Judy Rogers has been fired after ten years as Vancouver’s City Manager. While Rogers acknowledged to the media that it had not been her choice to leave the job she “loved”, Mayor Robertson was twisting his tongue into euphemisms: “Technically, it’s a cessation of her duties by mutual understanding.” 

The firing has swept Rogers off the world stage as the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver approach. Rogers had been a City appointee to the 2010 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee in Vancouver [VANOC]. Robertson told the media he will announce her replacement soon. She will remain as Chairwoman of 2010 LegaciesNow.

A pattern of human rights abuses was ignored by Rogers

Rogers’ removal from VANOC has come as a relief to alleged victims of human rights abuses under her reign as City manager. VANOC Executive Director, John Furlong, was asked last month by an alleged victim of human rights abuses and fraud at the City’s Carnegie Center to remove Rogers as an Olympic organizer. For a decade, Rogers had knowingly allowed human rights abuses to occur at Carnegie Center in Vancouver’s low income Downtown Eastside. Downtown Eastside residents pushing for change under Rogers had as much chance of success as the Jamaican bob sled team in the Winter Olympics. Rogers was not world stage material, the victim argued. [The alleged victim can not be identified because it could link her name to libel generated about her by Carnegie management under Rogers and interfere with her effort to obtain compensation.]

Rogers was at the $292,000 a year pinnacle of a triad of women with six figure salaries under whose supervision the City’s Carnegie Center — the “livingroom” of the low income Downtown Eastside — has gained a reputation for being Vancouver’s Guantanamo Bay. One of these women, General Manager of Community Services Jacquie Forbes-Roberts, “retired” earlier this year after a lawyer complained to the City in writing that her civil liberties abuses targeting a male Carnegie member — her abuses had been occurring for years under Rogers — were “contrary to the rule of law”. The last woman standing is Ethel Whitty, Director of the Carnegie Center.

Correspondence signed by Rogers as early as 2000 leaves no question that she was aware of a pattern of civil liberties abuses at Carnegie Center, yet not one formal recommendation for change by residents has been implemented. Today, a low income person can be barred from City services and expected to serve their sentence without being told the reason for the barring. Barred individuals are consistently expected to serve their sentence before being allowed to appeal. They may later appeal only to ensure that their sentence isn’t extended.

A mass of anecdotal evidence that a sentence may be extended should the victim show signs of assertiveness or confidence has now been supported by an audiotape. Carnegie Security boss Skip Everall was taped telling a woman that she was barred from the entire building because she had dared asked him his name when she was attempting to appeal a decision made about her directly to the City.

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Rogers seemed most concerned about accountability for harassment when she saw herself as the victim….a woman on the low income Downtown Eastside was expected to put up and shut up.

Rogers, who has received accolades for being a female who rose to the top of the City bureaucracy has shown little concern about women being trampled at Carnegie. She sent a strong signal as far back as 2000 that barring a woman just after she had spoken up about sexual harassment, and expecting that woman to serve her sentence without being provided a reason for the barring, was acceptable to her. Rogers didn’t state that explicitly of course; she sat on the case for three months and then dismissed it with a cryptic letter stating, without substantiation, that a Food and Drink policy had been violated. Fast forward to June 2008: a tape recording was made of Carnegie security guard Ted Chaing stating that daring to use the word “sexist” to describe a decision by the Security boss was grounds for being barred from Carnegie.  Judy’s legacy.

Rogers’ enforced the highest standard of conduct toward women at the City ….when one of those women happened to be herself. When VPD Chief Jamie Graham pulled a prank by leaving a bullet-ridden human silhouette from the shooting range on her desk with a note scrawled on it about how the worst day at the shooting range was better than the best day at the office, she responded with feminist indignation. She walked into the Mayor’s office with her complaint. That prank is largely considered a nail in Graham’s coffin; he left at the end of his contract.

You didn’t have to be a woman though, to have your civil liberties pulled out from under you at Carnegie. Take the twenty-something skateboarder who walked into Carnegie with a small pull-cart to return his library books. He was told pull carts aren’t allowed and when he verbally protested, he was thrown to the ground by three security guards, including Skip Everall. He was barred from Carnegie. He was given nothing in writing, no official reason — and he will never find out the reason as he says, “I’m not going back.” Multiply this by hundreds of people and you get a picture of Rogers’ reign. It is estimated that over Rogers ten years of “service”, a minimum of a thousand barrings have been executed without due process. Many of those targeted never complain; they just never go back. In recent years, Rogers’ response to complaints about Carnegie has too often been no response.

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Photo:  William “Bill” Simpson, an elected official barred from Board meetings at Carnegie Center [seen in the background on the left] by the City of Vancouver under Rogers

Rogers allowed interference in election results.

Rogers is perhaps most notorious for her disregard for fair elections. When William Simpson, who had criticized City staff, was elected to the Carnegie Board , a City manager working under Judy Rogers implemented a final solution: he was barred from the Carnegie building, never again allowed in, not even to Board meetings. Even as Rogers leaves City Hall, Simpson remains barred from Carnegie.

Simpson was told in writing by the City that he was barred for operating a website which “features links” to a blog which criticized City staff. Bloggers wrote about their experiences at Carnegie Center, often reporting that doors were locked to educational and computer services funded by taxpayers. This locking of services led to calls in 2005 for a forensic audit of Carnegie under the Rogers administration

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Rogers did nothing about fraud at Carnegie.

Collecting taxpayer dollars for services to the poor and then treating those services as optional was not the only practice at Carnegie under Rogers that called for a criminal probe. The City’s Security database was allegedly being used to compile fraudulently manufactured security information about members of the Carnegie Center– information that could turn up if that individual applied for a job with the City. Just before the last election, outgoing Mayor Sullivan was asked to ensure a criminal investigation into this “racket” operated under Rogers by Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty and Security boss Skip Everall.

One woman claimed that 15 witnesses had been retroactively faked to justify barring her from the use of the Carnegie Seniors Center — she would drop in there to use public access Vancouver Library computers — for talking back to a notoriously abusive coffee seller in the Seniors Center. (Rogers had known about this abusive coffee seller for years and did nothing, until finally a male member punched him in the nose.) They barred the woman in June and have not yet managed to come up with a name for any of the 15 “witnesses”. They also conspicuously avoided interviewing a witness, this one with a name and a face, who could contradict this claim of 15 witnesses.

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Rogers allowed confidentiality laws to be ignored when convenient

Along with absorbing chronic civil liberties abuses, members of Carnegie Center became accustomed under Judy Rogers to having little protection under British Columbia’s confidentiality laws. Take the case of the barred elected official, William Simpson. As part of a damage control strategy when news media began asking questions about the barring, Rogers apparently had no problem with Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty appearing on CBC Radio to announce that Simpson had been found guilty of posing a WorkSafe risk. There had been no mention of any WorkSafe risk in the official letter on City letterhead that Simpson had been delivered informing him that he was barred. A year has gone by and he has still not been informed that he posed a WorkSafe risk. But at least a hundred thousand people have been informed via Whitty’s announcement on CBC radio.

The woman who was barred from the Seniors Lounge for talking back to a man has also had first hand experience with Rogers’ practice of allowing subordinates to disrespect confidentiality legislation when convenient. Everall avoided telling the woman that she was barred – even though she saw him at least twice on the date of the barring – and instead allowed an alcoholic dumpster diver to inform her on the street. The woman was later told by Whitty that it was “not practical” for Everall to find her in the building to inform her himself. But it is apparently practical to break confidentiality laws.

Again, none of this is news to Rogers. Rewind to the 2000 case involving the mysterious barring of a woman after she spoke up about sexual harassment by a coffee seller at Carnegie.  Rogers personally handled that case and received a complaint in writing that the man assigned by City staff person Sandy McKeigan to execute the barring on behalf of the City, was a self-acknowledged ‘John’ who carried on a sex life with a prostitute and occasionally volunteered as a coffee seller in the Carnegie Seniors Center. (McKeigan was quietly transferred after that incident to Oppenheimer Park to supervise the Carnegie Street Workers who have since been accused of breaches of medical confidentiality.) People get quietly transferred or “retired” but the core problem of breaches of confidentiality were not curbed under Rogers.

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Rogers lackadaisical attitude toward confidentiality in City institutions under her supervision may have caught up with her when it touched City councillors who have more power to create consequences than low income people with no money for lawyers at Carnegie Center. When City councillors attended an in-camera meeting about a $100 million loan guarantee to the developer of Vancouver’s Olympic Village, Rogers allowed an aide to breach confidentiality by telling the media that Council members had voted “unanimously” to support the loan guarantee.

When a confidential numbered document was taken from that in-camera meeting and leaked to the media, an investigation was launched. Incomplete results of the investigation, which was under the control of Rogers, were leaked to the media, pointing to Vision Councillor Raymond Louis as the culprit. Louis was in the position of insisting, ‘I am not a crook’, in the last week of an election campaign. He threatened to sue. Vision won the election. It was time to judge Judy.

It was not only City councillors who appeared ready to judge Judy, but ironically the union representing City staff whose backsides she had covered for years while they subjected the poor to civil liberties abuses. She had angered the Canadian Union of Public Employees during last summer’s strike when she distributed a confidential memo to City staff suggesting that CUPE was exploiting the strike so that the political left could win the next civic election, rather than sincerely working to negotiate a new contract. When the union-backed Vision-COPE party won the election, CUPE wanted Judy judged.

Gregor Robertson, co-founder of Happy Planet Juice had been sworn in as Mayor just days before the announcement was made that Judy Rogers’ reign as the top City bureaucrat was over. At least one victim of human rights abuses at Carnegie would like to see more heads roll.

Despite Rogers’ head rolling off the Olympic Committee, her legacy will continue to haunt the Olympics. One alleged victim will be asking Olympic sponsors such as Coca Cola and RBC to ensure that complaints of human rights abuses at Carnegie are addressed before they lend their names to the Vancouver Olympics. The world is watching, and they may see a less than happy planet.

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