Manitoba·CITY HALL

Initial interviews in probe of allegations against Winnipeg's building inspectors nearly complete: CAO

Investigators are nearly finished a first round of interviews to suss out whether allegations city building inspectors conducted personal business on the taxpayers' dime are true, says the head of Winnipeg's public service.

Staffers shopped, took extended breaks while on job, private investigation alleged

Surveillance video claiming to show city inspections staff shopping during business hours was submitted to CBC Manitoba but has not been independently verified. (Submitted)

Investigators are nearly finished a first round of interviews to suss out whether allegations city building inspectors conducted personal business on the taxpayers' dime are true, says the head of Winnipeg's public service.

Chief administrative officer Doug McNeil told reporters Tuesday an investigation led by Michael Jack, Winnipeg's chief corporate services officer, has nearly finished questioning dozens of inspectors as part of the probe.

"We are going far and wide in terms of interviews," McNeil said.

"If there are a few that aren't putting in that hard day's work, then it makes us all look bad," the long-time public servant said earlier.

On April 4, McNeil launched an internal investigation after the Winnipeg Free Press published the results of a private investigation that tailed 17 city building inspectors. It was financed by an unknown group.

CBC received the package of information but has not verified any of the material. 

The investigators alleged many of the inspectors engaged in non-work activities during business hours, including taking extended breaks, running errands such as shopping or simply going home.

Despite public requests for the same information media outlets received, McNeil says the city still has not seen the results of the private investigation or a list of employee names associated with the alleged wrongdoing.

"We don't know who's exactly being accused because the investigative report hasn't been shared with us," he said.

Mayor urges group call ombudsman

If the group of unnamed individuals behind the private investigation is uncomfortable contacting the city directly, Mayor Brian Bowman urged them Tuesday to contact Manitoba's ombudsman.

Under the Ombudsman Act, the ombudsman can investigate municipalities. People making complaints can remain anonymous. 

"It is an independent, third-party organization,that has "significant powers to investigate," Bowman said

Earlier Tuesday, a motion to make results of the city's internal investigation public within 30 days of completion was unanimously approved by Bowman's executive policy committee.

The motion was introduced by Coun. Janice Lukes (Waverly West) at the Assiniboia community committee. On Tuesday, Lukes said office has received multiple calls from residents concerned about the allegations facing city property inspectors.

"I've also received calls from employees who shared stories with me of nepotism … and rather shocking perspectives," Lukes said. "I've told them to call the tip line," she added, referring to Winnipeg's fraud and waste hotline

Even if the allegations of wrongdoing are proven false, Lukes says, long wait times for property inspections show the department has problems.

About the Author

Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Winnipeg. Before moving to Manitoba in 2015, she worked as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at laura.glowacki@cbc.ca.

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