City hall morale just fine, O'Keefe says
Mayoral opponent cites resignation, warns others could follow suit
St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe is dismissing concerns that there is a morale problem with the municipal civil service.
Multiple sources at city hall tell CBC News that low morale has been settling in among city staff, with a restructuring that was introduced in May cited as a key reason.
Robin King, the city's transportation engineer, confirmed to CBC News that he has resigned after a 22-year career with the city.
Coun. Sheilagh O'Leary — who is challenging O'Keefe in September's municipal election — said dissatisfaction is also an issue with rank-and-file workers.
"I find that the morale is extremely low right now," O'Leary said in an interview.
"I know change can be difficult, but I think that you have to be very respectful of your staff and if you want productivity from your city workers, you have to treat them right."
The restructuring plan consolidated the chain of command in the municipal civil service, with most staff and services now coming under five departments.
O'Keefe — who is also competing in the municipal election against mental health advocate Geoff Chaulk — said if there are rumblings of low morale among staff, he is not hearing from them.
"Change is not easy, and in fact change after a long period of time required adjustment and can be very, very difficult for some people," he said.
O'Keefe said the revamped management system is designed to improve services for residents.
"Secondly, we wanted to facilitate, improve and make more flexible the whole area of development and economic growth," O'Keefe said.
Development has often been an area of controversy with the city and its staff. In March, CBC News disclosed that city staff dropped references to various concerns about former premier Danny Williams' Glencrest real estate proposal.
O'Leary said she is concerned that other staff may decide to leave the city if morale does not improve.
"Now we've got a resignation on the books and they did cite the reorganization as the main reason they are leaving," she said.
"I think we're going to see some more."