Another top manager let go — one of several who've left since Vision took office
On March 15th the City of Vancouver terminated "without cause" the Director of Emergency Management Kevin Wallinger, and a search to replace him has not yet been officially announced. According to the City's org chart, Emergency Management reports directly to the Office of the City Manager. Wallinger was a direct report to Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnstone before he was let go.
Wallinger was considered to be one of the most qualified people in his field when he joined the City in 2008, after working as the Director of Integrated Public Safety for the Province of British Columbia. Like the onslaught of top managers who've either been fired or left the City prematurely, Wallinger was hired prior to Vision Vancouver forming government. Not having Vision's official seal of approval has proved to be a career killer for many at City Hall.
News that Wallinger had been fired shook not only his colleagues at the City, but also those among regional emergency preparedness departments. City of Richmond's Manager of Emergency Programs Deborah Procter stated that she was "very surprised" when she heard the news Wallinger was no longer working for Vancouver. "His leaving is a loss to the entire region," says Procter. "Kevin was a leader amongst his peers. I'd describe him as being very capable. He'll be a hard person to replace."
Regarding Wallinger's dismissal Procter commented, "it's unfortunate." She said that Vancouver is a major partner in regional emergency planning, and the loss of a key figure such as Wallinger impacts regional stakeholders.
The City's website describes the Emergency Management Department responsibilities as follows:
Disasters, both natural and man made, are unpredictable as to time, location, nature and severity. Every municipality is susceptible to disaster. When it occurs, the City can offer leadership, help and information. The City places a high priority on emergency planning so that it can respond efficiently, effectively and economically to any disaster situation.
Interestingly, it's not acts of God that Emergency Management are only involved in dealing with. Some disasters are caused by politicians seeking to prove Vancouver is not a no-fun city. Emergency planning officials were involved during preparations for last year's hockey fan zones, and continue to be involved in planning for 2012 playoff events. Last year, City Caucus made reference to an internal email from the City Engineer that mentioned Wallinger and other staff preparing for a Canucks Stanley Cup parade.
It was the 1994 Stanley Cup riots that triggered a review of emergency planning, after communications equipment failed first responders trying to regain control:
In the spring of 1994, the Vancouver Canucks extended their playoff run into the Stanley Cup finals. Following the seventh game of the final, the Stanley Cup riots took place in downtown Vancouver, requiring mobilization of several emergency services organizations, including the Vancouver Police and Fire departments, the RCMP and BC Ambulance. Following the disturbance, it was determined that the inability of these emergency responders to communicate with one another was a major obstacle to effectively handling the crowds.
Perhaps more than any other single event, the Stanley Cup riots focused attention on the ability of emergency services in the region to handle emergency situations.
Preparing for emergencies has been deemed a top priority of the City for over a decade. However, like other departments, Emergency Management faced a three per cent cut to its funding for 2012. The department has also been required to fund CCTV cameras set up during major events like the Stanley Cup fan zones and annual fireworks festival, drawing down on other resources.
City Caucus has contacted the City of Vancouver for answers to the following questions**:
- Why hasn't the City released this information publicly?
- Does the City have any concerns it can share about how the department was being managed?
- When will the position be posted so a replacement can be hired?
- What risks does the City face by losing someone with Mr. Wallinger's experience?
We received the following response:
While we do not discuss specific personnel matters, we can confirm Mr. Wallinger has left his position with the City. Over the coming weeks, we will take steps to identify a new director of emergency management.
In the meantime, the program is being managed by a very experienced emergency manager who is supported by other emergency specialists, the deputy city manager, and in his absence, the city manager, as well the very capable public safety and emergency services personnel across the City.
Wendy Stewart I Assistant Director
Corporate Communications I City of Vancouver
UPDATE: City Caucus has learned that the news of Wallinger's firing was being kept under wraps. Members of city council and several key personnel have contacted us to say that our report was the first they heard about Wallinger's firing. Our questions** to the City Manager's office stand. Why the attempt to hide this?
– post by Mike