City manager dismisses St. John's morale complaints

The city manager of St. John's has suggested that sour grapes may have something to with concerns about dropping morale at City Hall.

Bob Smart makes no apologies for 'hands-on' management style

St. John's city manager Bob Smart dismisses complaints that worker morale is low 27:40

The city manager of St. John's has suggested that sour grapes may have something to do with concerns about poor morale at City Hall. Bob Smart also said he stands by his direct style of management.

Smart spoke with reporters on Thursday, amid reports that morale problems have been reported among senior managers and through the rest of the municipal civil service.

"The suggestion that there is widespread and deep-seated morale problems here at city hall, in my view, is highly and grossly exaggerated," Smart said.

Smart, who designed an overhaul of the city's top management positions this spring, acknowledged that "pockets of dissatisfaction" in the civil service are to be expected. He added, though, that he has not heard much if anything to indicate that there are serious problems at city hall.

"We haven't heard that from the union leadership," he said. "These people are not shy and they have no problem with getting on the phone when they have an issue with me."

Several sources have told CBC News, however, that there are significant problems at city hall, particularly among the top ranks.

Robin King, the city's transportation engineer, confirmed that he had resigned his position.

Coun. Sheilagh O'Leary said the restructuring is connected to King's departure, and that there may be more.

Without discussing specifics, Smart said that discord may be related to staff who did not obtain new management positions created in the new regime.

"Inevitably in that process, only one person gets the job and there's five or six who didn't, and those five or six may be disappointed or dissatisfied with the outcome," he said.

Smart said while his management style may rub some people the wrong way, he will not be changing it.

"Any number of people in this organization, at any number of levels in this organization would probably say, 'Yeah, Bob is a lot more hands on,' " he said.

"If you went back and asked the crowd in the Department of Transportation, where I used to be deputy minister, they'd probably tell you the same thing. But I mean that's my management style. I need to be engaged."

Smart, who was hired as city manager in 2011, said the restructuring was necessary to achieve long-term goals and to improve services for residents.

He said the plan had the "full support" of members of city council, and that the jobs of most city employees are not changing at all.