher.

The size of the fire hall near the Route 90 and Portage cloverleaf has expanded by 3,500 square feet since the construction and design plans were tendered, from 10,500 square feet to 14,000 square feet.

Katz has said he doesn't know who ordered changes to the building's size, or what is planned for the extra space.