Robbins departure: was she pushed or did she jump?

Darlene Heidemann’s GlobalTV story gets right to the issue – see video

It’s truly been a crazy 24 hours over at Vancouver City Hall. Once again, Mayor Gregor has been hiding under his desk while senior staffers are running around trying to spin their way out of this latest PR disaster. Just when you thought staff morale couldn’t get any lower at City Hall, we break a story that Deputy Chief License Inspector Carlene Robbins suddenly left her job.

A number of mainstream media have subsequently covered this story. GlobalTV’s Darlene Heidemann hung out at City Hall yesterday in an attempt to interview Mayor Gregor regarding the circumstances that led to Robbins’ departure. As you can see from the video above, her attempts to interview His Worship were in vain. In fact, every politician ran for the hills on this one except for NPA councillor Suzanne Anton who went on the attack. She told earlier today:

I am deeply disturbed by Robbins’ sudden departure. But losing senior staff at City Hall is becoming a pattern under Gregor Robertson’s leadership. He clearly wants a public service that’s going to tell him what he wants to hear, not what he needs to hear.

The Globe and Mail‘s Frances Bula also did an excellent story this morning and provided her perspective on Robbin’s departure. She states on her blog:

Of all the departures from city hall since Vision Vancouver took charge, Carlene Robbins’ abrupt exit on Monday is the most puzzling.

A lot of reporters knew Carlene. She and her boss, Barb Windsor, rode herd on some of the city’s hardest and least glory-accruing problems. They pushed the landlords of slummy hotels and rooming houses to keep their property maintained, dealt with houses that were falling to pieces because of absentee or incompetent owners, and stick-handled every other problem that fell under “property use inspection.”

Bob Mackin over at 24 Hours was able to get an interesting nugget of information out of senior officials at City Hall. Despite all their spinning that they're puzzled as to why Robbins "quit", we now find out the City is aware that Ms. Robbins might actually be suing the city:

Community services general manager David McLellan claims he doesn’t know why the City of Vancouver’s property use inspection manager left her job Wednesday.

But he admitted Carlene Robbins could be preparing to sue.

On Thursday, McLellan said the 38-year veteran returned from a week vacation, met with chief building official Will Johnston, and announced she was leaving.

“We were quite taken aback by that because she’d been with the organization a very long time,” he said. “We asked her, are you sure you want to do this? Do you want to take more time to think about this? It seems like a pretty rash action.”

G&M‘s marquee B.C. columnist Gary Mason weighed in on his Twitter too, saying:

Think CC may be right. RT @CityCaucus: Time for a 3rd party independent review into what led up to the Pandora St tragedy where 3 men died

CTV News, CKNW and News 1130 radio also had some excellent coverage on this story yesterday. We’re not sure why the Vancouver Sun, Province or CBC TV nor radio have not reported on this story yet, but if they do we’ll let you know.

This most recent controversy only serves to demonstrate why an independent review into the circumstances that led to the Pandora St. fire is so necessary. It’s too bad that Mayor Gregor and his Vision Vancouver colleagues decided to vote down Anton’s motion which would have initiated that process. Perhaps Robbins’ departure will be the catalyst to break this matter wide open, and we’ll finally see Vision reverse their previous position and commit to getting all the facts out. However, without continued pressure from the media, that’s not likely.

Here are links to some of the other stories we’ve written about the Pandora St. tragedy:

- Post by Mike

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