Should Guelph senior civil servants live in town?

Ownership comes with responsibility. In politics voters expect that their officials, both elected and senior public service employees, to live in the community in which they serve.

Parachuting a candidate into an area inn which she or he do not reside has frequently been a killer for a successful election. The exception of course was demonstrated in Quebec during the recent Federal Election. An NDP candidate chose a vacation trip to Las Vegas during the 36-day campaign and never set foot in the riding and still won by more than 5,000 votes.

Only in Quebec you say?

In recent years Guelph has had its share of staffers who work for the city but do not live in it. If you hold a responsible position in city staff and you leave for your out-of-town residence, is it possible ownership of your responsibility lessens as you head for home?

If you don’t pay taxes in the city that employs you, why should you care about the outcome of your decisions? What is the impact on the shareholders, the taxpayers of the city, who pay your salary?

Can the good burgers of Guelph depend on the employee’s integrity despite not being part of the community?

How would the citizens know? Of the five top managers employed by the city only Derek McCaughan, executive director of operations, is the only one living in the city where he works.

Now the city is spending $40,000 to a head-hunting professional management recruiter to replace Hans Loewig whose recurring absences has prompted him to retire before his contract is up next February.

In the three years as chief administrative officer he never lived in the city choosing Brantford as his home. The bottom line is that if Hans Loewig is unable to perform his job consistently, replace him. This could cost the city severance pay but right now he’s drawing more than $200,000 a year. So what incentive is there for him to resign?

Mr. Loewig offered to stay on until November to offer his guidance to the new CAO.

That was not necessary when former CAO Larry Kotseff was fired and was not replaced immediately. Loewig was later recruited on limited contract and subsequently was awarded a long-term contract to February 2012.

His recent public firing on Chief Financial Officer Margaret Neubauer was a shabby way to treat a senior official. Predictably she will sue the city for wrongful dismissal based on her damaged reputation and ability to seek equal employment elsewhere.

As the saying goes, that dog is off the porch. Loewig will never witness the outcome of this event as he basks in the Arizona sun where he owns a retirement home.

Another legacy will be the outcome of the $19 million lawsuit launched by the original new city hall contractor fired by Loewig.

The monetary liability that these actions will cause will surface in the next four years when the lawsuits are decided.

An educated guess for the reason of Ms. Neubauer being fired is that she warned council about its failure to prepare business plans for its capital spending.

This is what happens when you bring mercenaries in to run your city. They lack community spirit, a sense of belonging and skill sets that do not match the city’s needs

Loyalty to the civic stakeholders cannot be bought.

Gerry Barker can be reached at

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