Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Whitehorse Star

CITY TIGHT-LIPPED ON DISMISSAL – Christine Smith, seen at a council meeting on Sept. 19, 2016, told the Star today she did her ‘utmost’ for the city during her employment there. She received the city’s letter informing her of her fate on International Women’s Day.

City manager learned of firing through media

Christine Smith says it was through media reports on Tuesday that she learned she was fired from her position as the city’s manager.

By Stephanie Waddell on March 15, 2017

Christine Smith says it was through media reports on Tuesday that she learned she was fired from her position as the city’s manager.

In an interview at around noon today, Smith said people had approached her late Tuesday afternoon with questions about the job termination.

It was then she found media reports stating she had been fired.

At 5:10 p.m. Tuesday, the city released a statement announcing it had “revoked the appointment of Christine Smith as city manager, effective immediately.”

An update to the release this morning made it clear the firing was “without cause.”

The announcement followed a 5 p.m. special meeting of council where members had made the decision to revoke her appointment as city manager.

Prior to that, though, Smith said she received a letter, that’s now with her lawyer, on March 8 – International Women’s Day – indicating she would be losing her job.

Knowing there are specific mechanisms in place that have to be followed, she said she wanted to know what clause in the city manager bylaw would be used in terminating her title with the city.

In the nearly three years she had been with the city, she had not received any negative performance review nor been under any disciplinary action, she said.

Section 35(5) of the city manager bylaw allows the city to fire its manager “on a without-cause basis.”

Under that clause, the city must either provide six months’ notice for the first year of employment followed by a further two weeks for each completed year following or, as it will do in this case, provide pay-in-lieu equal to that amount.

“All of the city’s obligations related to the employment of the city manager and this bylaw are fully discharged and the rights of the city manager fully and fairly satisfied upon the city providing the notice or pay in lieu of notice pursuant to this provision,” the section notes.

In July 2015, council approved an increase to the city manager salary that set the pay range for the position at between $175,000 to $190,000 annually, with Smith’s salary approved to rise from $175,000 at that time to $180,000.

This morning, Smith said much of her work has focused on helping the city find ways to be more efficient. She praised city staff for their work and support to move those efforts forward.

She had been working on a plan for reorganization that would have helped save the city thousands of dollars that she will now be unable to move forward with, she said.

“I appreciate the opportunity to serve council,” Smith commented, stressing her passion for public service.

In her time with the city, Smith said, she’s proud of her work towards aligning the city’s strategic planning with the work of council and city staff.

Efforts have seen the city become more “self-aware” and move toward looking five years into the future, she said.

She would have liked to see that grow into longer-term 10- and 20- year visions, she added.

Work on asset management as well as making the city move toward a more lean (a management philosophy developed by vehicle maker Toyota) operation are also underway, she said.

“Those mechanisms we started to apply,” she said, adding she believes city staff will carry those ideas and their own good ideas forward.

Smith went on to comment: “I did my utmost for the city.”

As for whether she has any regrets, Smith said she sees things that perhaps don’t go quite right “as an opportunity” to learn.

Whenever an issue came forward, many times from citizens, she worked to address the issue.

“I love problem-solving,” she said.

Smith could not comment on the specifics of two firings made less than a year into her role which made headlines.

She noted that dismissing employees is “one of the hardest things to do.”

Anything that’s human resources-related is always extremely difficult, she said.

Rob Fendrick, now a city councillor who was elected in the October 2015 municipal election, was fired from his position as the director of corporate services.

Brian Crist was fired as the director of infrastructure and operations.

Smith confirmed at that time the firings were “completely without cause”, but within her authority to do.

At the time, she also described both former city employees as “excellent people” and, in a letter to city staff stated they had “provided long-standing service to the city ....”

The firings spurred then-city councillor Kirk Cameron to resign from council, stating it was a “necessary statement” he had to make.

Smith took on the position in April 2014 after former city manager Stan Westby had been fired in September 2013.

He had been off the job since the previous April, first on a suspension and then medical leave, before being fired.

In taking on the role, Smith said, she was looking forward to the opportunity for “more focused” work directly in the community she lives in.

Smith came to the city after a five-year stint with the Yukon government as the territory's director of community affairs, a role that saw her work with municipalities throughout the Yukon.

She had previously worked as a senior planner with the territory’s development assessment branch and, before that, as a biologist with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

While she continues looking at her options moving forward, she noted she has completed her MBA and there’s a possibility of management consulting in the future.

“That’s always an option,” she said.

Meanwhile, the city is saying little today about the sudden firing of its top official.

Tuesday’s press release notes that Linda Rapp, the city’s director of community and recreation services, will serve as acting city manager until council makes the appointment on an interim basis while recruitment is underway for the full-time role.

“City council is confident that administration will continue to maintain city operations and deliver all services to our citizens and deliver all services to our citizens,” Mayor Dan Curtis said in the statement.

“Recruitment of a new city manager will commence in a timely and efficient manner.”

The release then notes: “As this is a human resources matter, the city will not be commenting further.”

He could not be contacted today for a phone interview.

City spokeswoman Jessica Apolloni said this morning council met during a special meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday and made the decision to revoke Smith’s appointment.

The city is not providing an exact figure on how much Smith will receive in severance pay.

However, Apolloni said the city’s legal team has confirmed that section 35(5) of the city manager bylaw states, “she is entitled, in lieu of notice, to six months’ base salary for her first year of employment and thereafter two additional weeks of base salary for each completed year of employment.”

Comments (44)

Up 9 Down 11

Jonathan Colby on Mar 20, 2017 at 5:52 pm

The only thing that happened last election was that there was Dan Curtis, and nobody else, to be mayor. Maybe if you run again, Wilf, you may just clinch the ABC vote

Up 26 Down 5

Stanley Miller on Mar 19, 2017 at 12:02 am

This may or may not take place but there may be some managers who receive letters from council or even worse in next few weeks.
You cannot blame management dysfunction just on the City Manager, there are a few loose canons in upper management who are continually causing way too much grief for council.

Up 8 Down 14

Yukoner do you want to check me out on Mar 18, 2017 at 5:01 pm

I ran a short campaign for Mayor in the last election. There are things that took place during the last election. Do some digging and anyone can find out.

Up 21 Down 10

Just Say'in on Mar 18, 2017 at 12:35 am

By the placement of that fan it looks as though she may be a bit of a Hot Head. haha.

Up 33 Down 5

yukoner on Mar 17, 2017 at 7:02 pm

Thank God Wilf Carter knows it all, has done it all and is better educated than anyone. Boggles my mind how he is NOT the mayor.... sarcasm off. Ms Smith must have done something wrong, her claiming to not know what is not believable.

Up 42 Down 6

Tom W on Mar 17, 2017 at 4:26 pm

It's a start. I think the City needs to look at cleaning house with some of the department managers and fire them. How is it some of these department managers have 3 assistants to do all the work for them, and they're the ones getting paid to sit behind a desk and do nothing? That's our tax dollars not being spent properly. A review of management for every department is in order, and much more accountability for those managers, as right now they could get away with murder and not get fired.

Up 23 Down 16

Some people think an MBA gives them the skills on Mar 17, 2017 at 2:26 pm

to be City Manager. I have studied business, engineering and other post secondary education, seven years altogether. I have held senior positions in all four levels of government, including CAO, Executive Director, Director working for two municipal units in the Yukon, and four outside the Yukon. As a senior manager in both public and private sector, I have managed many infrastructure projects in water, sewage, waste management, roads, buildings, housing, land development, etc.
The best approach to managing is building a team and working with what you have, not trying, to be all things, to all people.
The City will only run properly if the proper team leader that can give direction to staff and staff know their job. Watch Bill Belleck of the New England P, build team players from nothing into great stars. City of Whitehorse have good staff but they need the leadership to support and show them what is expected in their job.
I also requested a group of questions to the City management before the last municipal election and got vague answers or no direct responses.
For example, I was told yesterday the City does not do variance statements.
Variance statements are very simple:
Municipal unit has line items of their budget by department or branch of their expenditures that shows three things, budget amount for each line item, actual and over or under. Without this how do the departments and branches know where they are at in their budgets.
This will tell the taxpayers of Whitehorse where the City Mayor and Council are spending our tax dollars especially where they have over spent.
I have asked four times for these documents but have not received them or any response.
I went to the Mayors and City Manager offices but their doors were closed and staff person stated look at the audit statement on line.
There are no variance statements in audit statements only notes and compliance which do not give tax payers the real results of the operations.
I sent a email on February 23, 2017 asking some pointed questions about the actions of the City. Some were very important questions that need to be clarified but received no answer again and the City Manager was fired shortly after that.
Taxpayers of Whitehorse deserve to know what the answers are to these questions and is there any facts behind them or are they just wrong.
By all the silence some one is hiding the truth because some of the truth and answers to these questions were already in the media during the last municipal election showing the actions of some people on council breaking the election policies.
Tax payers of the City of Whitehorse we need a public inquirer into the actions of our mayor and some Councillors and past decisions. For example, why did the cost of the combined building project go from $55 million to close to $90 million?
I can provide a long list of items to be questioned but no one in the City wants to touch them because of results! What experience does the Mayor have or former City Manager have in running a municipality on the ground. None. The two people that were fired did have the experience but the mayor wanted his own way and did not want anyone in his way seemed to be the real results. One big question, why is the cost of services going up by 4% to 6% or more a year. I asked that question to the former City Manager and got no answer.
A Public inquirer is required to look at City operations and decisions. This needs to be looked at over the last five years.
For example, the night the City Manager, got her major increase, the Mayor called the meeting to order and by passed the requirement, to have to agenda approved by council members. A staff person filling in for the City Manager who was away, tried to help the mayor, by stepping in, to point out, you need, to get the agenda approved by council first, but it never was. But the Mayor looked at her, with a not so friendly face and kept on going with the meeting. I am sure, this was fixed in the minutes of the meeting, after the meeting and the piece was some how removed from the video tap. When the final vote, to approve the major increase, for the former City Manager, the Mayor looked at me and gave me a little smile. What was the purpose of the smile, can anyone example it to residents of Whitehorse.
I was at another City of Whitehorse meeting of council meeting, when the former City Manager got up and started talking to some one in the council chambers and the meeting, had to be stopped because of her actions, while she had her discussions. Mayor did nothing about it. Are tax payers in the City at shock and owe yet. According to section 236 of the municipal act City is supposed to supply to the City residents copies of City expenditures, not hide them in combined statements that tell you nothing on the real operation of the City. The City financial statements are set up so residents can't find out how the City really spends our money. Auditors can't answer any of these questions, it has to come from the City.
Will the City provide me with the statements I want? Yes or no! If not than the Yukon Government has to provide them under their acts. If not them what?
Wilf Carter Come on resident ask where your money is been spent!

Up 22 Down 7

Jamie on Mar 17, 2017 at 2:21 pm

How is it that Ms. Smith is let go for some kind of incompetence yet the Transit manager held her job after delivering a misleading and false report to council and the people of Whitehorse in a weak attempt to dupe us into believing that magically the numbers for ridership was way up. The students were finally let on transit like in so many other places. "These numbers are incredible!" Meanwhile Whitehorse is still known as the ghost bus city.

Up 27 Down 7

Rick Rondelet on Mar 17, 2017 at 12:49 pm

YEESH - office politics that Middle School girls would ridicule

Maybe the City of WH should fire half of their managers so that the remaining half would have enough real work to do

Up 45 Down 3

nunya on Mar 16, 2017 at 9:56 pm

What goes around comes around Christine. Mr Wolsky, Brian Christ and Rob Fendrick were doing their jobs without any reprimands and no complaints. Mayor Curtis please look closer at other managers and see if they have the qualifications for the jobs they are doing. As a taxpayer I feel that people that have applied for jobs have been overlooked (even with lots of qualifications) because some managers want people that are just saying yes to everything. To bad us taxpayers have to pay for the lack of qualifications and in actions of others. I am sure Mayor Curtis you will do the right thing.

Up 36 Down 8

another opinion in the horse on Mar 16, 2017 at 5:58 pm

I read a lot of the comments posted and must add my own two cents ... first, the Mayor does not make these decisions himself, council makes these decisions. Second, Mayor and council are voted in by the residents of Whitehorse to represent all of us. When they make a decision they can't please all of us. Third, everyone brings up the high profile previous firings "Without Cause" of Mr. Crist and Mr. Fendrick, these were decisions that Ms. Smith made to build her team. However she also let go some other senior members "Without Cause", because they did not fit her "Vision".
Finally, Ms. Smith I assume was let go because she was not performing her duties to the level that was expected of her. I have had some dealings with her in the past and must admit she was not the easiest person to negotiate with, she knew very well how to dodge a bullet.
The City of Whitehorse will be better without her trying to fumble her way through managing something she could not handle or control, and as far as I am concerned, the Mayor and Council are doing a great job running the City.
I can only hope there are a few more incompetent members currently in management that will be handed their walking papers.

Up 11 Down 20

The next mayors election started a month after the last one. on Mar 16, 2017 at 4:37 pm

Dan Curtis seems to think he will win again!
What do the tax payers of the City of Whitehorse expect in their mayor?
Wilf Carter

Up 35 Down 2

Lost in the Yukon on Mar 16, 2017 at 4:03 pm

Dearest Palmgreaser: you are correct when you state the potential settlement for Mss. Smith is relatively low. The fired Deputy Minister for HSS Paddy Meade had held a lofty position in Alberta for all of a few months and received almost $2,000,000 http://www.dailyheraldtribune.com/2009/07/03/provincial-outrage-at-massive-pension-for-fired-health-officials

Fired by The Pharmacist, (and receiving another healthy package) she has been seen back in town recently sniffing around the new Liberal Government.
The COW is the minor leagues compared to YG and other governments for giving away taxpayer dollars.

Up 36 Down 4

She will be in the cabinet office on Mar 16, 2017 at 3:25 pm

or somewhere close. YTG has a weak system in recruiting management.

Up 47 Down 10

Curtis on Mar 16, 2017 at 3:08 pm

The City needs to find some serious competitor for Curtis at the next election - his two opponents ( Sidhu and Carter ) last time around were both dead-in-the-water candidates before a single ballot was cast. Let's have a serious and capable alternative to the man who goes around the City Hall offices like a man without a mission.

Up 48 Down 4

DRUM on Mar 16, 2017 at 2:19 pm

Now she knows how the two long serving City Managers felt when she fired them "Because I Can". She was a YG employee before the City - I am sure she will go back to YG with a years salary from the City to go away and sign a non-disclosure agreement to keep her mouth shut. Smoke and mirrors and politics - someone always gains lots of money!!!!!!!!!!

Up 56 Down 5

Dean Larue on Mar 16, 2017 at 1:22 pm

So much money wasted in such a small city.
(and we all have a list of things it could be better spent on)

At the end of the day the top dog has to be held responsible for this idiocy.
Hopefully there will be some new top level person running for Mayor next election

Up 27 Down 2

Been There on Mar 16, 2017 at 1:17 pm

Any Council, Cabinet or corporate Board must be able to fire its most senior staff at its discretion as this is the only lever they have to ensure their will is implemented by those they hire. The flip side is a comfortable severance. There are no jobs for life at the top end.

Walter - actually the private sector is notorious for the HUGE sums it pays out to failing CEOs at major corporations.

Up 34 Down 0

Hugh Mungus on Mar 16, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Better feather your nest while you can before the next election.

Up 45 Down 9

let's hedge the bets on Mar 16, 2017 at 12:28 pm

1. She takes the 6 months + 2 weeks - pay
2. She goes to the human rights coalition and gets paid
3. She gets a job via YG with more pay
4. she gets fired from there when the liberals get ousted and gets another pay out
5. Collects multiple pensions + benefits for the rest of her life.

Seems completely staged and planned. Especially if she claims, "On women's day they made me feel like an inferior woman."
If the City fired her without following proper protocol for giving notice; watch the payouts.

Up 57 Down 6

Hugh Mungus on Mar 16, 2017 at 11:52 am

Why drag 'International Women’s Day' into this story? And why has she hired a lawyer? Oh.......I see getting $100K in taxed payer dollars after you're fired isn't enough?

Up 30 Down 7

Gary Liddy on Mar 16, 2017 at 10:48 am

Yet another highly paid civil servant fired WITHOUT CAUSE and getting a huge severance package.
It's all so complicated.
Wnen are Ryan Leef and Wilf Carter going to explain it to us ?

Up 21 Down 35

CJ on Mar 15, 2017 at 11:44 pm

Trouble is, City of Whitehorse isn't getting a reputation that will give them tons of choice. At least Christine had Yukon experience. She left a good job for this one. Dealing with job loss mid-career is hard for anyone, hence the severance. But it does seem there's more of that schadenfreude here, than there was for the guys she fired. That bugs me. What a racket. She's well out of it.

I do think the city owes more of an explanation, with so many of these people not up to their standards.

Up 45 Down 5

Walter Nehring on Mar 15, 2017 at 10:27 pm

Ok I don't comment often but I've reached maximum irritation! Released without cause! Really? Where in private industry would you can someone for no reason and happily pay out huge money for no reason? Council met on Tuesday sat around and someone said let's can someone to create the illusion we're doing something, really? There was a cause and we COW taxpayers deserve the reason. There have been more without cause dismissals than what are in this story all with a cost. As far as her great accomplishments, wanting to make the city a more lean operation like Toyota here is a suggestion take a 50% pay cut! 180 k a year unreal.

Up 47 Down 1

City of Whitehorse has on Mar 15, 2017 at 8:18 pm

spent over $700,000, on firing staff, for no cause. What happen to the City team?
Individual team is totally dysfunctional.

Up 46 Down 7

Adam Smith on Mar 15, 2017 at 7:51 pm

I am not sure what the facts are around this dismissal but I think Ms. Smith's comments in the media do not help anyone.
They show a lack of professionalism and contempt for the city. If she was dismissed incorrectly she will be entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation. I don't need to read more about this and I have heard enough from her. Too much high school for me.

I'd rather have some insight on what is going on with the new services building and our taxes.

Up 43 Down 3

Lost in the Yukon on Mar 15, 2017 at 7:26 pm

Couple of comments:

1. Mayor hires an unqualified City Manager to fire two long serving employees who he couldn't control and then throws her under the bus. To quote The Donald "Sad".
2. Quiz ... What are the words that describe: a) getting even; and b) former Director Corporate Services?

Up 40 Down 1

PalmGreaser on Mar 15, 2017 at 6:37 pm

100K for severance is actually pretty low by some comparable metrics - City of Edmonton Manager Simon Farbrother collected a cool 800K when terminated last year after 5 years in the job. Incompetence can be rather lucrative at times.

Up 56 Down 3

jean on Mar 15, 2017 at 6:30 pm

Well it’s about time this severely under-qualified and obscenely over-paid friend of the mayor is turfed. One of the worst city managers the CoW ever had to endure.
Next step, disband the useless Sustainability Department the manager used to hire her friends.

Up 33 Down 2

iceberg on Mar 15, 2017 at 5:24 pm

Re: Nile While you may not vote liberal you appear not to realize that not only is Mayor Dan Curtis a liberal so is the city manager he just fired. Why did you think he hired her in the first place? No worries though liberals will take care of her, she gets a very healthy severance package from the City and don't be surprised to resurfaces in YTG. Lots of examples of hiring/firing back & forth between the City & YTG.

Up 75 Down 13

Pardon me? There is no wrongful dismissal here on Mar 15, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Efforts have seen the city become more “self-aware” and move toward looking five years into the future, she said.
--- she clearly can see five years into the future for the City. There is no way that she couldn't see that this dismissal was going to happen.

Unless of course she's lying

Up 54 Down 57

Nile on Mar 15, 2017 at 4:40 pm

The Mayor had to listen to his liberal party overlords. Expect the position to be filled by another liberal hack who worked closely with them on the last election.

Up 94 Down 30

Guy Tremblay on Mar 15, 2017 at 4:21 pm

The Mayor is responsible for the hiring woes at the City of Whitehorse. The blame rests on his shoulders and his alone. This is the second firing of a City manager in less than three years. Between severance for Stan Westby, Rob Fendrick, Brian Crist, and now Christine Smith, how much taxpayer money has this mayor flushed down the toilet? How much money is being spent on the MSB building that isn't even approved for funding yet? I expect the Whitehorse Star to dig deeper and do some hard journalism about how the Yukon Liberal Party is using the City of Whitehorse coffers to reward friends and allies by putting them in positions they are not qualified to carry out.

Up 48 Down 4

Shocked it wasn't sooner on Mar 15, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Fendrick, Christ, Wolsky. Remember those names Christine? They're the employees that also had no discipline or complaints yet you fired them and muzzled them from going to the papers. Of which you are happy to do. Christine Smith was working hard to create strife throughout the city. She is another perfect example of wholly unqualified arrogant people taking upper management jobs! Interesting, now we know how deep her care for costs and the taxpayer really go.

Up 28 Down 1

Hugh Mungus on Mar 15, 2017 at 4:09 pm

"Smith said much of her work has focused on helping the city find ways to be more efficient. She praised city staff for their work and support to move those efforts forward."
Well Ms Smith you just saved COW $200K in efficiencies.

Up 59 Down 23

Stanley Miller on Mar 15, 2017 at 4:01 pm

My contact with the city says no one is openly talking about what triggered this and staff are keeping their heads down because this could go much further.
The conduct of some city staff was largely unchecked by Christine. This includes poor consultation with first nations, clear examples of abusive behaviour towards the public, and a dysfunctional committee or two.

Christine’s firing is very unfortunate because mayor and council could have provided more direction rather than terminating her employment and paying another very expensive severance package.

Up 18 Down 2

There seem to be a lot more to this story on Mar 15, 2017 at 3:54 pm

than what is printed here. City Manager, never returned answers to questions from a lot of Whitehorse residents. Especially when it came to section 236 of the Yukon Municipal Act on disclosing financial operations of the City. My sense tells me some members of council wanted her gone to cover up their behavior in the municipal election. Also there has been mismanagement of spending. For example, the total estimate for the combining of City services under two roofs, was $55 million, but in fact is it came out as $90 million or more. That's $45 over run cost and would result in doubling the cost of City services in the next 12 years. Taxes would have to increase by at least 35%. Federal or the Yukon Government were not paying for a major part of the cost. City tax payers were paying it.
Then you have the City banking infrastructure funding, which is not permitted under the program and has to be spent in the years it is drawn down for projects as determined.
The First priority for the City is to reduce operating cost, cut taxes and improve services.
City Manager talks about making the City more effective is far from the truth when I talked to her. She did not know how to optimize City operations and services because she does not have the experience on the ground to do it.
There's a lot more to come out. Wilf Carter

Up 73 Down 6

iceberg on Mar 15, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Could it be that besides the obvious reasons to fire the city manager they needed to do something before facing the taxpayers at all the upcoming town hall meetings around Whitehorse?

Up 111 Down 9

Wolfe on Mar 15, 2017 at 3:52 pm

So..somewhere around 100,000.00dollars.
Let me say that again..One Hundred Thousand Dollars.

That is about what she gets for getting fired.
Not bad, not bad at all!

Hey Dan, tell me again why you are raising our taxes..!

What a joke.

Up 43 Down 0

Bud Smith on Mar 15, 2017 at 3:36 pm

GAAAAK - obscene salary and obscene severance package - the person who hired her also needs to be fired.

Up 31 Down 1

Alex Gandler on Mar 15, 2017 at 3:30 pm

So - Smith was fired "without cause" after firing 2 "excellent people" without cause - this is SO confusing.
Pray that Wilf Carter and Ryan Leef will explain it to us

Up 39 Down 5

Thomas Brewer on Mar 15, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Really? Pulling the gender card? Who cares that it was International Women's Day... that had NOTHING to do with this action, except as a flag you are trying to wave to garner support and sympathy.

Up 19 Down 8

ProScience Greenie on Mar 15, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Not at all a fan of overpaid bureaucrats or their part in the wasteful ways of the City of Whitehorse but... it is pretty low for a person to find out that they are canned by reading it in the media. Complete lack of class by mayor and council but not at all unexpected as it seems to be how they roll.

Up 32 Down 3

Willard on Mar 15, 2017 at 3:04 pm

Does this mean we can clean out that useless Sustainability department that was created by the former city manager?

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.