On May 9, 2013, the City of Ottawa terminated Ted Cooper’s employment as a water resources engineer “for just cause.” His union (the Civic Institute of Professional Personnel) grieved on his behalf and arbitration hearings were held during three days in 2013, six days in 2014 and two more in January 2015. A decision was issued on September 30, 2015.
At the request of developers, Ted had been taken off the Carp River / Kanata West file in 2004 but, as numerous references on this web site attest, he continued his intense interest in the matter as a private citizen. This included an email dated April 8, 2013 to his supervisor expressing his concerns. The City deemed this email’s content insubordinate, unprofessional and in violation of the City’s Code of Conduct. Ted’s response included that his primary duty was to the public, not the employer; and that he was not blaming City staff — the errors were the consultants’, he was just the messenger.
Key to his concern had been the design of the Hazeldean Road bridge. It had been changed in order to be consistent with the manipulated flood levels used in the Third Party Review (TPR). To quote from his email:
Since discussing this matter with you last week, it occurred to me that the City has already proceeded with construction of infrastructure based on the contrived flood elevations documented in the Third Party Review: the modifications made to the design of the Hazeldean Road bridge that has since been constructed over the Carp River.
As a result of the flood levels documented in the TPR, the original design of the pathway was elevated 0.6m; and to maintain 3.6m clearance from the pathway to the bridge soffit, the entire profile of the bridge was also raised 0.6m. … In July 2011 after the construction of the bridge had been completed …, the TPR consultant released the results of his Calibration and Validation exercise which showed flood levels to be 0.6m lower than the flood levels he documented in the TPR that triggered the need to alter the original design by the same amount!
(This further belies the claim by the City that nothing was done with these manipulated numbers. Ref. David Reevely‘s report on May 14, 2013. See also Final Words elsewhere on this web site. Back in 2009 Ted had gone public with concerns about the elevation of the pedestrian path under the bridge. This is, by the way, the same bridge that sank in 2011 — ref. the tenacious Access-to-Information work by Glen Gower that paid off in 2016; also a report by David Reevely.)
To the arbitrator, such matters are context. From her point of view most critical was that she found several procedural errors on the City’s part, such as considering letters that were stale-dated and relying on a version of a document that was superseded by an amended version. She concluded that Ted did not intend to undermine managerial authority in his email and that his supervisor did not consider it offensive.
She did find the email’s tone and demand for information not appropriate but that the City should have considered progressive discipline. The City was ordered to reinstate Ted with full backpay and no loss of seniority, minus a 5-day penalty.
Ted’s email of April 8, 2013, minus its numerous appendices, is attached to the decision.
As a search of the City’s directory shows, Ted has resumed his post at City Hall.