Manitoba·CITY HALL

City interviewed nearly 70 employees during inspectors investigation

As part of an investigation into allegations building inspectors are slacking off on the job the City of Winnipeg has interviewed nearly 70 employees, a department head said Tuesday.

Some employees offered valid reasons for irregular work hours, department says

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

As part of an investigation into allegations building inspectors are slacking off on the job the City of Winnipeg has interviewed nearly 70 employees, a department head said Tuesday.

John Kiernan, director of planning, property and development, told its committee each employee was asked about 40 questions by members of Winnipeg's labour relations and human resources department.

The interviews shed light on why some employees worked irregular hours but not all, Kiernan said.

"Some start at 7 a.m. some start at 8:30 a.m. and there's a range within there," he said.

Others, he said, have permission to conduct personal business during lunch breaks — such as workouts at the gym.

"There is context coming to light around some of the allegations, but we absolutely don't want to bury our heads on this," he said. "There does seem to be reasonable cause for further investigation."

On April 4, the city's top bureaucrat, Doug McNeil, ordered an internal investigation after the Winnipeg Free Press published the results of a private investigation  financed by an unknown group that tailed 17 city building inspectors. CBC received the package of information but has not verified any of the material.

Kiernan did not offer an explanation why private detectives tracked some employees to Costco or lengthy meal breaks at licensed restaurants.

He acknowledged in some cases, investigators have not received "sufficient" answers for all the questions they have and need to dig deeper into employee claims. Investigators will have access to car logs and mileage, as well as inspection reports to verify they were working while on the clock. 

After the investigation is complete, it's possible the public will never know whether any employees were penalized or fired to protect privacy. 

"Some of this will remain confidential," Kiernan said.

Coun. Brian Mayes, chair of the property and planning committee, is satisfied with the progress of the investigation.

"It sounds like they're getting after it pretty seriously," he said.

Before the allegations came to light, Mayes said, he rarely heard issues with wait times for property inspections — in fact, he said, the data showed wait times were improving.

"Occasionally you get someone calling up saying 'my restaurant opens and we haven't heard back.' I could probably come up with a half dozen examples like that but by and large no, this wasn't something people had been coming to me with."

Mayes, city councillor for St. Vital, has served on the committee since November 2018.

On Thursday Mayes and other members of city council will vote on a motion to request a written report about the allegations facing building inspectors.

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.