Dr. Kim Barker, former medical officer of health at the Algoma Public Health, must be getting used to leaving her job in a hurry.
Her brief tenure in the Sault came to an abrupt end on Jan. 21, 2015, when her departure, brought about by the news that she had hired a convicted criminal with whom she was personally involved as a temporary chief financial officer of the health agency, was negotiated immediately prior to a board meeting and announced during a closed session of it.
Now that quick departure from APH has been somewhat duplicated by her departure from the chief medical officer of health job at Nunavut.
On Oct. 18 she spoke on the government’s behalf to answer questions about legal cannabis on CBC’s morning call-in show, Qulliq.
Later that same day the territorial Department of Health announced that she was no longer in that role, saying in a statement emailed to CBC News that “Dr. Kim Barker is no longer employed with the Government of Nunavut.”
The CBC said the Nunavut government would not comment further as to why she was no longer the territory’s chief medical officer of health “to respect the privacy and confidentiality of current and past employees.”
The email went on to say that Dr. Mike Patterson would be the acting chief medical officer of health until the position is filled or a locum is in place.
A spokesperson with the Department of Health said in the email to the CBC that Barker was acting on full authority as the government’s chief medical officer of health when she appeared on Qulliq, and that her departure had nothing to do with her ability as a medical authority.
Then why not say why she was departing. Considering what happened in the Sault, something those in the north were made aware of when she was hired there in 2015 as deputy medical officer of health, people naturally are being left to think the worst.
Barker left the Sault under a cloud, her hiring of Shaun Rothberg (actually Shaun Rootenberg who had convictions for fraud in his background) sealing her fate.
But she also was under fire in the public realm for teaming up with then board chair Marchy Bruni to get the health agency involved in a proposed marijuana grow-up, Algoma Medical Alliance, proposed by developer Amit Sofer.
It should be noted that although Barker paid the ultimate price, the loss of her job, she wasn’t alone in hiring Rothberg. She suggested it to the board, all right, but the board went along without any background checks, something that volunteers at the agency must undergo, let alone for a job such as chief financial officer, interim or not.
This eventually cost Bruni and board members Janet Blake, who was vice-chair, Debbie Kirby and mayor Ron Rody of Wawa. They were asked to resign by Eric Hoskins, minister of health and long-term care.
City council, just elected for a new term, didn’t exactly cover itself with glory at the time either, especially in not pushing Bruni, the then Ward 5 councillor being the city representative on the APH board, for answers as to how this all went so wrong.
But I thought council also made an egregious blunder in denying Brenda Davies a return to the board.
Karen Marinich, who had been the lone voice in opposition to the way Rothberg was hired and had claimed partnering with a marijuana grow-op was not within the mandate of a health agency, didn’t apply for reappointment because, she told me, she knew it would be blocked by the chair when it came before council in closed session.
Davies, who was absent from the meeting at which the hiring of Rothberg was discussed and Barker given the go-ahead, did apply but was rejected.
As I wrote in April 2015, Davies started and ended her career at APH, with about 24 years in between in public health in Middlesex-London, Peel Health Department and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Health Unit. She also taught a year at Sault College and spent time as a nurse full-time and part-time at EMDC Corrections.
I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall when her qualifications were discussed and discarded by the new council.
Of course, I would have wanted to be a fly with a voice, to denounce the horror show I would have been witnessing.
Barker was hired as Nunavut’s deputy chief medical health officer in April 2015 and was promoted to chief medical health officer in January 2016, switching places with Dr, Maureen Baikie, who left the deputy chief medical health officer job three months later.
With no details of Barker’s departure from Nunavut, we have no idea if she left there with a severance package as she did from the Sault.
Here a severance package negotiated with her by Bruni and Bob Paciocco, APH’s legal counsel, saw Barker get six months severance pay (about $150,000 based on her $300,000 yearly salary), a letter of reference and immunity.
If you are going to be pushed out a door, that is a pretty good way to go, especially if another job is just waiting down the road.