The chief executive of the Nanaimo Economic Development Corp. has been fired after less than a year on the job after he blasted city council for stripping tourism marketing from the organization’s mandate.
John Hankins sent off an opinion piece to news agencies this week, criticizing council for its decision made in an in-camera meeting. Tourism Nanaimo has been part of the economic development corporation, an arms-length body funded by the city.
Hankins did not run the opinion piece by his board prior to distributing it. As a result, two corporation board members informed him Tuesday he had lost his $130,000-a-year job.
Hankins said he doesn’t understand why council made its decision or why he and his staff were not asked for input prior to the vote.
“I am perplexed and I am looking for answers,” Hankins said in an interview.
“I am just after transparency.”
Hankins said in his opinion piece the city’s tourism sector had a stellar year, that the organization launched major marketing campaigns and Tourism Nanaimo’s social media presence has grown dramatically.
He is concerned about Tourism Nanaimo’s employees, who had been members of a “highly functional and highly motivated team” and have families. Council’s decision to hive off tourism left employees’ future uncertain, he said.
“You can imagine that the team has collapsed in terms of their morale. That is why I can not stay silent anymore.”
Nanaimo council decided to remove tourism from the corporation following a review of its operations, and after an earlier consultant’s report on the conference centre’s performance.
Hankins said that the review’s recommendations did not include removing the corporation’s tourism mandate.
He said he acted alone when sending out his opinion piece because he did not want to put the corporation’s volunteer board members in a difficult situation.
He would not discuss financial details of his dismissal, saying he had been offered a couple of options and responded on Wednesday morning. Hankins said he does not know if he will receive severance pay and has not contacted a lawyer. His contract with the corporation did not have a specific term, he said.
Doug Kalcsics, the corporation’s board vice-chairman, said only that Hankins' employment contract was terminated and that “there is a process underway” related to that.
As far as the city’s move to create a new tourism body, Kalcsics said the board respects council’s authority to make that decision.
Hankins, 52, joined the corporation in January. He has worked in Calgary economic development and as a private consultant.
The Nanaimo Economic Development Corp., established in 2011, received $1.375 million from the city this year.
The corporation added the tourism function in 2012, said Mayor Bill McKay, although he believes the two should be separate. “When something becomes a bureaucracy, people disconnect.”
McKay supports a new tourism body running as a collaborative effort among multiple stakeholders, including the city.
Meetings held during the review of the corporation heard from stakeholders about how tourism should be addressed in the city, he said. Nanaimo’s manager reported back to the city.
McKay said he could not speak to any costs relating to Hankins’ termination, saying that is up to the corporation to determine. “One would expect that they would have to fund that out of their own budget.”
A request for proposals will go out before the end of this year to find out who might want to take over a tourism initiative, he said.