Vancouver - March 14th, 2010
On Friday, March 12, 2010 I had two minutes in the public eye which I took advantage of to ask a question of Vancouver's Mayor, Gregor Robertson, on CKNW’s Bill Good Show. I identified myself, and bid the Mayor a “good morning” to which he politely responded. My question addressed the issue surrounding the abrupt and illegal dismissal of Arkady Tsisserev, Vancouver’s Chief Electrical Inspector and the Council appointed City Electrician. Now granted I wasn’t given near enough time to rebut the Mayor’s response of “Oh, this is a staffing issue. The human resources department is dealing with this and those are decisions made by staff. I don’t have any inside knowledge of what exactly has taken place there …”
So let me state the case in some more detail here:
“Mr. Mayor. In his capacity as City Electrician, Mr. Tsisserev was immune from budgetary restructuring (the reason given for his dismissal) and, supposedly, the machinations and political aspirations of city staff. There is a reason for this. The City Electrician must focus his concern and energies on the safety of Vancouver’s citizens, the people that happen to elect you, Mr. Mayor, and your Council to your exalted and illustrious positions. The appointment is not a political one (at least it’s not supposed to be), but is one that is based on an individual’s fitness and merit for the position. As an Electrical Engineer with a Masters Degree, Mr. Tsisserev certainly met (if not exceeded) any test for fitness and merit that you care to name.
It has become more and more apparent to this writer, and to people close to this issue (they include City staffers, industry stake-holders and members of the engineering community), that Ark Tsisserev’s dismissal was deliberately and illegally orchestrated to clear the way for your Olympic aspirations (perhaps - and hopefully - not by you, but certainly by members of your staff). The question I asked provided only a snippet of background to this whole sordid affair, but your answer was even more perplexing (in light of the time that has passed) and raises a bunch more questions.
(On the surface the first two questions which follow are quite similar, but I wanted to ensure that any answer you provide didn't leave you with wiggle room, so please forgive the apparent repetition.) Did you have knowledge of Mr. Tsisserev's dismissal (and the reasons given him by David McLellan) on that January morning? Had you actually been involved in any discussions concerning Mr. Tsisserev’s dismissal with City managers Dave McLellan and Penny Ballem prior to the actual event? Did you agree with (or to) it? Are you aware that a very serious breach of the City’s Charter has occurred? Even more disturbing: Was the In-Camera Council session held on January 21st, 2010 (the same day Mr. Tsisserev was relieved of his duties) the one in which a plan was hatched to appoint a more pliable individual to the position of City Electrician? One whose focus was more in keeping with your Olympic agenda and who wouldn’t scruple to ensuring that VANOC received everything it asked for?”
Even more alarming news has been leaked to this writer. City management has been considering dismantling the Electrical Inspections Branch and moving to a Provincial Safety Authority based model (similar to the one Mr. McLellan was working with while employed at the City of Richmond). What Mr. McLellan seems to need reminding of is that Vancouver has one of the most stringent Building Codes in the country called the Vancouver Building By-Law (VBBL for short). The Provincial Safety Authority has no formal jurisdiction here. It’s the entire reason why the City Electrician is also designated the Safety Manager under Chapter 5 of the Provincial Safety Act. Is the Mayor and Mr. McLellan also planning on getting rid of the VBBL? Such a move would require sweeping changes to the Vancouver City Charter which could only happen if the Provincial Government were brought in to legislate those changes. Of what benefit would this be to the City (safety wise, and financially)? How much safer would the City be with one in every three permitted projects actually inspected (which has been reported as the average level of service provided by the already seriously over-worked staff at the BC Safety Authority now)?
Just how safe is the City under the presently appointed City Electrician? Will Johnston is a structural engineer with little in the way of formal electrical training and limited knowledge of the Canadian Electrical Code (other than what he’s been exposed to in the last few weeks since his appointment by Council). Ark Tsisserev is Canada’s leading life and electrical safety expert and an Electrical Engineer. He actually chairs the committee that writes the Canadian Electrical Code. He also heads (or is involved in) numerous sub-committees including the group of industry experts responsible for ULC testing standards (for fire alarm and emergency systems).
Ark was so much more than the City’s Chief Electrical Inspector and City Electrician (while he held these positions). In his various roles on the committees (on which he still serves), he was also Vancouver’s ambassador to the life and electrical safety communities across North America. Since his dismissal was announced, the Mayor’s Office has received hundreds of letters and e-mails from members of these same communities (and other industry experts) from across Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Has Mayor Robertson (or anyone on Council) bothered to answer any of them?
I will close this message with one final public comment which I will address to the Mayor:
“This writer has concluded that Mr. Tsisserev was fired illegally for doing nothing less than his duty under the act and the City Charter. His principal concern has always been for the welfare and safety of the public (the people that elect you to office, pay your salary, and entrust you with their communal well-being). It’s all well and good to say that city management would never put the public at risk through a Human Resources oversight or mistake, but, in point of fact, it has actually happened!
It’s time to walk that walk, Mr. Mayor. It’s time to set matters right before our worst fears are realized and someone gets hurt or killed. You can start by ensuring Bob Cornwell retains his position as Quality Control and Training Manager in the Electrical Inspections Division.
You can show your support for the Centre of Excellence which Vancouver's Electrical Inspections Department has become, and that continues to generate substantial revenue for you, by publicly and openly investigating what’s been happening here and putting a stop to any further planned changes or reductions that might negatively impact the level of service.
You can show us all what you’re made of and what you stand for.
And you can publicly apologize to Arkady Tsisserev, a man that had the courage and integrity to take a stand for what we all believe in – Electrical Safety is Paramount (Vancouver Electrical Inspections Branch Mission Statement).”
Frank E. Kurz
The Fire Protection Technicians Network
Related stories and articles on this site:
There's a previous Editorial HERE.
February had one news item located HERE.
Another news article from March is located HERE.
An April Tech-News item can be found HERE.
A Tech-News Special Report is located HERE.
Another Tech-News EXTRA! is located HERE.
There are also several FAQ's regarding Fire Alarm Verification and Annual Testing you might be interested in reading.
Related articles and Bulletins on other sites:
Alex G. Tsakumis
ULC Standards Bulletin
CFAA Position Paper
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