AMVIC director acted like 'tyrant,' internal draft review says

​An internal Service Alberta review of the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council expressed serious concern about the welfare of the council’s staff under the administration of executive director John Bachinski.

Review says John Bachinski, Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council director, bullied staff

An internal draft review found AMVIC staff were demoralized and afraid under John Bachinski’s management. (CBC)

An internal Service Alberta review of the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council expressed serious concern about the welfare of the council's staff under the administration of executive director John Bachinski.

"The executive director acts as a tyrant and dictator who interprets any question of decision, direction or process as disobedience and responds with intimidation, veiled threats of firing, or general bullying and belittling," Service Alberta investigators say they were told by several staff, according to the review, a draft copy of which has been obtained by CBC News.

Bachinski is out of the province and unavailable for an interview but in an emailed statement he said, "a recent employee engagement survey done by a third party consultant found that for the most part, employees at AMVIC are happy and feel they receive support and guidance from their managers."

The Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC) licenses and regulates auto dealers and repair shops, and investigates consumer complaints. It is supposed to serve as the self-regulating watchdog over the industry on behalf of the public. It operates under the purview of Service Alberta, which appoints a board to oversee it.

As executive director, Bachinski not only directs the administration of the organization, he also adjudicates complaints against auto dealers and repair shops.

Demoralized staff

The review, by senior Service Alberta investigators Dave Vicen and Sean Seville, found staff were demoralized and afraid under Bachinski's management.

"The substantial number and highly unfavourable nature of the comments relating to the executive director were a tremendous concern to the interviewers," the review states. "The overall employee wellness of the AMVIC investigators in Calgary and Edmonton was of grave concern.

"Additional comments specifically referenced the executive director, in that staff felt intimidated, alienated, undervalued, mistrusted and demoralized," the review states. "Of most serious concern were the eight individuals who indicated that staff were treated very poorly by management, specifically the executive director.

"When asked for examples, the individuals cited incidents where staff members were mocked, berated or humiliated in front of other staff," the review states. "AMVIC staff members have received 'not so subtle' insinuations that any resistance to change or criticism of management would result in employee termination."

When staff were asked by Vicen and Seville how they would change AMVIC, "three indicated they would immediately fire the executive director."

CBC News has also obtained a summary of the review which was provided to the AMVIC board. The summary contains no references to Bachinski's treatment of staff, although it does detail his interference in investigations.

The summary said the rate of staff turnover at AMVIC is "nine times the rate the Conference Board of Canada states is reasonable.

"This is indicative of a core systemic problem."  

Interference in investigations

On March 28, the CTV investigative program W5 posted what appears to be the same copy of the draft review obtained by CBC News, but did not report on Bachinski's behaviour toward AMVIC staff.

Wayne Paulsen, chair of the AMVIC board did not respond to an interview request. But in an emailed statement, he said the board has hired a consultant to help address the report's recommendations and it will provide a plan of action to the minister for Service Alberta by mid-May.

As for Bachinski, Paulsen said, "the board of directors and myself have full confidence in the abilities of our executive director."

The draft review also determined Bachinski either directly or indirectly involved himself in "investigations, inspections or licensing.

"The large majority of investigators indicated that they are frequently provided direction either directly or implied, as to how to proceed with an investigation," the review found.

"Those directions suggested the appropriate outcome of an investigation and/or personal opinions relating to the character or operations of an individual or business."

The review found Bachinski's interference and direction of investigations to be inappropriate and recommended he immediately be told not to have any further involvement in investigations.

The Service Alberta review also found Bachinski improperly issued what amounted to "a form of successive penalty." Bachinski issued some of these penalties in relation to what he considered to be misleading advertisements, the review said.

The review found sometimes the "investigations" contained only an advertisement, sometimes pulled from a newspaper, and "a very brief indication of a prior warning by AMVIC."

But despite this, the dealership would be directed to pay a fee of $400 or $500 or face a review.

"It is also widely known throughout the industry that the 'review' would be conducted and adjudicated by the director (as delegated), who already issued both the letter and the undertaking," the review states.

Improper fines

The review contains a letter from Bachinski to a car dealer asking the dealer to pay $400.

"The dollar amount indicated in the letter is not associated to investigation cost recovery," the review states. "In fact it is identified as a 'monetary penalty.' The Fair Trading Act does not allow for the imposition of monetary penalties."

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said he found it troubling that Bachinski was controlling AMVIC like his own organization.

"I think a total overhaul needs to be done," Jean said during a campaign stop in Edmonton.

"This is a bureaucratic situation that is not fulfilling its mandate and I would expect that this particular organization needs a complete audit, not just on performance but also on what they have been doing over the past few years."

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