Whitehorse’s former city manager says she was surprised to learn that she had been fired after three years as the city’s top administrator.
City council voted March 14 to officially fire Christine Smith. Smith said she found out about the final vote through friends who had heard about it in the media that day.
About a week earlier, on March 8, she says she got a letter from council saying she was terminated immediately.
In Whitehorse the city manager is hired by council via a bylaw. She reported directly to council.
Mayor Dan Curtis has refused to say why Smith was fired but did confirm that it was “without cause.”
Smith said she doesn’t know why she was let go.
“I’ve never had a negative performance review.”
Smith said she loved being city manager and “empowering” her staff.
While council hires the city manager, all the other city staff report to her.
Linda Rapp, the director of community and recreation services, will be acting city manager until an interim city manager is appointed by council.
Smith said she feels sad for the city staff who are dealing with the sudden change.
“I’m sure it’s not an easygoing place right now.”
Smith was not at the meeting where council voted to fire her.
The mayor has insisted the meeting was public but it seems unlikely many members of the public would have known anything about it much ahead of time.
City spokesperson Jessica Apolloni said notice of the special meeting was posted on the bulletin board inside city hall 24 hours before the meeting took place.
The sheet of paper showed a nearly-blank agenda for the meeting except under the new and unfinished business subhead where “city manager position” was listed.
Twenty-four hours notice, posted in the municipal office, is the minimum requirement for council to call a special meeting according to the procedures bylaw.
Smith was hired as city manager in March 2014 after working as director of community affairs for the Yukon government.
The previous city manager, Stan Westby, was also fired by council.
Unlike Smith, who was fired without cause and therefore qualifies for severance, Westby was fired with cause. Details of what happened in his case have never been made public.
Smith made headlines in 2015 when she fired two of the city’s most senior civil servants, Rob Fendrick and Brian Crist. Smith fired both men without cause. At the time she said she could not comment on her reasons because it was a “personnel matter.”
The firing of Fendrick and Crist lead then-councillor Kirk Cameron to resign his seat.
Fendrick is currently a sitting city councillor.
Smith said she doesn’t know what she’ll do next. But she doesn’t intend to leave Whitehorse.
“My life is here.”
Contact Ashley Joannou at firstname.lastname@example.org