British Columbia

Prince George, B.C., city manager leaves job following increased scrutiny over cost overruns, pay

In a release late Friday, the city said council and Kathleen Soltis had reached a "mutual agreement" to end her employment contract.

Kathleen Soltis and council have reached a 'mutual agreeement' to end employment, city says

Kathleen Soltis is departing her role as city manager of Prince George in northern B.C. (City of Prince George)

Prince George's city manager is leaving her job following increased scrutiny of cost overruns and benefits packages for senior employees at city hall.

In a release late Friday, the city said council and Kathleen Soltis had reached a "mutual agreement" to end her employment contract.

Soltis had been with the city for 34 years and was city manager since 2015.

In recent months there had been increased scrutiny of Soltis following the revelation that budgetary overruns on four construction projects had cost the city $13.4M since 2017.

There have also been continued questions about benefits packages for Soltis and other senior managers at city hall since the Prince George Citizen newspaper filed a Freedom of Information request revealing she and eight other exempt staff received up to $235.72 an hour for working overtime during the 2017 wildfire season, when the city took in more than 10,000 evacuees from neighbouring communities. 

More recently, Prince George Citizen editor Neil Godbout wrote about Soltis' latest pay increases and called for council to hold her and other senior manager's "truly accountable for repeated errors costing taxpayers millions of dollars."

Following that editorial, first-term Coun. Kyle Sampson proposed an "objective look" at the city's compensation policies for non-union staff, particularly on the issue of overtime. The resolution was passed at council's most recent meeting.

All of this came about as the city is struggling with budget shortfalls due to COVID-19.

However, Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall denies Soltis' departure is connected to these issues.

"I'll go back to what we said that this was a mutually agreed on decision," he said. "Not COVID or benefit-related or anything like that.... Ms. Soltis has done great work in this community."

Hall said he didn't expect the city to seek a replacement for Soltis until 2021. In the meantime, administrative services manager Walter Babicz has been named acting city manger with planning and development manager Ian Wells as his deputy.


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About the Author

Andrew Kurjata

CBC Prince George | @akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is an award-winning journalist covering Northern British Columbia for CBC Radio and cbc.ca, situated in unceded Lheidli T'enneh territory in Prince George. You can email him at andrew.kurjata@cbc.ca.

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