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Has the BC Medical Association been stolen from the members?
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Doctors and members of the BC Medical Association are asking what is happening at the helm of the BCMA? Some are saying they think the new CEO Allan Seckel is not good for the Association and a sign that bad things are happening to the Association.

Who is Allan Seckel? How did he get to be the BCMA CEO? What is he doing as the CEO? And what is the BCMA Board doing?

Who is Allan Seckel?

Mr. Allan Seckel, QC began his career as a lawyer at Russell & DuMoulin and became partner of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin. In 2003 he left the law firm for government and became the BC Deputy Attorney General.

He was in government for eight years and was Deputy Minister to Premier Gordon Campbell and former Head of the BC Public Service Agency before coming to the BCMA. He is a creature of government and more specifically inner circles of government.

Senior management positions in government include some restrictions and conditions of employment to preserve public trust and integrity including some conditions that apply after leaving public service. The policy is available online and the link is provided below.

Allan Seckel while Head of the BC Public Service Agency was the architect of amendments to allow the Head of the PSA to waive the conditions of employment under special circumstances. When Allan Seckel left the Premier's Office in March 2011 and shortly thereafter started working for the BCMA he triggered the need for exemptions to be granted to him by his successor the new Head of the PSA, Lynda Tarras.

In a fascinating blog this week Alex Tsakumis, possibly the widest read blogger in Western Canada with over 200,000 readers, provides details of this and more. He says, "The integrity and soundness of the provincial public service is at stake here." To read his blog see the link below.

Doctors and members of the BCMA do not know how Allan Seckel was selected as the new CEO, who was on the selection committee, how many applicants there were, what details were provided to the Board, whether it was a recommendation to the Board or a decision of the Board?

What is the new CEO doing?

Since Allan Seckel became BCMA CEO other senior management positions at the BCMA have been filled.

First, Ms. Marisa Adair became the new Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs.

Ms. Adair worked in government communications for almost fifteen years since 1997 and was Communications Director for the BC Provincial Government at the time she jumped ship to the BCMA at the end of May 2012.

Did Ms. Adair also require granting of special exemptions to her conditions of employment in the public service?

Was the decision to hire Marisa Adair made by Allan Seckel or the BCMA Board? There is no mention in the reports from the Chair of the Board or in the resolutions of the Board posted to the BCMA website members area. Notice of her being hired appeared in the BCMJ June 2012 issue.

Then in early September 2012 through the Vancouver Sun we learn Mr Paul Straszak, the BC Liberal government's top advisor on public sector negotiations is leaving his job after seven years in government to became the new BCMA Executive Director of Negotiations. Just months ahead of provincial elections with polls favoring a change in government he denies this had anything to do with his decision.

Did Paul Straszak's jump from government to the BCMA also trigger the waiving of requirements and conditions to his employment in the public service?

Members of the BCMA did not learn of the filling of this important position through a President's Letter, notice from the CEO, or Board Chair report. Instead a notice appeared in the BCMJ October 2012 issue.

Was the decision to hire Paul Straszak made by Allan Seckel or the BCMA Board? Again there is no mention in the reports from the Chair of the Board or in the resolutions of the Board posted to the BCMA website members area.

Why did the BCMA Board not evaluate and seek input from the membership on the option of hiring a staff negotiator with the impact it has had over the past fifteen years in contrast to the option of selecting negotiators as needed on brief term contracts as previously done by the Association?

Could Paul Straszak's prior associations with the BC Liberal Government fetter the BCMA in its efforts should there be a change in government? Will it breed further encroachment of bureaucratic processes as obstructions to the health care system?

It is important for the BCMA membership to know if the hiring decisions related to the Director of Communications and Director of Negotiations were made by the CEO or by the Board. Previously these two senior positions in the BCMA were filled by decisions of the Board. It appears there has been a change.

There are also questions about the BC Rail sale and Allan Seckel's role in the matter and there have been calls for a public inquiry. Now Bill Tieleman, previously an ardent critic of both the BC Rail matter and Allan Seckel, has now become silent on the matter. Is this because he has been hired as a consultant by the BCMA? Again blogs by Alex Tsakumis in mid-October brought this to light with more details and questions.

Re-reading the 2012 BCMA Annual Report by the CEO Allan Seckel and seeing how he is reorganizing departments we see Ms. Cathy Cordell, staff legal counsel moved to the Executive Office. Where are the physicians in senior management at the BCMA? Have they been moved to departments away from the Executive Office while the CEO's own chosen team are brought to the helm?

Has the BCMA become a safe haven for senior government employees to jump to in a belief that the current government won’t last beyond the next election? Are exemptions to conditions of their employment in the public service being granted readily and by whom?

As Alex Tsakumis says, "the integrity and soundness of the provincial public service is at stake here." But, also the integrity and soundness of the BC Medical Association is at stake here.

What is the BCMA Board doing?

Accountability for the Association must ultimately rest with the BCMA Board.

Has the BCMA become overgrown with other interests that have taken root through lack of openness and transparency?

The July 26, 2012 Board Chair report of the June 8 Board Meeting, the June 9 AGM and the June 10 Board meeting attempts to convey an aire of transparency. Yet, when one looks at the BCMA Board Resolutions for the June 8, 2012 meeting one finds a resolution with no clarification that is glaring by its total lack of transparency:

"RESOLUTION B12/06/08-42
That the BCMA Board rescinds Board Resolution B89-322 of September 15 & 16, 1989.
CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY"

What exactly did the Board rescind that they did not want the members to know? It is possible for members to request resolution B89-322.

The resolution the Board rescinded is a policy in place since 1989 limiting how long individuals can be on committees and how long they can serve as the chair. The Board has been operating in contravention of this policy for a long time and when it was raised the Board simply rescinded the policy and sent it to a committee for review. It is hard to believe the motion to rescind was carried unanimously. One wonders how many Board directors abstained.

Are the Board of Directors as a whole incapable of realizing their duties? Have they lost sight of their responsibilities and become rubber stamps for the decisions of staff or others? Have they forgotten their accountability to the membership?

Are some new directors on the Board still struggling with what can really be achieved to improve the Board function with the composition as it is? Are they wondering why they even try when practices are so flawed?

Is the new CEO empowering the Board to change and become more open and transparent to the members? Or is his style to appear pragmatic while encouraging delay and not acknowledging the rights and principles that decisions should be based on?

Z. Essak, MD

Web Links:

Alex Tsakumis blog 2012-11-06 Allan Seckel goes to BCMA
http://alexgtsakumis.com/2012/11/06/exclusive-breaking-news-the-boessenk...

Post-Employment Restrictions for BC Government Senior Management
http://www.bcpublicserviceagency.gov.bc.ca/policy/down/HR_policy/13_Post...

Vancouver Sun, BC Government's top advisor on negotiations goes to BCMA
http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Liberal+government+bargaining+advis...

Alex Tsakumis blog 2012-10-17, 2012-10-18, 2011-11-16
http://alexgtsakumis.com/2012/10/17/the-conspiracy-theorists-in-bc-know-...
http://alexgtsakumis.com/2012/10/18/bill-tieleman-replies-and-in-silence...
http://alexgtsakumis.com/2011/11/16/open-letter-to-john-doyle-auditor-ge...

2012-06 BCMA Annual Report
https://www.bcma.org/files/BCMA-AnnualReport-WebReady.pdf

Allan Seckel, LinkedIn
http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/allan-seckel/31/73/729

Marisa Adair, LinkedIn
http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/marisa-adair/52/35b/307

Paul Straszak, LinkedIn
http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/paul-straszak/34/755/563

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