The City of Guelph was forced to reveal spending $90,000 to support a private lawsuit by a former employee alleging defamation

By Gerry Barker
March 8 2020

Opinion

On February 5, two days before being hospitalized, I published a post that outlined the history of a three and a half year lawsuit. The City refused my request to disclose the cost to the citizens of Guelph.

Tony Saxson, a reporter with Guelph Today, made a request under the Freedom of Information Act and revealed that the City’s cost to support the lawsuit was approximately $90,000 to the date of disclosure.

This revelation of $90,000 spent over three and a half years on supporting the defamation lawsuit brought by Amorosi, defies the pledge by the Mayor and his council. Whatever happened to accountability to all citizens, transparency of all administration responsibilities, and operation of an open government?

Who has been aware of the $90,000 cost to the taxpayers, so far?
• Not the four judges in the case
• Not the taxpayers
• Presumably the lawyer who was billing the city
• Presumably Amorosi
• Presumably the Chief Administrative Officers from 2015-2019, Ann Pappert and Derrick Thomson

Superior Court Judge, Cynthia Peterson, said in her denial of our motion to dismiss the lawsuit that it was almost “too close to call.”

If she had known the details of the city’s involvement and the cost to citizens, would she have ruled differently? She ruled against our argument that it was in the public interest.

This whole episode was an abuse of the public trust. The administration in 2016, and since, was complicit in using its resources to build and fund a private citizen’s defamation case against me.

Bottom line, it has cost me $86,000 in legal fees yet I have never been found guilty of defamation.

How many readers could defend themselves against a city-funded attack against them for having the audacity to challenge mismanagement of the public purse? This was a secretive deal to shut me down, using a surrogate to cripple me financially.

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Editor ill, needs time to recover Friends, neighbours, supporters and viewers. It is the winter of our discontent. It has been a rocky, almost three weeks since my last column. Two weeks in the Guelph General Hospital with a serious lung infection plus influenza, has left me weak and wired up to oxygen with a 50-foot tether. Not only do I have COPD, an irreversible lung disease, but I have low vision. I am currently waiting to be assessed by the University of Waterloo Low Vision clinic to improve my vision. Barbra and I are coping with a huge chance of circumstances. However, the improvement in the health situation will take some time. Don’t worry, there is no shortage of material! I wil keep you posted as we reach warp speed in the wordsmithing department Best to all, Gerry and Barbara Barker

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Why are citizens still paying the legal costs of a former employee who was fired?

By Gerry Barker

February 5, 2020

Opinion

Part Two

Here are 41 facts that the three-year city financed lawsuit against a private citizen proves nothing but a wanton waste of public money. It also reveals important pieces of evidence of a conspiracy by senior officials no longer employed and a compliant city council approving the financing the legal costs of one employee who was fired. He was the one who launched a defamation lawsuit against blogger Gerry Barker in November 20116.

These facts support how the abuse of political power exercised by the City of Guelph administration that has blown the doors off the public’s right to know its business. Accountability, transparency and open government are ignored most of the time.

It’s a secret society, self-absorbed and devoid of fair comment and freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights.

But judge for yourself. Read the facts and discover how people we elected have wasted your tax dollars on a mindless denial of our rights in an inverted action of revenge.

The Royal City no longer translates into Camelot

FACT 1 – For the record, my wife and I are residents of the City of Guelph.

FACT 2 – In 2016, I wrote 10 blog posts as outlined Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Mark Amorosi’s statement of claim that he sued me for defamation. The posts were critical of his role in secretly concealing a total of $98,202 salary increases shared by three senior executives, including Mr. Amorosi.

FACT 3 – These increases were awarded December 10, 2015 in a closed-session of city council.

FACT 4 – It has never been revealed whether these increases were paid retroactively for 2015 or were received throughout the year before the approval.

FACT 5 -I was served in August 2016 with a demand to apologize to Mark Amorosi for publishing posts on guelphspeaks.ca, critical of the city administration for concealing senior staff salary increases for 2015 to 2019.

FACT 6 – The Toronto lawyer representing Mr. Amorosi, Mark MacKinnon, wrote the demand for an apology. The terms included that he would write it. He demanded that it had to be posted at the top of the guelphspeaks blog for 30 days. This demand was rejected.

FACT 6 – Mr. MacKinnon also stated to my counsel that if I refused, he would recommend legal action.

FACT 8 – On November 15, 2016, Mr. Amorosi announced on the front page of the Mercury Tribune newspaper that he was suing Barker for $500,000 based on defamation as a result of the alleged critical posts on his blog. Amorosi stated in the article that the City of Guelph was paying his legal expenses.

FACT 9 – In January 2017, Mr. Barker requested a copy of the minutes of the Dec. 10 closed-session meeting of council, and it was denied in April with no explanation.

FACT 10 – On February 9, 2017, Mr. Amorosi was fired as published in the Mercury Tribune newspaper. He did not physically leave city employment until February 20.

FACT 11- The day before his dismissal, city Solicitor Donna Jaques resigned to take a job with the Northland Railroad.

FACT 12 – Three major media outlets described Amorosi’s departure as being “fired.” The Mercury Tribune that also described the departure as being fired joined them.

FACT 13 – In a sworn statement Mr. Amorosi testified that “he agreed to leave” when confronted with an inadvertent release from the Information Technology department. It forwarded some 50,000 confidential emails to a third party representing a fired employee, Chief Building Inspector, Bruce Poole. Mr. Poole sued the city for $1 million for wrongful dismissal. Mr. Amorosi was in charge of that IT department and it formed the basis of his dismissal.

FACT 14 – the Poole lawsuit was settled following the return of the missing files. Terms were never disclosed.

FACT 15 – In September 2015, Ms. Pappert requested that she receive payment of her unused sick day and vacation benefits from the Human Resources department. That department was under Mr. Amorosi’s responsibilities and three months before the salary increases to the senior managers was approved Dec. 10 in closed-session.

FACT 16 – On March 31, 2016, the 2015 provincial Sunshine List was published. The public learned of the three senior managers shared salary increases of $98,202. The province publishes the List composed of all public employees in the province earning more than $100,000 a year, not including taxable benefits.

FACT 17 – For unknown reasons, the city publishes its own “Sunshine List” each December but does not include the salaries of the senior managers.

FACT 18 – Of the three recipients, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert, who received an increase of $37,000 taking her 2015 salary to $257,000, a 16.8 per cent increase? Much of that increase was a retroactive performance bonus of $27,000.

FACT 19 – This information about Ms.Pappert’s 2015 compensation was revealed in August 2016.

FACT 20- Ms. Pappert’s compensation as Chief Executive Officer of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. for four years has never been revealed.

FACT 21 – DCAO’s Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson shared the balance. Amorosi’s 2015 salary increased 14 per cent to $209, 000.

FACT 22 – Derrick Thomson received an increase of 19 per cent taking his 2015 salary to more than $207,000.

FACT 23 – The three senior managers cost the city in 2015, $673,000 plus some $22,000 in taxable benefits. That figure does not include the $181,000 paid to DCAO Al Horsman who worked for eight months and took a job as CAO of Sault Ste. Marie.

FACT 24 – CAO Ann Pappert resigned in April 2016. DCAO Thomson resigned in January 2016 but was rehired in May to replace Ms. Pappert who left her job May 26, 2016.

FACT 25- Colleen Clack replaced Thomson as chief of Public Services. At the time her salary was $142,000. She was later promoted to DCAO.

FACT 26 – When the 2016 Sunshine List was published in March 2017, former employee Ms. Pappert was paid $263,000 for five months work in 2016.

FACT 27 – The new CAO announced details of his three-year contract, which included a salary of $230,000 plus $11,000 taxable benefit for using his personal car for city business.

FACT 28 – In March 2019, Derrick Thomson “parted ways with the city” for reasons unknown today. When the 2018 Sunshine list was published, Mr. Thomson’s salary was $335,000. In just two and a half years on the job, Mr. Thomson earned $100,000 more than his stated 2016 three-year salary of $230,000.

FACT 29 – Mayor Cam Guthrie explained that Mr. Thomson was given a $67,000 performance bonus for his work on giving away Guelph Hydro to Alectra Utilities. Guelph Hydro stated in its 2016 financial report that the city-owned power distribution utility had a total value of $228 million.

FACT 30- when city council approved the Hydro merger, there was $18.5 million of cash sitting on Hydro’s books to be returned to the city’s general revenues. There has been no reporting or accounting of what happened to the money, owned by the citizens.

FACT 31 – Mr. Amorosi testified under oath that city council did not approve staff salaries but it was the responsibility of the CAO. If it’s true, under the CAO Bylaw, it was CAO Thomson who approved his 2018 salary and performance bonus. If it is not true, them did Mr. Amorosi commit perjury?

FACT 32 – I requested a statement from the city in 2018 of the amount of public money that had been spent on Mr. Amorosi’s lawsuit and it was denied because the case was before the courts.

FACT 33 – From a reliable source, I learned there was another closed-session meeting of council in May 2018 to discuss the status of the Amorosi lawsuit and the legal costs to May 2018. It was reported the city paid Amorosi’s legal costs of $30,000. Without reservation, knowing what my legal costs are to date, it will be much more than that figure and counting. This is another example of the city denying and obfuscating the details that aren’t serving the public interest.

FACT 34 – The city has never explained why it is continuing this attack on one of its citizens. One who dared to criticize an issue that according to the city’s own code of conduct, that excludes open government policies, allowing accountability and transparency of the public’s business?

FACT 35 – It has cost Amorosi nothing in three years to perpetuate the city’s complicity in continuing to finance his lawsuit that is without merit.

FACT 36 – To date it has cost me $86,000 to defend myself. It’s not over yet.

FACT 37– The city administration has never cooperated or acknowledged details of that December 10, 2015 closed-session meeting of council. It approved the three senior staff increases. In that same month, in another closed-session, council approved a bylaw indemnifying any employee or elected officials by paying their legal costs if facing a legal proceeding against them.

FACT 38 – I did not sue Mr. Amorosi, he sued me, or I didn’t fire him or, in his submission made to the judge in 2019 that he was unable to get a job because of what I had written about him in 2016.

FACT 39 – Two independent individuals searched Mr. Amorosi’s name on the Internet. There was only one of my posts on the site but references to his dismissal from the city dominated the site.

FACT 40 – Since August 2016, the same lawyer has represented Mr. Amitosis.

FACT 41 – CAO Ann Pappert who left the city in May 2016 recommended the indemnification bylaw in December 2015.

SUMNARY

These are facts. They represent a major attack by a city council on a private citizen for unfounded reasons.

The cost to the citizens of Guelph including me, the defendant, is being covered-up by the administration.

I have never been found guilty of defaming Mark Amoroso.

After more than three years of costly litigation the end is nowhere in sight. So far, the lawyers are ahead, 180 to 0 for the city and its citizens who are paying the legal costs.

It can only end when the citizens demand it. This legal procedure was started by the city administration that financed all the legal costs of the Amorosi lawsuit.

It’s up to the administration to end this

Our taxes, fees and services are way out of line with comparable communities. It has been like that for the past 13 years. That’s the main reason that our costs of living in Guelph keep increasing every year. Just remember the promise made by Cam Guthrie in 2014 that he would keep the property tax annual increase equal to the rate of inflation.

That promise went out the window with his first budget for 2015 when the final rate was 3.96 per cent. The Consumer Price Index for 2014 stated the inflation rate for Canada was 1.1 per cent.

So if you are satisfied with the way your city is being managed, with respect, you should start researching how this city has arbitrarily increased its operating cost and capital spending to build needed projects, such as a new central library, the South End Community Centre to name just two.

Two project that leap out and are under way or recently completed, the new Maintenance Campus for Guelph Transit and the Parkade on Wilson Street next door to City Hall. Both these projects on the surface seem important but strikingly inclusive of staff needs.

There has been too much waste of resources, mismanagement, not to mention the millions lost including Urbacon, GMHI, environmental services, downtown, dodgy deferred taxes and development breaks to developers, to name a few emptying the city till.

If you believe that the city and we can do better then let your councillors know and demand a clean up of the administration brand of policies. Press staff and council to lower operating costs. Get rid of the deals and stop the shallow spinning of action. When the city says, that within ten years it will have spent $1,7 billion on capital funded projects, lets have some specifics including estimated costs, dates to completion and the sources of revenue to pay the bills.

This administration is overdue for a diet. Waiting three years to change the cast of characters can’t come soon enough.

I now turn this data over to the court of public opinion.

 

 

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The City of Guelph has spent an estimated $100,000 financing a dismissed employee who is being used as a surrogate to sue a private citizen who criticized the administration.

By Gerry Barker

February 3, 2020

Opinion

Part One

Note: The salary figures used in this report are rounded down for ease of reading. Actual figures are available from the Province of Ontario Sunshine List website or the City of Guelph Finance department.

Today is the first of two parts about how our city council was complicit in attacking a resident for criticizing the administration for concealing, in closed-sessions the payments made to the three top executives. There is no argument that the data was concealed according to the city’s own published “Sunshine List, published in December each reporting year on its,website

We now know that the City’s Sunshine List since 2015 has never revealed the salary data of its top senior managers

They did it because they calculated that most citizens would never access their provincial Sunshine List published annually and containing the three management salary data.

That’s why, until a week ago, that guelphspeaks.ca revealed the $1,392,333 paid to two of those Dec.10, 2026 recipients. One was CAO AnnePappert who resigned May 26, 2016. The other was Derrick Thomson, who left the city in January 2016 and was rehired as CAO in June 2016 to replace Ms. Pappert.

Why Mr.Thomson who had left the city? Were there no candidates in Ontario who were qualified to apply fore a $259,000 job?

Why was Ms. Pappert in such a rush to get out of her job that paid her $263,000 for months work in 2016?

Thomson and the city agreed to “part ways” in February 2019. He was given a one-year contract extention of his $335,000, 2018 income, from the city as CAO.

So, why did he give that up? A year later, he was appointed CAO of a tiny municipality (pop. 9,000).

Now here’s the back-story

From 2015 to February 2017, the third recipient was Mark Amorosi. He sued Barker in November 2016 and was dismissed in February 9, 2017. At the time, his colleague, CAO Derrick Thomson told the public that Amorosi’s dismissal had nothing to do with the lawsuit charging Barker with defamation for telling the truth. In fact, it had a lot to do with the performance of those three senior managers.

This placed the city in an awkward situation. There was no place to hide for Thomson after making that undertaking on behalf of Amorosi who left the city without recourse. Later in a submission to Superior Court Justice, Cynthia Peterson, he stated that he “agreed to leave.”

Even the motion judge stated that three major media outlets described his departure as being “fired.”

This lawsuit has now entered its fourth year. The estimated cost of Amorosi’s lawsuit to the citizen’s is $100,000.

Barker’s legal cost are $88,000 to date. In four years his property taxes cost $30,000. It is impossible to guess what every taxpayer is contributing to this scandal. Until this dispute is cleared, we’re all in it together.

Oh! my there’s more

The city’s dilemma is that this has become a major political problem. It involves using a surrogate, a former employee, who, for four years made Barker pay for his criticism of the administration.

But here’s the rub. Not only is Barker paying to defend himself but also so are the taxpayers including Barker. This is all about political ego, deep pockets using public money and denying the rights of the public trust.

And it’s not going away.

I don’t know who supported this in 2015. However, in sworn testimony, Amorosi stated that CAO Ann Pappert, not city council, vetted and approved all city employee salaries including the senior managers. This claim was made under the special CAO Bylaw covering responsibilities. It appears to be a conflict of interest. Absent are the checks and balances,

It was an overt way to get rid of Barker, except nobody on council figured out the political fallout, and possible intervention in the form of a provincial inquiry.

There is a solution. The City of Guelph, the authors of this misguided support of a lawsuit by a former employee, refund Barker’s legal fees. Barker will take down the alleged offending 2016 posts that initiated this lawsuit.

Each day that goes by only makes a bad decision four years ago, worsen.

Summary

This is the story about a citizen. It is a David versus a corporate Goliath episode about the abuse of power by a city administration against a citizen who blew the whistle on a secret council meeting.

It was no ordinary meeting December 10, 2015. It secretly awarded $98,202 salary increases, bonuses and benefits to the three top managers of the City of Guelph’s administration. The final settlement will be confidential.

It gets better. Follow the record of how municipal financial power is used for four years, attempting to muzzle a citizen who was critical of a number of closed-session meetings by the city administration. A former employee launched defamation lawsuit alleging critical postings published in the blog gurslphspesks.ca. Amorosi announced the city was paying his legal bills.

Here’s a quick summary of what happened. On November 15, 2016, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi, sued Gerry Barker for $500,s000 in damages. He claimed defamation resulting from 10 critical blog posts and stated the city was paying his legal expenses. Barker had reported in March 2016, the three top managers received increases totaling $98,202. February 9, 2017, Mark Amoroso was fired.

That was three years ago. The case has never been settled. It has cost Barker YTD $88,000 to defend himself and his postings are fair comment. The city refuses to reveal the cost of supporting Amorosi that is estimated to be more than $100,000 of public money.

It is interesting the Judge Peterson stated that Barkers language was “measured” and did not vilify Amorosi personally.

On Wednesday, February 5, 2020, the second report on this major breach of the public trust will be revealed.

Since November 15, 2016, Gerry Barker has never been found guilty of defaming Mark Amorosi.

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Here is the real story how city council paid two former CAO’s $1,392,333 in four years

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January 26, 2020 · 9:10 pm

Here is the real story how city council paid two former CAO’s $1,392,333 in four years

By Gerry Barker

January 27, 2020

Opinion

Here is the truth about how city’s Sunshine List published the 2019 staff earning $100,000-plus per year.

In just four years, the Guthrie administration has run roughshod over the public trust and, more important, the public’s pocketbook.

This is about the ballooning size of city staff and the money being paid over a four-year period.

Council are sworn to protect the public interest, provide the necessary checks and balances in acting as the board of directors of a $600 million corporation.

The council giveaway of Guelph Hydro was outrageous of which the benefit to the 55,000 Hydro customers who have yet to receive any explanation or benefit.

Did you know there were two Sunshine Lists publishing the salaries of every employee who earned more than $100,000 per year?

Neither did I until I stumbled on a page deep in the city website.

The city Sunshine List since 2015 revealed all those employees earning more than $100,000. It does not publish the names and data of those managers earning more that $200,000. Don’t forget there are other manager in the 200 grand club whose ID does not appear on the city’s Sunshine List.

The city Sunshine List is published at the end of the calendar year. They “beat” the 2019 provincial Sunshine List that is published in late March.

The provincial List provides the name, occupation, and taxable benefits of every public employee in the province, including those in management.

These figures are generated by the city financial department and forwarded to the provincial Sunshine List department for publication. That list contains the qualifying employees in the 445 Ontario municipalities including Guelph

This is lying by omission in plain sight. What other explanation could there be?

Is it insurance against public outrage? Possibly. Is it to paint over and cover-up the mistakes, wasted resources on pet project spending?

All those protesting the senior manager’s salaries should be shown the City’s Sunshine List that leaves a hazy fog over the truth?

What about those performance bonuses to Pappert and Thomson?

It is becoming apparent that City Council disregards many citizens.

The leadership makes decisions without regard of the unintended consequences.

In March this year, the provincial Sunshine List reports the 2019 salaries, occupations and taxable benefits of ALL public employees in Ontario including the City of Guelph.

The cover-up trail

Let’s check the city’s Sunshine List from 2015 to 2019.

In 2015, the city’s Sunshine List stated there were 158 employees earning $19,170,856. Managers were not on that list.

Conclusion: Can we believe those figures with the managers earning more than $200.000 were not included?

Moving on to 2019. The city’s Sunshine List stated there were 359 employees earning more than $100,000. The cost to citizens is$40,855,826.

The new reform Mayor, elected in 2014, a self-described “numbers guy.” How are his math working for you?

These figures show the doubling of numbers of staffers found on the city website. We have twice elected a Mayor and council that in four years have created more debt and growing exponentially the cost of living of the people who pay the civic bills?

In four years the property tax rate, averaged 3.5 per cent. It has increased property taxes by 17.5 per cent. The figure does not include the effect of increased assessment. Typically adjusted upward each April, bumps up your property tax rate that year.

Throw in the latest operating tax dodge called special levies on property, separate storm water maintenance, annual increases of supplying potable water and dealing with wastewater. Those items are excluded from the city’s operating budget.

It’s the weird system of managing figures and figuring management.

Mr. Mayor, what ever happened to your 2014 election promise to keep the Guelph property tax rate at the level of the Consumer Price index?

Here’s why. The city Sunshine List between 2015 to 2019, did not publish the salaries and benefits to senior managers, Pappert, Thomson and Amorisi.

How serious is this malignant oversight manipulated under the radar by council approving the salary increases?

For 26 months, one of the top managers was Depity Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi. From 2015 to February 2017, he was the man in charge of Finance and Human Resources. He reported to CAO Ann Pappert.

Just for the record, CAO Ann Pappert received, in 17 months, from January 2015 until May, 26, 2016. $520,000.

That’s an average of $30, 588 per month.

Do you know of anyone in your neighbourhood in Guelph who makes that kind of money a month?

As it turned out, she was not alone

In 2018, CAO Derrick Thomson, received $335,000. He left in February 2019. His departure was described by the city as a “parting of the ways.”

Today, the news is that he has just accepted a job, as CAO of Minto, a town in Wellington County, population 9,000. The previous Minto CAO was earning $160,456.

Accepting that job only rekindles speculation about his leaving Guelph. Why did he leave a $335,000 job with a one-year contract extension, to take one that paid half of what he was making as Guelph CAO?

Mr. Thomson was paid $782,333 for 32 months, from June 2016 to Febriary 2019. He also received $33,000 in taxable benefits.

Ann Pappert moves on

After leaving the city in May 2016, former CAO Ann Pappert landed a job in October 2016 as a provincial Assistant Deputy Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. She left that position in January 2017 and the trail of employment is not followed.As As it turned out, it was a banner year for Ms. Pappert who not only received $267,000 from mthe City of Guelph but an unknown salary for her four months work in Queen’s Park.

Now we come to Guthrie’s largess with senior staff manager, Mark Amorosi. He was the third recipient in that secret December10 meeting. The provincial Sunshine List confirmed the salary increases to, Pappert, Amorosi and Thomson totaling $98,202P

No one acknowledged the increases until the 2015 Sunshine List was published March 31, 2016. Pappert, Thomson and Amorosi never commented or admitted receiving the money.

For specifically critical of Mark Amorosi’s role as DCAO of Finance and Human Resources, later in the fall, I was sued for defamation claiming $500,000 in damages.

Just over two months later, Amorosi was fired for failing to oversee a data dump of 50,000 personal emails to a Kitchener lawyer representing a former Guelph Chief Building Inspector who sued the city for wrongful dismissal.

His case was quickly settled by the city.

Here we are in the fourth year of the lawsuit.

Last August, the motion judge dismissed our motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The case is now before the Ontario Court of Appeal.

I have no idea when our case will be heard,

I estimate the citizens of Guelph have already paid the lawyer representing Amorosi an estimated $100,000. This is our money. My legal costs are $80,000 and no end in sight.

The city administration refuses to reveal the cost of the personal lawsuit in Ambrosi’s name.

If you believe this laysuit isis unfair and a waste of public money, here’s what to do?

Email; your councillors and tell them yo stop using their fiscal power against a law abiding citizen whi still believes in the Canadian Constitution allowing freedom of expression.

Please send me a copy at:

gerrybarker76@gmail.com

 

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Does the Guelph civic administration abuse its power?

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January 19, 2020 · 10:02 pm