City investigating allegations workers conducting personal business during work hours
Private surveillance appearing to show property inspectors has not been independently verified by CBC
The city has launched an investigation into allegations some city employees are slacking on the job, according to an email sent by Winnipeg's top civil servant Thursday night.
In an email sent to Mayor Brian Bowman and city councillors, CAO Doug McNeil wrote: "I suspect many of you have already been made aware of the Winnipeg Free Press article posted online this evening, which alleges some City staff may not be conducting themselves appropriately during working hours."
In an article first posted online Thursday night, the Winnipeg Free Press reported that surveillance conducted by a private investigation firm suggests some inspectors with the City of Winnipeg's planning, property and development department were taking long breaks and attending to personal matters like shopping during work hours.
CBC News received a package with the same information, which included surveillance video and photos, but has not independently verified any of the material.
In the email obtained by CBC News, McNeil said he wasn't jumping to conclusions, but the allegations weren't being taken lightly.
"I want to assure you that we will be conducting a thorough investigation into these allegations, and we will keep you apprised of our findings," he said.
McNeil also said allegations like this are upsetting to members of council, taxpayers and city employees who work hard.
On Friday, chief corporate services officer Michael Jack said the media report was the first the city has heard of the allegations, but an investigation will now begin.
"We were shocked — pretty horrified, actually. And again, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt until we draw our own conclusions, if these allegations are true, Winnipeggers deserve better and we will demand better," Jack said.
Jack said there are records of what property and planning department staff do on their shifts, so those records will be examined as part of the investigation. But he said the 57 staff who do inspections for property and planning use their own cars, so GPS trackers in city vehicles won't be part of the investigation.
"We have a good workforce. We have a lot of great inspectors," Jack said.
"In general, with a workforce of 10,000, we're always going to hear the occasional complaint — sometimes merited, sometimes not. It can be a matter of perception sometimes," he said.
But "in terms of this — the nature, the scope, the volume of this large complaint — I haven't seen something like this before."
Property, planning and development committee chair Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) said it's alarming that "someone is so upset that they go out and hire a private investigator. That troubles me."
"Let's find out the underlying facts here and then yeah, I would want some accountability out of this," he said.