Friday, April 30, 2010

Brenda Prosken: Donating Money to Human Rights Abusers she is supposed to be Supervising

I was at the Vancouver Public Library central branch and there was a gigantic tourquoise banner hanging in the window. You couldn't miss it as you walked in. Brenda Prosken's name was on it along with other top financial donors to the library.

Prosken is giving money to the Vancouver Public Library while allowing VPL abuses to continue at Carnegie, under her supervision. She supervises Carnegie in her role as Deputy General Manager of Community Services; people who complain about Carnegie abuses to City Mgr. Penny Ballem are given Prosken's card. Prosken collects a six figure pay cheque from taxpayers while apparently doing nothing about the fact that the VPL directly participates in or colludes with rampant human rights abuses at Carnegie, allowing people to be barred from VPL computers or from the entire VPL branch inside Carnegie for merely speaking up...or even for getting elected to the Board.

It works like this: Say a staff person on the second or third floor, or in the basement Seniors Lounge at Carnegie doesn't have the communication skills to deal with a member and instead calls security to bully them -- a regular scenario -- the member is likely to be barred from public-access VPL computers throughout the building as punishment. The member may even be barred from the entire Carnegie building -- common if they know their rights and assert them -- punishment which automatically includes being barred from the VPL branch on the first floor.

The barring from the VPL is not always instigated by staff working in areas of Carnegie Centre external to the library though. Some library staff are prone to calling security on members rather than develop communication skills to deal with issues that come up, and the targeted member more often than not gets barred from the library, sometimes from the entire Carnegie Centre.

One thing that can usually be predicted is that the perspective of the accused is not heard, not represented in the Incident Report, and if they want to appeal the barring, it can take up to a month to get a copy of the Incident Report.

How can Prosken properly supervise Carnegie where many of the services are provided by the VPL, when she is a celebrated VPL donors? She's not going to want to displease people who hang her name in their window. In fact, she may have hired some of the VPL staff who prefer bullying over communication. When she first arrived in Vancouver from Winnipeg, she ran the VPL Human Resources Department.

Since Prosken got her new job at City Hall last year, there has been no sign of life from her. At least Carnegie members haven't seen any.

This week I dropped in to use a computer in the Seniors Lounge and all three were out of order. The coffee seller, Devor, told me that they had broken down one after another and nobody had bothered to fix them. There has been a noise issue with those computers in the Lounge, with computer-users complaining that the noise from the television is deafening (the coffee seller who runs the lounge is hearing impaired). Carnegie has never been able to deal with the conflict that arises from the noise and people who make an issue of it have been known to be barred from using those VPL computers. Now the solution seems to be to allow the VPL computers in the Lounge to die.

Maybe it's no coincidence that along with Carnegie, Prosken has also been assigned the job of supervising Mountainview Cemetery.


Anonymous said...

Skip has not been a while. His son Scott is the new security. He likes the library.

reliable sources said...


I think you're bluffing.

reliable sources said...

does anybody know the name of the kid with the short light brown hair who works at the food counter. his hair used to be long but he cut it recently

he was there last sunday
he's staff, not a volunteeer

Anonymous said...

thanks RS
i saw him there sunday evening at 7 pm

Anonymous said...

I have the tendency to believe that a younger Skip, (would he be a Skippie?) could be working security, I just remember doing a double take when I was there last because I got the same body language from a new young security guy there. Out of the corner of my eye I thought it was Skip at first, so I wouldn't be surprised if that was an apple not far from the tree.
The guy upstairs at the counter is Tio, as in spanish for uncle, but I think it's more like "Theo" pronounced with a hard "T". He's a drummer.

reliable sources said...


"Skippy"...that's funny. But what shameless nepotism.

Thank you for giving us Theo's name. He was involved in a barring recently and wouldn't give the barred woman his name. If a person on the public payroll is involved in barring a citizen from a City building, the taxpaying public has a right to know that staff person's name.

Anonymous said...

bye bye Health Contact Centre and bye bye food store.

Anonymous said...

I heard from staff it is his son from a relationship gone bad. maybe 1 nite stand.

Why would I lie?

reliable sources said...


Sorry, I just found it unbelievable that Skip and City management would engage in such blatant nepotism. But I should have known, there's no limits to their hubris.

Anonymous said...

As long as the older security guard isn't in a position of power over the younger blood-related security guard, there is NO PROBLEM!

You like to try to stir things up, don't you?

Anonymous said...

Skip is head of security, if, indeed, that is his son who is a new security guard, then of course he is in a position of power over him, Skip would be his boss.

Anonymous said...

Then that is not ok and should be reported to the security company.

reliable sources said...


There is no "security company" to report it to. Carnegie security are employed by the City of Vancouver and represented by Canadian Union of Public Employees. No matter what abuse or conflict of interest Carnegie security guards involve themselves in, their asses get covered by CUPE -- Cover Up for Poor Employees.

We could only wish there was a private security company contracted to do security at Carnegie. It would be a little easier to hold them accountable. And Pivot Legal Society is willing to help people abused by private security.

Anonymous said...

I say damn them all - that "Skip" is a monster. His son Scott should be fired outright. Especially if he is going to follow his father's cold hearted style of rule. Back in the good old days, patrons did what they want - without intense scrutiny by security. Those were the days.....

Rachel Davis said...

So, intrigued by this mystery, I was at Carnegie last night and I took the liberty of asking a long time security person if the new guy, whose name is Scott, was Skip's son.
His answer was sad and ironic. He earnestly and animatedly replied that they, the security staff, had all been wondering the same thing, because he does look like Skip, and his mind even works the same way.
"You mean that all you security guys have sitting amongst yourselves talking about this but none of you have asked him directly?"
"Well, I'm going to ask him"
"Good, come back and tell me"
This is sad because it is another prime example of Carnegie's systemic lack of communication. Further, it shows how much fear there is in that place, even amongst the staff. They all wondered, why wouldn't they ask? Fear. Fear of their own co-workers and boss. Sad. Sad and ironic considering it's part of security's job to get to the bottom of things, and here was an important mystery to them they only speculated about instead of acting on. Fear. I can relate. I've had Skip bully me. But the whole time he was doing it, I knew that he was only doing it because he was so fearful himself.

I went up to the new security guy, introduced myself, asked his name and if he was Skip's son.
He said he wasn't, and I took him at his word,
but just now I'm remembering that I'd been told to "check for his reaction when you ask" by the other security guy. And running over it in my mind I still take Scott at his word. But that the other guy would instruct me like that means that he thinks there's a possibility that he could Secretly Be His Son, and deny it. Hmmmmm.
I'd say the most probable explanation is that people have a tendency to hire people like themselves. Look at Skip being hired by Dan Tetrault. I would have thought they were related too!

reliable sources said...


Thanks for checking into that mystery.

You're right about the environment of fear. A security guard told me a couple of years ago that Skip can be hard on anyone he believes is disloyal. He suspected a guard of showing a barred woman her incident report --she told me she saw the report but she was not shown it by the person Skip suspected -- and he made life difficult for that guard.

Anonymous said...

"doesn't have the communication skills to deal with a member" Is a phrase that you use quite often in your posts when you are ranting about so called abuses at Carnegie. Let me ask you this...a patron is told that their time on the computer is up and they disagree and begin arguing with the staff member who tries to remain calm and reiterates that their time is up. The patron who refuses to take no for an answer starts to swear, and starts to make threatening gestures, and in some cases moves towards the staff member in an aggressive manner. That staff person fearing for their safety or not wanting to deal with anymore verbal abuse calls for security to come a help with the situation. That patron quite rightly is asked to leave for the day. As a regular Carnegie patron I see this all the time and in most cases the staff do a commendable job trying to deal with the situation. I don't see patrons getting tossed from the library willy nilly as it seems to only happen when, from my perspective, the patron deserves it.

reliable sources said...


"make threatening gestures...move towards a staff member in an aggressive manner"

It's such vague statements that Carnegie members wanted City manager Penny Ballem to eliminate from the barring process. Members wanted barrings to be restricted to people who are either violent or in some specific and clearly-defined way, threaten violence. She refused, apparently arguing that this would be raising "the bar too high".

Where there is a poor person being peristent or opinionated, or even expressing anger, povertarians start to see aggressive movements toward them or threatening gestures. It's a form of poor bashing.

If a staff person has reason to fear for their safety, then I don't have a problem with them calling security -- but situations in which the safety of a staff member is at risk are rare. I have never seen one. I have seen angry words exchanged. What I've noticed is that when people are poor, they are not allowed much leeway to get angry as they are seen as threatening by povertarians.

I had some angry words directed at me once at the library computer, when I told a man in the library that his time was up. He was a young native guy who I noticed seemed unusually tense, so I initially asked the staff person behind the desk to tell him his time was up. The staff person didn't do it, so I did the job and the guy shot some angry comments at me as he left, but I gave it right back to him, and it was over. I didn't fear for my safety or need security back up.

The type of barring to which you refer, where a member is "asked to leave for the day" is not the type of barring we are primarily criticizing on this blog. We are most critical of the type of barring in which a person is denied access to this City community centre and library for weeks or months or years by City staff who refuse to provide them with a reason in writing or show them a copy of the Incident Report so that they can launch an appeal in a timely fashion. The Incident Report stays in the City's security records for years, often containing smear that the accused has never had an opportunity to defend against or even read. We are particularly critical of barrings which target people engaging in political free speech that management would rather not have around.

While you praise staff for a generally "commendable" performance, we wait for them to allow Bill Simpson back into the building. How many years has it been since he was barred upon getting elected? Three years?