Friday, December 11, 2009
Who's telling the truth?
The allegations made by Abdul Khan against the City of Hamilton (see document here) , alleging serious wrongdoings has thrown Mr. Khan into the spotlight. Is he a hero who simply did his duty as a responsible public servant b Mr. Khan was kind enough to agree to an interview in The Hamiltonian. His answers to my questions are posted verbatim. In the interests of fairness, any representative from the City of Hamilton, is also invited to an interview in The Hamiltonian to discuss these issues. They need only contact us.
y reporting alleged abuse of public funds, gross misconduct on the part of some city staff, and potential endangerment to the public. Or is he a scorned former employee who is lashing out? These questions are better left to an independent investigation. The Hamiltonian is not presupposing anything in this matter.
Although I have not called this 10 Tough Questions, you will note that Abdul had no problem answering some very sensitive questions I put to him. Please join me in welcoming Abdul Khan to The Hamiltonian.
1. What motivated you to file your complaint against the City Of Hamilton? What did you want to achieve?
I strongly believe in the Public's Right to Know of things that impact them. There is a culture in some sections of the Water and Wastewater Division, where they believe that they can make better decisions for the public rather than the public itself and I had fundamental problems with that. I first held myself and then my colleagues accountable to the public by virtue of being 'public servants'.
My main concerns and issues were primarily related to selective disclosure of issues to public and council. When a phenomenal city like Hamilton places its trust in you for expertise and advise and and views the entire team as its sentinel, then how could I just walk away from it, even if I was selectively discarded? I didn't intend to create problems for anyone, and even after being treated so badly, I still opted to follow a proper chain of command, by first discussing the issues with the City Manager. I gave time for the process to unfold, hoping that the City Manager would take appropriate action. After nothing happened, I placed my requests to the city clerk to personally present the issues and matters to the council, but I wasn't accorded that opportunity. By this time, I had moved to my new job, away from Hamilton, away from Ontario, yet my conscience was in a state of limbo, and would stay that way, until I felt that the public was disclosed everything. dispatching my email was the last resort that I had hope would be effective.
Related your question that what I wanted to achieve with it. I think that I have fully achieved what I set out to - the disclosure of the information to public. Nothing more what so ever. Not for a single moment, I had any kind of grudge against anyone. I firmly believe that people have the right to know about things that impacts them.
I thank you all - the councilors, the media, the civil society, the activists, and all citizens who disseminated the information. You people gave me all that I wanted. I have full faith that the decision of the council would be in the best interest of the community.
2. Some may say think that this is a retaliatory measure in response to the termination of your employment with the City of Hamilton. How do you respond to that?
I would request to everyone to please don't make it my issue, but rather make it a community issue. In my letter, I have stated few facts and based on those facts, I have presented few opinions. I would request all to pursue the truth behind those facts objectively. Once that is established, then confer any title upon me. It is correct that some would attack my objectives and my personality and hence, hinder the pursuit to truth. But those some are only in tiny numbers - the people I stood for are in hundreds of thousands and will for sure make it a 'community' issue.
3. Has your complaint had an effect on your present employment, or in your local community. If so, how so?
Surprisingly, the news came here on the same day, and got extensive media coverage. I wish to say that I am extremely proud of the exceptionally supportive community of Medicine Hat; Everyone valued the fact that I stood for the people - after all as 'public servants' that is what we are here for. Mayor Boucher, many elected representatives and my colleagues graciously displayed their appreciation for my principled stand, conviction and beliefs.
4. What was the reaction when you made your concerns known to your superiors?
5.After making your concerns known, were you treated any differently than prior to having expressed your concerns? If so, how so?
(Answer to both 4 &5), Mildly put, I was treated like a pariah. There was much hostility - written and verbal. There was professional indignity by asking junior staff to chair the meetings that I would be attending. My advice was discounted and scoffed at. I was shunned out and bypassed of matters related to my sections. I would like to leave it here.
6. What was your job performance like prior to your complaint? Was your performance assessed, when was it assessed, and was the assessment positive? Please describe.
The last performance assessment was in 2007, for 2006 and was rated excellent. I used to get very positive feedback from the previous General Manager, Mr Scott Stewart. He is a thorough gentleman who held himself to very high ethical and professional standards and expected the staff to do likewise. I am confident that had he been in the system, things would have been positively different.
7. There are some very serious allegations that you have made, on multiple fronts. Do you stand by each and every one of them. Are there any changes you would like to make to your complaint?
I stand by each and every fact in my correspondence and look forward to the auditing and investigation committed to by the council. If proven wrong, I commit to publicly and unconditionally apologize to the community, the council, staff and everyone else impacted by this.
8. What do you think the right thing to do would be? How would you like the city to respond?
I leave everything for the discretion of the members of the council, and the community behind them. The council's approach is excellent. The Spectator's editorial of yesterday put it aptly - Investigate, don't Assume.
I hear much about head rolling and I don't subscribe to this approach. Such response deals with the symptoms and not the underlying root causes that ought to be looked at. The need here is to understand why and how it happened and what can be done to prevent it in future, by undertaking a thorough organizational and institutional review and develop a process of checks and balances. I also fully appreciate the 'Whistle Blower Protection Bylaw', recently approved by the Council.
9. The issues you raised were briefly responded to on live coverage of city council on Wednesday December 9th, 2009, after council voted to allow for city staff to respond. What is your reaction to that?
I wasn't surprised by the comments. However, out of respect for the City Manager Position, I shall only say that I was 'disappointed' by Mr. Murray's assertion that he was unaware and that I had not intimated the issues and matters to him. In March/April 09, I briefly discussed with him the issues that I was facing. In May 09, I requested him for an appointment. His assistant scheduled a meeting on June 8. On June 5, the meeting was canceled and rescheduled for June 16. On the morning of June 9, I was fired and I have no doubt that it was with his approval. I was a Director with the City and if the termination was not with his approval, then there are other serious governance and leadership issues and whether the question becomes who is managing the organization.
On June 16, I showed up at his office and his assistant came out and apologetically advised me that the meeting was canceled as I was no more employed by the City. I felt very disappointed. There were few City staffers / former colleagues in the corridor in front of the main reception who stopped by to express their sorrow and to wish me well for the future. In the meantime, Mr Murray was heading back to his office and I stopped him in the main reception area and talked with him for almost an hour with many City staffers passing by and watching us engaged in discussions.
I leave it to the community to judge and guess what we would have talked about? A disgracefully fired employee, who believed that he was unfairly treated, would not chat about pleasantries, hockey and weather a week later with the person who had authorized his firing!
10. Is there anything else you would like The Mayor, the City Manager, Hamilton City Council, or all Hamiltonians to know?
I thank you for allowing me to serve the City for 4 years and I assure you that I served you all with utmost sincerity. I had the privilege of working with some very hardworking, well meaning employees and colleagues. I have faith in the council and the citizens of Hamilton and am confident that they will make the right decision for the community - for their generation and the next.
Today, I was notified of an intention of libel. Prior to reporting the issues to the Council, I foresaw that possibility, contemplated the hardships, and yet chose to disclose all issues of concern as materially as I could. I have implicit faith in democracy, freedom of press and the Canadian justice system and have no doubt that truth and fairness will prevail.
Thanks to all of you for support.
Thank-you Abdul for telling your side of the story on The Hamiltonian