Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Harassment Campaign Continues Against Woman Who Challenged Use of City Security Database to Compile Fraudulent Information
Judy Rogers has been fired after ten years as Vancouver’s City Manager.Judy Rogers has been fired after ten years as Vancouver’s City Manager. While Rogers acknowledged to the media that it was not her choice to leave the job she "loved", Mayor Robertson was twisting his tongue into euphemisms: “Technically, it’s a cessation of her duties by mutual understanding.”
The firing has swept Rogers off the world stage as the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver approach. She had been a City appointee to the 2010 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee in Vancouver [VANOC]. Robertson told the media that he will announce her replacement soon. She will remain as Chairwoman of 2010 LegaciesNow.
A pattern of human rights abuses at Carnegie Center was ignored by Rogers
Rogers’ removal from VANOC has come as a relief to alleged victims of human rights abuses under her reign as City manager. VANOC Executive Director, John Furlong, was asked last month by an alleged victim of human rights abuses and fraud at the City’s Carnegie Center to remove Rogers as an Olympic organizer. For a decade, Rogers had knowingly allowed human rights abuses to occur at Carnegie Center in Vancouver’s low income Downtown Eastside. Downtown Eastside residents pressing to improve this situation under Rogers had as much chance of success as the Jamaican bob sled team in the Winter Olympics.
Rogers was at the $292,000 a year pinnacle of a triad of women earning six figure salaries under whose supervision the City’s Carnegie Center — the “livingroom” of the Downtown Eastside — has gained a reputation for being Vancouver’s Guantanamo Bay. One of these women, General Manager of Community Services Jacquie Forbes-Roberts, “retired” earlier this year after a lawyer informed the City in writing that her civil liberties abuses targeting a male Carnegie member (which had been widely publicized and were known to Rogers) were “contrary to the rule of law”. The last woman standing is Ethel Whitty, Director of the Carnegie Center.
Correspondence signed by Rogers as early as 2000 leaves no doubt that she was aware of a pattern of civil liberties abuses at Carnegie Center. Yet not one formal recommendation for change by residents has been implemented.
Here is Rogers' legacy: Low income people are routinely barred from City services at Carnegie Center and expected to serve their sentences, sometimes without being told what they are accused of, and virtually always without the right to appeal. In addition, there is evidence that the City Security database is being used to compile fraudulent information about Downtown Eastsiders, an issue that Mayor Sullivan was asked to ensure was criminally investigated. But the Rogers' administration may be most notorious for setting a precedent in allowing interference in election results; a homeless man who accomplished the feat of getting elected to the Carnegie Board was swiftly barred from the building and from Board meetings by City Hall. And let's not forget the atmosphere of blog-burning which emerged at the City under Rogers; a witch hunt for bloggers was carried out at Carnegie to expel those calling for a forensic audit and squealing to taxpayers when the poor found doors locked to richly-funded computer and educational services. And Rogers never stopped allowing the City's official website to provide a link to the Carnegie Newsletter which is subsidized by the City while giving a political opponent labels like “blog bozo”, “slimy”, a “blank”, a “four year old spoiled brat pissing his pants”, a “pest”, a “neighborhood snitch”, a “dismal excuse”.
Not only did Rogers do nothing to curb civil liberties abuses at Carnegie, she exacerbated the problem. She allowed Whitty and Forbes-Roberts to hire a new Security boss, Skip Everall, whose experience had reportedly been at a hospital mental ward. Now a Carnegie member targeted by Security for some real or imagined infraction, has about as much power as Jack Nicholson up against nurse Ratshit.
Rogers allowed confidentiality laws to be ignored when convenient
Not only did the poor who use Carnegie have little protection from civil liberties abuses, they also became accustomed under Judy Rogers to having little protection under British Columbia’s confidentiality laws.Take the case of the barred elected official, William Simpson. As part of a damage control strategy when news media began asking questions about the barring, Rogers apparently had no problem with Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty appearing on CBC Radio to announce that Simpson had been found guilty of posing a WorkSafe risk. Strange, there had been no mention of any WorkSafe risk in the official letter on City letterhead that Simpson had been delivered informing him that he was barred. A year has gone by and he still has not been informed that he posed a WorkSafe risk. But a hundred thousand radio listeners have been informed.
A woman who was barred from the Seniors Center for talking back to a notoriously abusive man has also had first hand experience with the approach under Rogers' reign that confidentiality could be disrespected when convenient. Everall avoided telling the woman that she was barred – even though she saw him at least twice on the date of the barring -- and she was instead informed by an alcoholic dumpster diver. When the woman complained, Whitty told her during a taped conversation that it was “not practical” for Everall to find her in the building to inform her himself. But it is apparently practical to break confidentiality laws.
Again, none of this is news to Rogers. Rewind to a 2000 case involving the mysterious barring that occurred a little too conveniently after a woman had spoken up about ongoing sexual harassment. Rogers personally handled that case and was aware that the barring had been executed on behalf of the City of Vancouver by a self-acknowledged ‘John’ who was vocal about his sex life with a prostitute when he volunteered once a week as a coffee seller at Carnegie.
Rogers lackadaisical attitude toward confidentiality in City institutions under her supervision may have caught up with her when it touched City councilors who have more power to create consequences than low income people with no money for lawyers at Carnegie Center. When City councilors attended an in-camera meeting about a $100 million loan guarantee to the developer of Vancouver’s Olympic Village, Rogers allowed an aide to breach confidentiality by telling the media that Council members had voted “unanimously” to support the loan guarantee.When a confidential document was taken from that in-camera meeting and leaked to the media, an investigation was launched. Incomplete results of the investigation which was under the control of Rogers were leaked to the media, pointing to Vision Councillor Raymond Louie as the culprit. Louis was put in the position of insisting, ‘I am not a crook’, in the last week of an election campaign. He threatened to sue. Vision won the election. It was time to judge Judy.
It was not only City councilors who appeared ready to judge Judy, but ironically the union representing City staff whose backsides she had covered for years while they subjected the poor to civil liberties abuses. She had angered the Canadian Union of Public Employees during last summer’s strike when she distributed a confidential memo to City staff suggesting that rather than sincerely negotiating a new contract, CUPE was exploiting the strike so that the political left could win the next civic election. When the union-backed Vision-COPE party won the election, CUPE wanted Judy judged.
Rogers continued to cover backsides even when her own was being given the golden boot. The Vancouver Sun's Jeff Lee, who spoke to Rogers after she was fired, wrote, "And she made a plea for her professional staff and colleagues to keep their jobs, saying they were continuing to do good work in trying to wrestle down troublesome issues such as homelessness, poverty and the Downtown Eastside."
Good work? Too often there is no sign of work at all. David McLellan who took over as General Manager of Community Services after Forbes-Roberts got fired....typo, "retired", seems to have done nothing about fraud at Carnegie. Same goes for Deputy Manager Brenda Prosken. Evidence that the Security database to compile fraudulent information about Vancouver residents should have been pounced on instantly by these two. Mayor Sullivan was eventually asked to ensure a criminal investigation into one particular case involving the alleged retroactive entry into the database of 15 allegedly fabricated witnesses without names. A 16th witness -- the only one with a name -- who could contradict this claim of 15 witnesses predictably was not entered into the Security database.
Calls for a forensic audit of Carnegie during Rogers reign may have to be revived now that a taxpayer rip-off at Carnegie is re-emerging under McLellan and Prosken. The problem of Carnegie taking millions a year from the taxpayer but not consistently delivering educational and computer services was curbed to some extent when bloggers persistently exposed it -- but it was not curbed until after a coordinated effort by City staff to, as George Bush would say, "smoke 'em out", and bar bloggers from the building failed. This month and last month -- I've had several reports this week -- low income people have arrived at Carnegie on several occasions to find the computer room locked, even with the weather bitterly cold and people needing indoor activities. McLellan and Prosken have also not reinstated the homeless man who lost his right to enter the building after he got elected to the Board. At least one victim of human rights abuses at Carnegie would like to see McLellan and Prosken's heads roll along with Rogers'.
But that is unlikely to happen. Mayor Gregor Robertson, co-founder of Happy Planet Juice, who fired Rogers just four days after being sworn in as Mayor, says he will not be doing further house cleaning at City Hall. After sweeping Rogers out of the City Manager's office and off the Olympic Organizing Committee, Robertson says he's done.
Sweeping Rogers off the Olympic Committee will be easier than sweeping away the mess she leaves though. One alleged victim will be asking Olympic sponsors such as Coca Cola and RBC to ensure that complaints of human rights abuses at Carnegie are addressed before they lend their names to the Vancouver Olympics. The world is watching, and they may see a less than happy planet.