Despite LRT debacle, City Manager’s job safe: councillors
Published Monday, January 27, 2020 12:27PM EST
Ottawa City Manager Steve Kanellakos.
OTTAWA -- It appears a number of City Councillors don’t want to dismiss Steve Kanellakos.
At Thursday's special Transit Commission meeting, the City Manager all but dared councillors to fire him, if they were displeased with how the City has been handling issues with the Confederation Line LRT.
"I am ultimately accountable," Kanellakos said. “Look at the org chart and you’ll see my face on it. I’m accountable to Council; I’m your only employee. If you do believe that we have not done everything possible to improve this system and make this better, move a motion at the next Council to dismiss your City Manager.”
Newstalk 580 CFRA reached out to every city councillor Friday to ask two questions: "Would you move a motion to dismiss the City Manager?" and "Would you support a motion by another councillor to dismiss the City Manager?" They were given until 10:00 a.m. Monday to respond.
Some councillors were already asked the question on the air on Newstalk 580 CFRA.
Beacon Hill—Cyrville Councillor Tim Tierney was asked on CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron last Thursday, within hours of Kanellakos' statement. He said he would not move to fire the City Manager.
“Not at all,” Tierney said. “Steve is a very fiscally-responsible manager, one of the strongest managers I’ve seen. I think, at the same time, he recognizes he has to get out in front of this. He has to take ownership and that’s exactly what happened.”
OnOttawa Now on Friday, the same question was put to Gloucester—South Nepean Councillor Carol Anne Meehan. She, too, said she would not remove Kanellakos.
"I don’t know at this point. I think we have to ask some more questions about who, ultimately, is responsible," Meehan said. “I think, right now, we have to leave the people in there who know the most about the system and let them work with it and try to get it going. Once we get it going up and it’s more reliable then I think we have to take a serious deep dive into what’s happening with the city.”
Bay Ward Councillor Theresa Kavanagh was asked Friday, on CFRA Live with Dahlia Kurtz. She said she would not submit nor support a motion to remove Kanellakos from his position.
"I have no intention of doing that," she said. “I’m not happy with all the delays. I think that it’s been pretty sloppy in terms of the company, RTG, but am I going to put forward a motion like that? No.”
Knoxdale—Merivale Councillor Keith Egli replied to CFRA's request by email to simply say, "no" to both questions.
On CFRA’s The Morning Rush with Bill Carroll, Capital Ward Councillor Shawn Menard said Monday there are discussions taking place about city staff, but he wouldn’t publicly comment on whether he’d move a motion to dismiss Kanellakos or not.
“We have internal conversations all the time. I’m not going to get into it in public on the radio,” he said. “I can tell you active conversations continue to be had about how to solve this problem.”
Councillor Scott Moffatt said he would not move or support a motion to remove Kanellakos, and added he has made a similar challenge to council before.
“Removing the City Manager changes nothing,” Moffatt said in an email. “The only impactful dismissal would be RTM. To that end, the impact would likely be felt more by the City’s financial department than the day to day operations of the Confederation Line.”
Councillors Luloff, Dudas, Harder, Sudds, El-Chantiry, Gower, Fleury, King, McKenney, Leiper, Brockington, Cloutier, Blais, Darouze, and Hubley did not respond by the deadline.
A spokesperson for Gloucester Southgate Councillor Diane Deans said she could not answer as she is still on medical leave.
College Ward Councillor Rick Chiarelli is, as of the most recent update from his wife, recovering from a bacterial infection following open heart surgery.
Through his press secretary, Mayor Jim Watson also suggested he would not support the dismissal of Steve Kanellakos.
"Mayor Watson has full confidence in Mr. Kanellakos’ leadership and will continue to work collaboratively with the City Manager and the City’s Senior Leadership Team to resolve the LRT issues," the statement said.
Council meets for the first time in 2020 on Wednesday.