The latest morale-busting staff disaster at Vancouver city hall

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 stickhandled every other problem that fell under “property use inspection.”

They were efficient, had reams of information in their files and were unfailingly straightforward about what they could and couldn’t release. And though neither was British, they always put me in mind of the pleasantly steely endurance of London residents during the German bombings: quiet but firm, and not likely to let the villains get them down.

Barb retired recently and now Carlene, who had been off work for a week for reasons that aren’t quite clear,  quit abruptly on Monday, as every media outlet in town reported today, including me.

Carlene was in charge of monitoring all the inspections in the city for problem premises, so the house on Pandora Street, where a fire broke out and killed three men just before Christmas, would have been in her bailiwick.

There are allegations that she quit or was asked to quit because of something to do with the fire and the inspection process. But that’s all pure speculation so far. We don’t really know.

All most of us who knew Carlene can say for sure is that she was an asset to the city and things will be worse without her.

And you have to wonder about a work environment where she feels she has no place.

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