Senior staffer takes fall for Pandora fire, City claims Robbins “quit”

The legal notice posted after the fire on Pandora Street property

UPDATE #4 – 8:00PM: Where’s Gregor? Vancouver’s most famous under-his-desk-at-the-whiff-of-controversy politician hid in a food policy meeting (see: Hollyhock/chicken post for a visual image) waiving off all media requests, which came in fast and furious once we broke this story.

Media coverage from today includes: Globe and Mail, GlobalTV, News1130, CKNW, CTV & 24 Hours.

UPDATE #3 – 3:55PM: Dave McLellan claims to be ‘surprised’ that Robbins ‘quit’ her job, but admits that he’s heard that lawyers may become involved. This is starting to sound like Ark Tsisserev deja vu.

UPDATE #2 – 3:20pm: We've learned that Robbins was given an ultimatum by her employer prior to her week departure. She could either resign, or be fired. The City will insist that she "quit," when it's more accurate to say that she was forced out of her job.

UPDATE #1 2:00pm: Dave McLellan, General Manager of Community Services has been tasked with doing media on this story. The line out of City Hall continues to be that Robbins "quit" after 38 years of service.

The Mayor’s office is refusing any comment, and as with all other reporting on the Pandora fire, Mayor Robertson is nowhere to be found.

An FOI filed by CityCaucus.com after the fire requested all records relating to action by the City on 2862 Pandora Street resulted in us receiving links to two documents.

  1. The December 23, 2010 Notice of Evacuation which is signed by Carlene Robbins (posted above) prepared following the fire.
  2. A previously released series of inspection reports from the City relating to 2862 Pandora Street. Both Carlene Robbins and Will Johnson’s names are on the most recent reports. The letter signed by Johnson dated August 26, 2010 demanded that the owner cease occupying the building by October 31, 2010. The most recent letter is dated November 5, 2010, where Robbins name is also on the form showing an inspector followed up on the August notice.

Original story posted this morning…

CityCaucus.com has learned that the City of Vancouver’s Deputy Chief License Inspector Carlene Robbins has been let go as a result of the Pandora Street fire in December which resulted in three deaths. Robbins was away for a week when colleagues were horrified to learn yesterday that she had been sacked.

Early details on this story are still coming in, but it’s believed that senior management are trying to spin that Robbins quit her post at the City. Robbins, who is listed on the City staff directory as Property Use Inspection Manager, is a 38-year employee of the City of Vancouver.

We are also trying to confirm a rumour that Robbins is proceeding with legal action against the City of Vancouver for wrongful dismissal. We are also looking into questions about when alarm bells were raised with senior City staff on the problematic property on Pandora Street. Our sources say that Robbins and Chief Building Official Will Johnson were notified about problems at the Pandora property weeks before the incident (documents now linked above confirm the City was in regular communication with the property owner).

Councillor Suzanne Anton requested council to launch an independent third party review of the Pandora fire and all the factors leading up to it. However, the Vision Vancouver majority voted against her motion and is only asking for a coroner’s inquest.

Robbins was regularly featured in media stories relating to problem properties, such as grow-ops and unlicensed sex shops. She was considered a close colleague of former City Manager Judy Rogers.

Our sources say that there were many tears among staff on Wednesday. One person was quoted as saying "you never go against the higher ups" at City Hall anymore, as the workplace is so political now you'll never keep your job.

Last year many City Hall observers were stunned to learn that Vancouver’s Chief License Inspector Barb Windsor left her job. Windsor’s title as CLI was handed over to Will Johnson, who according to sources seems out of his depths on many files.

One year ago this week Mayor Gregor Robertson and City Manager Penny Ballem fired Chief Electrician Ark Tsisserev. They did so by misleading many members of city council in an in-camera meeting (Tsisserev was a council appointment). Will Johnson took up the post as acting Chief Electrical Inspector, and recently hired Mehrdad (Mark) Roozbahani in the new managerial position of Assistant Director of Electrical Services.

Robbins is yet another senior manager who the City has either fired or has quit under Gregor Robertson’s accountability-challenged Vision government.

- post by Mike

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