Conditions at City Hall and the manager to worker ratio infiltrated the mayoral debate at the Seniors Centre last Wednesday.
Michel Rabu hinted that there is a toxic atmosphere at City Hall.
“Right now, I speak to people employed by the city in all different departments who have worked there for years,” Rabu said.
“They say they’re oppressed, they’re bullied.”
Rabu said he has asked them why they don’t leave and their response is they’re “three or five years away from retirement and can’t get a job somewhere else, so they put up with it.”
Rabu said that poses big problems for the city.
“I know from experience, if you have disgruntled employees working for you, you have problems,” Rabu said.
“That’s what we have here – disgruntled employees working for managers at City Hall.”
Rabu said he also questions the amount of city managers.
“That’s why I’m going to be hard on them, to make sure we get the maximum amount of work from the people we hire,” Rabu said.
Coun. Ziggy Stewart said the city does have a good group of hard working employees and said the answer is succession.
“As people leave, just don’t hire more people,” Stewart said.
“Get a succession plan in place instead of bringing new people in.”
Stewart said the media has also been hard on city managers and could be scaring them away.
“If I was working for the city right now and I read the paper every day about what a crappy job I’m doing, I wouldn’t want to work here, so it’s a double-edged sword,” Stewart said.
“Yes we can always improve but if we want the city to get better, let’s quit griping about it. I don’t want to see more city staff, I want to keep the good people we have.”
Stewart said the city recently lost its new financial manager because her husband had to move away for work.
Stewart said it’s a good example of a position he would like to see the filled from within.
At roughly one manager per 4.7 employees, Walter Jakeway said wasteful city spending is contributing to high taxes.
“I think Campbell River does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem,” Jakeway said.
Coun. Roy Grant agreed the ratio looks bad.
“My thought is there needs to be a full review of the entire organization to find out what’s going on here, why the ratio has crept up over the years,” Grant said.
“I think it could be because of the turnover we have had, which is unfortunate.”
The four mayoral candidates were also questioned about how they would each stimulate the tourism sector.
Rabu said Campbell River has so many natural assets and more to offer than other larger areas on the Island.
He said the city simply needs to market it more aggressively.
Stewart said there are already lots of tourists coming to Campbell River.
“It’s here, but to keep it, we need to market it,” Stewart said.
Candidates also discussed outgoing Mayor Charlie Cornfield’s open door sessions, where members of the public could stop by Cornfield’s office to discuss what was on their mind.
“I think it’s important for the mayor to communicate with the public face-to-face,” Grant said.
“I would make sure I regularly set aside time when people could come and sit down and talk about the issues.”
Jakeway said his door would always be open.
“Certainly there should be open government,” he said.
“You can call or e-mail me anytime and you will get a personal response every time.”
Rabu said as mayor, there needs to be a commitment to spend time with the taxpayers.
Rabu said his door will be open Monday to Friday from eight in the morning until five at night.
Stewart said open government is common sense.
“When available, I should be there to talk to you,” Stewart said.
The four mayoral candidates, as well as council candidates, will be at it again on Thursday when Campbellton First hosts a forum with a focus on Campbellton.