Wyatt demands resignation of Winnipeg CAO, cites accountability issues

Wyatt demands resignation of Winnipeg CAO, cites accountability issues

Coun. Russ Wyatt is calling for the resignation of Winnipeg chief administrative officer Doug McNeil, citing a laundry list of complaints about accountability and access to information.

The Transcona city councillor says he plans to move a motion at the April council meeting asking for the resignation of the CAO, who has run Winnipeg's public service since 2015.

"I think he's in over his head," Wyatt said Thursday in a telephone interview. "Nobody wants to see our CAO gone, but it's my view the CAO has not managed to respond to the issues and to deal with things in a way we want to change."

Wyatt said he is upset with the CAO's oversight of real-estate transactions such as the purchase of Manitoba Hydro land in 2016 and the "motivated" acquisition of land near the Waverley underpass earlier this month.

Wyatt also said he's upset the CAO has prevented him from speaking directly to city staff and will not release a Portage and Main traffic study, as called for by North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty.

As well, Wyatt says he remains upset McNeil approved a sole-sourced contract for a consulting firm owned by Jeannette Montufar.

At the time the contract was approved, the city auditor was investigating the award of a separate active-transportation contract, as well as comments Montufar made about Wyatt while she was under the city's employ.

The auditor found no wrongdoing, but Wyatt is upset she was hired before the completion of the investigation.

"The CAO is not holding members of the public service accountable," Wyatt said. "There needs to be consequences."

McNeil will not resign, City of Winnipeg communications director Felicia Wiltshire said in a statement. 

"With that being said, Mr. McNeil takes these allegations seriously, and has been diligent about looking into concerns that have been brought to his attention by elected officials and by members of the public service," Wiltshire said via email.

"He is committed to finding the facts behind the concerns that have been raised, and will continue to look for ways to make improvements."

Mayor Brian Bowman's office noted Wyatt voted in favour of hiring McNeil, but against a process to evaluate the CAO. Wyatt also turned down a Bowman offer to serve as a council liaison for project management, mayoral spokesman Jonathan Hildebrand said in a statement.

"Despite Coun. Wyatt's angry and unpredictable approach, the specific issues he is concerned with are being reviewed by Mr. McNeil," Hildebrand said via email.

"If Coun. Wyatt wants Mr. McNeil to resign, he should raise that directly with Mr. McNeil. If Coun. Wyatt wants to terminate Mr. McNeil's employment, he can prepare a motion, share it with Councillors in advance, and bring it forward for Council to consider."

Wyatt was among the first councillors to call for the resignation of former CAO Phil Sheegl, who left the city in 2013.