Two Innisfil employees allegedly fired for theft
By Chris Simon Innisfil Scope August 4 2010
Incidents of theft by town employees are rare, even after claims surfaced that two people have been dismissed from their posts for similar offences since January, says Innisfil CAO John Skorobohacz.
At least two municipal employees were fired from their jobs over the last few months, in two separate incidents involving stealing. The Scope has learned one employee was dismissed for ‘misusing’ a town-issued credit card, while the other was allegedly caught stealing lumber.
Although he could not comment directly on the alleged incidents, thefts involving municipal employees are isolated, and are hardly indicative of a wider trend, said Skorobohacz.
“I can’t confirm or deny, because we have obligations under the Municipal Freedom of Information (Act), protection of privacy, collective agreements and provincial statutes. Anytime that we uncover problems, it’s important that we do our due diligence and see where our practices and procedure may have fallen apart,” he said. “It’s about how we learn from mistakes and ensure we have better practices in place to prevent that from happening. If issues are brought to our senior management’s attention to abuses in the workplace, we have an obligation to act expeditiously but thoughtfully. If that means terminating employment, so be it. The taxpayers have an expectation of us, and we need to deliver to that level.”
Over the last few months, the town’s Human Resources Department has been implementing several measures aimed at reducing the risk of workplace violence and other illegal activity. Senior staff also meet once a week, monitor employee expense claims, use an annual audit procedure, and encourage anonymity through an open door whistleblower policy. Human resources also offers employee training seminars, and issues newsletters.
But with over 100 municipal employees, and a recently restructured senior management team that is still in the process of learning their roles, incidents will occur, said Skorobohacz.
“There may be individuals who take advantage of those changes, and see opportunities that didn’t exist in the past. We want to make sure that employees that have oversight responsibility are trained on the scope of their responsibilities,” he said. “In some instances, because of the massive changes, we’ve got people in acting roles that may not have been given the right tools. We’re trying to establish what the culture of the organization should be.”
Instead, it’s about how the town handles the employees, once they are caught. Skorobohacz believes intent has more to do with the final punishment, than the dollar amount stolen.
“We shouldn’t be afraid of admitting when we make mistakes. People and organizations make mistakes, the question is how they were made, and were they made with intent?” he said. “If we don’t respond (to theft) accordingly, it sends out a message that type of behaviour is appropriate. If things go missing, we have to go out into the marketplace and replace those tools. That’s not an appropriate way to utilize tax dollars. In the end, there’s a public trust issue. If someone is prepared to steal $50, is it $75 tomorrow? We look at every issue differently, but once you break the public trust, if you ignore it, it taints all your employees.”
Human resource director Michelle Collette says police have never, to her recollection, been called to investigate incidents of theft by town employees. In most cases, the matter would best be handled by the town’s senior management team.
“We might seek guidance from them if required, but we have practices in house to conduct investigations,” she said. “In any situation, we would use the resources necessary to investigate.”