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City investigating after ‘concerning’ hidden camera investigation of Winnipeg employees wasting time: Bowman

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg Mayor responds to ‘concerning’ complaint about city workers abuse of work time'
Winnipeg Mayor responds to ‘concerning’ complaint about city workers abuse of work time
WATCH: Following reports of hidden cameras capturing city workers using paid time for personal activities, Mayor Brian Bowman says he shares taxpayers' concerns about abuse of public funds – Apr 5, 2019

Several City of Winnipeg employees were caught on camera spending work time making personal shopping trips, running errands and taking extended lunch breaks at restaurants like Hooters.

A group of Winnipeg residents and business owners say they hired a private investigating company to track the staff at the city’s Planning, Property and Development Department, after years of complaints about long wait times for routine permits and inspections.

Click to play video: 'City investigating after ‘concerning’ hidden camera investigation of Winnipeg employees wasting time'
City investigating after ‘concerning’ hidden camera investigation of Winnipeg employees wasting time

After a three month-investigation spanning from January to March, the group’s report was sent to media outlets including Global News.

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The video surveillance and reports appear to show the staff reporting to work at Fort Garry Place before being seen:

  • Going to Costco for nearly two hours before going to Starbucks for an hour
  • Going on errand runs to places like Dollarama, Liquor Mart, Superstore and Benjamin Moore
  • Spending about two hours at the gym
  • Two-hour stops at Tim Hortons
  • An employee snow blowing a residential driveway
  • Lunch at Hooters
  • Extended smoking breaks

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman says the city has a team investigating.

“If there are employees that are not playing by the rules that the appropriate consequences result in that. My first thoughts were obviously as concern and anger as a taxpayer,” he said.

Bowman says people may lose their jobs.

“If the allegations are in fact accurate, these are employees that shouldn’t be working for the City of Winnipeg,” he said.

“I’d like to have confidence in our senior administrators that this isn’t happening in any department not just the one that’s been named in this report.”

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The employees under surveillance all make between $75,000 to $150,000.

The company behind the surveillance is Wilson Investigations.

An investigator says it took a team of four more than three months to compile the surveillance using hidden cameras.

The group of 14 behind the investigation paid $18,000 to have the staff watched. They wanted to remain anonymous because they continue to do work with the city but were shocked by what was found.

“I’ll give you three words that were shared by the group. The first one is shock, the second is disappointment, and then the third is appalled. We were really disappointed,” one of the members said.

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“A few of the members had their doubts. We weren’t all on the same page as to what they’re doing. Are they overstaffed or what’s the situation. A few of us said they can’t be that busy, what’s going on?”

Michael Jack, Chief Corporate Services Officer for the City of Winnipeg, speaks to reporters on Friday, April 5, 2019. Jordan Pearn/Global News

Michael Jack, Chief Corporate Services Officer for the city said staff were surprised to hear the allegations.

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“We were shocked, pretty horrified actually, and again giving everyone benefit of the doubt until we draw our own conclusions,” he said.

Jack said things like reports, phone records and GPS tracking data may be looked at.

“We’re going to pursue every source available. We’re doing our best to get that info and do something with it. We’ve obviously got other info we can collect and we’re going to simply have to the best job we can after the fact to determine what went on here and who was involved.”

The workers’ union CUPE said they haven’t seen the footage or reports but have requested a meeting with the city.

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