Monthly Archives: May 2011

Was Guelph’s CAO Loewig missing in action?

Last summer there was a major shift in managing our city.

It had become apparent that Hans Loewig had exhausted his usefulness as Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the city administration.

Loewig had been absent from the job frequently and when questioned, the Mayor said he was receiving “blocks of time off” according to the terms of his contract.

Mr. Loewig has not been 100 per cent on the job for the past 18 months. The rumour mill has him dealing with medical problems.  Drawing a pension from his former job with the City of Brantford plus more than $200,000 from Guelph has provided the CAO with a comfortable semi-retirement.

But is it fair? Is it fair that he should draw a full-time salary for part-time work?

Now he has magnanimously offered to remain on salary until next November to assist his replacement.  His contract ends in 2012 but he has agreed to leave early to accommodate the city.

What were the terms of his contract with the city? Why have the Mayor and council not been forthright with the taxpayers about this situation?

And please, don’t bring up that old chestnut that it would be an invasion of Mr. Loewig’s privacy to reveal the terms of his contract. As a public servant, his salary is no secret why not the terms of his contract?

What the public didn’t know was that these absences left a huge power vacuum in the management of the city.

His absences became so critical it called for a reorganization of senior city management to fill the void.

You will recall there was a major shuffle of staff that resulted in some key managers leaving and a committee of four executive directors effectively becoming the new CAO.

Interestingly, it was done prior to the October election. Why, a citizen should ask, was such a shift needed? Why drastically change the management of the city from its traditional system of a single senior manager in charge, to four managers?

What happens if the committee of four is divided on policy? Who breaks the tie?

Another fact is that three of the four executive directors, Mark Amorosi, Ann Pappert, Janet Laird, don’t live in Guelph. Operations chief Derek McCaughan is the only senior manager residing in the city. If those charged with managing a staff of 1,400, paying taxes elsewhere and responsible for the operation of the city, what does that say about loyalty and fidelity to their employers, the taxpayers of Guelph?

An analogy may lie in senior managers of a corporation who invest in their own company, giving shareholders the comfort of knowing that they share the burden of success or failure.

Shouldn’t the same principle apply to senior public servants?

In fact, Guelph should make it a condition of employment that senior managers reside in the city including anyone earning in excess of $125,000 a year.

I believe the situation with Hans Loewig was a cover-up by the Mayor and the previous council. These employees are public servants who draw their pay and benefits from the city tax pool.

The taxpayers should have been told and the matter dealt with before this committee of four executive directors was put in charge.

To suggest that Hans Loewig was on the job when all this happened is ludicrous and smells of lying by omission.

Gerry Barker is a Guelph taxpayer. Reach him at gerrybarker76@gmail.com

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In Guelph wars, the first casualty is the truth

A recent letter to the editor of the Mercury written by Mark Amorosi, executive director of Human Resources and Legal affairs, addressed why the city will not reveal why Margaret Neubauer was fired.

He said it was a matter of personal privacy.

Amorosi, a resident of Hamilton is not a lawyer. Guelph had a city solicitor but she resigned.

Despite what Amorosi says, if you receive a cheque from the taxpayers they have the right to know the circumstances of your employment including dismissal without cause.

This isn’t a privacy issue at all. It’s a blatant cover-up of a public firing of a senior official of the city.

The city is ham-handed when it comes to managing staff.  Remember when they fired CAO Larry Kotseff and Chief Financial officer David Kennedy, the city clammed up on the circumstances and the severance package. It eventually came out when under the Freedom of Information Act the truth was unveiled.

No wonder they stonewalled the payoff details. It cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And why is Chief Administrative Officer Hans Loewig still employed? He decided to retire early due to unknown reasons and is sticking around drawing a paycheck and firing Neubauer.

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CAO Loewig Guelph’s Donald Trump?

CAO Loewig: Guelph’s Donald Trump?

Any employee of the city who is invited outside in the hall by Chief Administration Officer Hans Loewig better have their resumes ready.

Such was the recent case of Chief Financial Officer Margaret Neubauer who was waiting in the council chamber for the meeting to begin when Loewig asked her to step out in the hall.

“You’re fired!” as the CAO aped the Donald.

Ms. Neubauer left the building. Her severance according to the city’s rules will be some $36,000.  But hold on to your hat folks. If she is smart, she will obtain the services of a good labour lawyer and sue the city for wrongful dismissal.

There is ample case history that a worker has the right to seek redress through the courts when fired in such a shabby way, thereby deflating her opportunity to seek new employment.

The abrupt dismissal, done in such a public manner, has damaged her professional reputation and there can be a cost in terms of punitive damages.

The city’s only defence firing was evidence the employee was stealing public funds. If that is the case, why weren’t the police called in?

It’s a good bet that old argument about a personality conflict causing the firing will surface in the next few months. Sorry but that’s not a valid reason for dismissal without cause.

That’s why the city is keeping mum about her dismissal without cause. They’ll wait for the lawsuit writ to drop and not provide evidence before the case is heard. They may be clumsy but not totally dumb.

And Loewig is pretty good at dumping staff. Last year some eight employees were fired without cause. Cost to taxpayers is projected to top  $1.06 million. Some 83 employees left the City last year, leaving an experience gap of 700 years.

It’s ironic: Loewig is a lame duck because he’s leaving the city at the end of this year.

The city has hired a headhunting firm to seek a replacement costing $40,000. Guess what Loewig’s severance package will cost taxpayers?

Gerry Barker
Editor of Guelph Speaks

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Guelph’s water charges up 50 per cent in six years

Guelph’s water charges up 50 per cent in six years

The front-page headline said water rates in Guelph would increase 10 per cent in 2012 and 1013. Inside, the story continues to reveal that in the past three years, water rates have increased by 10 per cent per year. Who knew?

Guelph Environmental Chief Janet Laird told the Mercury editorial board that there were two factors in play. One was that the consumption of water in the city has dropped thanks to a conservation program designed by her department.  Second was Provincial government mandates to ensure a safe and reliable delivery of potable water.

This is traceable back to 2000 when the Walkerton water supply became infected with e-coli as a result of sloppy handling of run-off by the town’s water supervisors. Seven persons died and many were severely ill as a result.

But why is this still an issue some 11 years later? Is Ms. Laird saying that the city’s water infrastructure and treatment plant have not been brought up to provincial standards? She used that argument coupled with diminished revenue from consumers.

Or is there another more compelling reason for increasing water revenues?

Revenues are down and costs are up. It’s a recipe for raising the rates.

Maybe it’s time to privatize this vital municipal service and stop these exponential increases dictated by the public service.

Gerry Barker
Editor of Guelph Speaks

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