Vancouver fires Director of Emergency Management (UPDATED)

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

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  • Thought of The Day

    “There’s no place like City Hall! There’s no place like City Hall! There’s no place like City Hall! … for some.”

    I got it!
    What Vancouver’s City Hall needs is… more Dorothy!

    and a few drops of water, in a bucket, I think. :/

    I’ve been waiting for this piece of information to come out for some time, as I wasn’t about to spill the ‘good Vision news’… too complicated.
    I’m glad you did it Mike!

    The foul smell enveloping Vancouver these days, is unmistakable, as I said before… Robertson’s Riot trashed this City in 2011, all while Police Chief Chu admired it from the sides, City Manager Ballem barked at the moon, and the Mayor asked if he could call a friend… as he was preparing for the “Who Wants To Spend A Million Dollars” on “Occupy Vancouver”?

    Long story, short… the Director of Planning gets to be fired; and right after knighting KQ-umber with a new Directorial title… was the Director of Emergency Management’s time to go.

    All people that voted for this Vision gang, must remember this saying: “No good deed, remains unpunished!”

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

    • Terry M

      Glisse, I lové you man!
      Mike, gréât reporting!
      Ballem and gang needs to go.

    • West End Gal

      Thank you for saying that Glissando. Absolutely, somebody needs to run the witches out of town, before it’s too late! I would love to hear from the fired manager. As long we the taxpayers are paying their salaries and severance packages I think it’s their duty to bring light to this issue. Don’t you think? Btw, I’m waiting for word from Brent Toderain as well!

  • Brilliant

    Given that they haven’t hired a new Director of Planning yet, not holding my breath on how fast this position is filled. Is Frau Ballem running everything directly now? God help us if the Mayor is!

  • Paul T.

    Wow, what timing. Bravo Vision Bravo.

    Last year the Canucks playoff run ended with a riot. So what do they decide to do, just a few short weeks before the Canucks start down that road again….? FIRE THE DIRECTOR OF EMERGENCY PLANNING? Makes PERFECT sense!

    We live in Vancouver and this makes us crazy.

  • Bobh

    It is Alice in Wonderland time in Vancouver.

  • Penny Pincher

    The response from the Communications lackey is highly inaccurate….the City does discuss personnel matters publicly or is that only when it suits Penny/Vision? You may recall that the City posted the former City Electrician’s (Ark Tsiserv’s) settlement agreement on their website and made the settlement very public. Why not now? What happened to both Vision’s and Penny’s so-called transparent approach?!!

  • Higgins

    Geez, there it goes again. Vision Vancouver does it again. Then they ask what's wrong, why people don't love them when they lose the next election… No accountability, no responsibility, no one to mind the city if the Big One strikes, this Penny Ballem and her second in command Johnston, two propped up individuals, are simply a menace to this city.

  • These firings and friendly hirings are another twist to VVs “bought and paid for” strategies. This management tactic is as corrupt as taking the developers money and giving away the city.

    • Mira

      Say that again Bill! These are Vision Vancouver’s real strategies, I know. Unfortunately there are enough fools out there to vote for them… Yopu would have made a great Councilor, Bill!

  • Michelle S of Mt Pleasant

    Ah Glissie you rock! why don’t you run for Mayor!

    Am I surprised by this news…..errr not! but unfortunately this is the City Hall we got shafted with because too many people did not get off thier a%* and exercise their democratic right and those obviously not seeking the citizens of Vancouver’s best interests voted for Gregor and his cronies, that or they got dropped on their head as a baby oh, or that they are Developers.

    Need I say more.

    I live in Vancovuer and that makes me cry.

  • JJ

    Mike great reporting. And a big catch! I always loved your posts. Glissando’s comment adds the salt and pepper it needed, Michelle S of M Pleasant brought the Parmesan … Ha, great day for blogging!