More changes at Facilities Management

by Daniel McCabe

Three more members of the Department of Facilities Management have left the University as a result of an ongoing audit into the practices of that unit. The three men are; Carman Spataro, manager of building services, John Rennie, manager of operations and Omar Salas, manager of administrative services.

These three departures occur in the wake of the recent dismissal of Blake McGibbon, the former director of Facilities Management.

The audit was commissioned by the University to, in the words of Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Phyllis Heaphy, "follow up on certain matters that required answers."

McGill officials have so far refused to comment on the specifics of the situation, but in a memo sent by Principal Bernard Shapiro to deans and directors, Shapiro commented that the departure of McGibbon and his three managers relates to "a lack of transparency and responsibility."
In an interview with the Reporter earlier this week, Shapiro stated that he couldn't comment directly on the reasons why the four men have left McGill. He could only say that their departures were connected to the findings of the audit.

"I fully realize that there are questions about this matter that people would like to have answers to," says Shapiro. "But we're simply not in a position where we can comment on this case."

For one thing, Spataro, Salas and Rennie have all lodged official grievances against the University, grievances which Heaphy must respond to later this month. The dispute resolution policy ensures that such grievances are dealt with privately. Shapiro says he is also reticent to comment because McGibbon's lawyer has been in touch with the University and there is a possibility that the matter may come before the courts.

In addition, McGill is legally bound by Quebec's access to information legislation to refrain from publicly disclosing details. This legislation compels public institutions to maintain confidentiality regarding the reasons why workers leave a job.

"The University must respect the strait jacket imposed on it by this law," says McGill lawyer Raynald Mercille. Mercille says McGill must be cautious about addressing this situation publicly unless the former employees themselves waive their rights of confidentiality.

Denis Savard, director of McGill's Internal Audit Department, headed up the investigation of Facilities Management practices. KPMG, an outside auditing firm, was also involved. Shapiro says that the audit of Facilities Management is still active, but that it is winding down.

Associate Vice-Principal Sam Kingdon has taken over the day-to-day responsibilities previously held by McGibbon. Peter Kalil, an accountant in Facilities Management, has taken over as the acting manager of administrative services. René Lefebvre and Steve Sura have been hired on contract to take over the positions held previously by Spataro and Rennie.

"All these arrangements are quite temporary while we develop our long term plans for Facilities Management," says Shapiro. "We'll be taking steps to ensure that what occurred in the department won't recur, but those discussions are still at the beginning stage."

Contacted by the Reporter, McGibbon had no comment to make on the matter, but did say he will be issuing a statement next week. Salas also declined comment, saying that he wishes to remain silent while he pursues the matter through the grievance channel.

If Spataro, Salas or Rennie are not satisfied with Heaphy's response to their grievances, they can request arbitration.