Ballem to City staff: use FOI if you want to know

Need to know what's happening at The Hall? Try FOI
Try FOI, says Vancouver’s City Manager. Flickr photo by only alice

I’ve just stepped in from some rare weekday gardening when I caught this memo to City staff from City Manager Penny Ballem posted on Frances‘ site. Aside from all the gloom on City Hall’s hiring freeze and "tight" budgets (except for the police dept., which Daniel has been pointing out lately), the most interesting comments in Ballem’s memo are that she’s defending against "media distortion" of her hiring CFO Patrice Impey with 20 years of seniority [comments added]:

Some of the coverage by the media [aka] of her terms of employment misrepresented the facts.The terms and conditions of Patrice’s employment [giving her 20 years seniority after zero time served] were reviewed and approved by HR and Council and are directly aligned with the pay scale, vacation and benefits routinely available in the organization for anyone in her position.

Given that no one else got the CFO’s job, it’s a little rich of Penny to make this sound like it was a "routine" arrangement. But you can judge for yourself and read our past post on this topic.

The funniest sidebar to the Ballem memo (which is basically telling everyone at The Hall, "Suck it up, Buttercup, times are tough") is her assertion that there is a "high level of transparency and scrutiny" under her watch.

In cases where severance has been paid by the City, this information is available to anyone requesting it under the procedures of the FOI legislation. In addition, the City routinely reports the number of severances paid out in any year when we report our statement of financial information at year end.

So, memo to staff: if you want to know what’s going on here at your workplace, you have to submit a freedom of information request, or wait for the "routine" reports at year end.

Really? What employee would file an internal FOI in their workplace? Maybe someone who didn’t want to keep their job very long. Such is the state of openness and transparency under the Vision Council, that the City Manager practically taunts even staff to try and find out more about their decision-making.

What it does guarantee is that will continue to be busy for some time. You can continue to support our search for the facts by supporting our FOI fund. Just click the PayPal donation button on the right hand side at

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