CAO says former public works director 'didn't meet my expectations'

Winnipeg's top civil servant said former public works director Lester Deane failed to meet expectations and is no longer a city employee.

Lester Deane no longer with the city; Mayor won't say whether their relationship was a factor in departure

Former public works director Lester Deane showed reporters his Tesla two weeks ago, after council's public works committee voted to look into installing quick-charge stations for electric cars. He is no longer employed by the city. (Bartley Kives/CBC)

Winnipeg's top civil servant said former public works director Lester Deane failed to meet expectations and is no longer a city employee.

Deane, who was removed from his position at the top of the public works department last week, is no longer with the city in any capacity, chief administrative officer Doug McNeil said Wednesday.

McNeil would not say whether Deane resigned or was terminated, but hinted at unspecified performance issues.

"I have high expectations for my senior management team, in terms of how they conduct themselves, how they lead their departments and how they achieve the objectives of my priorities for the City of Winnipeg," McNeil said at city hall following an executive policy committee meeting 

"In the case of Mr. Deane, he just didn't meet my expectations any more."

McNeil said he could not go into further detail about Deane's performance, stating many factors led to what the CAO described as a difficult decision.

"I do not take this stuff lightly," the CAO said.

He would not say whether Deane's relationship with Mayor Brian Bowman was a factor in the decision. In November, the mayor said Deane was inaccurate in stating it would take two years to reopen Portage and Main to pedestrians, one of Bowman's top political priorities.​

"Certainly people in the higher levels need to have political acumen, but at the end of the day, the mayor and council are only responsible for the statutory officers," said McNeil, referring to the city staffers hired directly by council — the CAO, the chief financial officer, the city clerk and the city auditor.

In recent months, Bowman also criticized public works for the manner in which the department sole-sourced the hiring of a consultant. The mayor also criticized the city for losing track of a parcel of land it needed to purchase to make way for the Waverley underpass.

Neither McNeil nor Bowman would say whether either those files or Portage and Main factored into the decision to part ways with Deane.

Lester Deane no longer director of public works

6 years ago
Duration 1:40
Lester Deane no longer director of public works
The mayor refused to say whether his relationship with Deane factored into the former director's departure.

"Certainly when it comes to Portage and Main, you're talking about something that happened last year," Bowman said. "The chief administrative officer is responsible for human-resources matters. I respect that responsibility and that role."

Deane served as public works director from January 2016 until last week. He has not responded to requests for comment.

McNeil appointed Jim Berezowsky acting public works director last week.


Bartley Kives

Senior reporter, CBC Manitoba

Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba.