Manitoba

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman talks police headquarters, 311 response times

​Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman acknowledges the allegations in an RCMP search warrant unsealed this week are serious, but on Tuesday, he declined to say what action the city might take, if any.

Brian Bowman says search warrant had ‘serious allegations,’ declines to comment further

​Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman acknowledges the allegations in an RCMP search warrant unsealed this week are serious, but on Tuesday, he declined to say what action the city might take, if any. (CBC)

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman acknowledges the allegations in an RCMP search warrant unsealed this week are serious, but on Tuesday, he declined to say what action the city might take, if any.

"It's important to remind listeners that these are allegations that are contained in the warrant. They are serious allegations," said Bowman. "We'll see which allegations are proven and go from there."

RCMP information in a court application for a search warrant was unsealed on Monday, revealing allegations that former mayor Sam Katz received 10 to 12 personal cheques from Caspian Construction, the contractor at the centre of a police investigation into the construction of the city's new police headquarters.

Caspian employees said cheques were issued to Katz around 2013, Const. Marc Allard said in an affidavit used to obtain a warrant to search Caspian's offices in December 2014.

Katz told CBC the cheques were for Jets tickets or concert tickets.

Fraud and forgery allegations were also made in court documents tied to the case, including allegations that invoices were said to be "improperly associated to the WPS building when in fact the work was either done at other city properties, private properties or was not done at all."

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

'Let the police conduct their important work'

"There has been an audit on the police headquarters and those recommendations are being implemented, but any further steps, we need to first let the RCMP do their very important work," Bowman said Tuesday. "Once they're completed, we'll be able to decide on what steps may need to be taken."

Bowman wouldn't say whether the city would begin to review other construction contracts.

"There is a lot of work we have been doing over the last year. Everything from an integrity commissioner … changes to project management in terms of openness and transparency and new council liaison positions on project management, so the city has been doing a lot, including implementing the recommendations of the police headquarters audit," he said. "When it comes to specific allegations right now that have not been proven in court and are subject to an active police investigation, the responsible thing to do is to let the police conduct their important work, await the results of their investigation and then we'll go from there."

'I don't like the idea of just lowering standards'

Bowman also spoke about the time the city takes to deal with service requests made to 311.

Last week, CBC reported the City of Winnipeg's average response times to 311 calls for help miss internal targets in nearly half of Winnipeg's service request categories.

In one example, it took the city 12 months to repair a sidewalk in Point Douglas.

"311 has been something that there's been wide commentary [on] over the years, and I think that that's something we should welcome so we can strive to do a lot better with the resources that we do have available," said Bowman. "In terms of 311, obviously we want to continue to review service level standards and continually look for ways to improve the service for all of us."

Bowman said the staffing levels of the department are subject to constant review but said adding staff would be a budget discussion.

He also said he wasn't keen to adjust the city's target response times.

"I don't like the idea of just lowering standards," he said. "I think what we should be focusing in on is how do we meet the city's own standards? That would be the starting place rather than reducing the service level expectations."

He did say there may be problems with multiple calls coming into the system for a single complaint (like a pothole) and only the initial calls being "closed out," creating false wait times in the system.

"The reason we're having this discussion is because of our efforts to create the open data portal and to get a lot more information out in the public realm so we can have these important discussions on, 'How do we improve service levels for our citizens?'" he said.

Bowman also briefly touched on accessibility, saying the city does need to look at ways to make the access advisory committee more effective.

"I wouldn't rule anything out in terms of good ideas we can implement," he said. 

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