Hallejua! We have a winner!

The city announced that the vacant post of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) had been filled after the former CFO was fired a year ago. Albert Horsman comes to the city from the Town of Kawartha Lakes where he served as Chief Administration Officer (CAO).

But the title of the senior Guelph staff position is now called – Executive Director of Finance and Enterprise.

The new employee comes to the job with varied municipal experience that is focused on management but does not include a degree in financial accounting.

Indeed the job description makes his position not only to manage city finances but also to seek and create positive enterprise opportunities.

Is this guy a financial manager or a salesman?

Guelph CAO, Ann Pappert described Mr. Horsman’s experience as a municipal finance expert with a background in the provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Infrastructure Ontario and the City of Toronto’s financial planning division.

But has he ever been responsible for accounting a city’s finances?

It is another strange appointment to an Executive Director’s post where the titles are longer that an elephant’s trunk, and the job descriptions are buried deep in the bureaucratic bowel known only to the few and not to the general public.

Not wishing the new man any ill will but to paraphrase Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz, “this isn’t Kansas, Toto.”

Once Mr. Horsman gets settled in, he will quickly discover the financial picture of the city and the excessive debt currently costing more than $5 million a year in interest just to service the debt. Gradually he will work his way through the voodoo accounting practised by the leadership of this city with the complicity of the independent auditors. The result is taxpayers have had little understanding of the financial mess the city is in.

For example, Coun. Ian Findlay suggested that the 2012 budget be re-opened to permit spending $10,000 to provide a skateboard park this summer. This has been the practice in the past.

Here’s the rub. Why was this expenditure dropped when the 2012 budget was being established last fall?  More to the point, where was Mr. Findlay when the decision was made to drop the project?

It was a dumb mistake but the 2012 budget should not be re-opened. That’s like letting the cats among the canaries. Perhaps the money can be found elsewhere.

In conjunction with his fairly modest request, city council is to consider a staff proposal May 30th to spend upwards of $9 million to develop a downtown park at the corner of Gordon and Wellington Streets.

These are really big picture guys.

The project calls for purchase of commercial properties to develop the park while disrupting an intense commercial node at one of the main intersections of the city.

What was the planning staff thinking? It’s not a bad idea to have a downtown park but the staff proposal is ill conceived. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail and the project be sent back to staff to investigate compromise and initiate a more reasonable solution without spending millions.Then, out of the blue, comes the Chief Executive Officer of the Guelph Library suggesting a new downtown library costing $64 million that would open in 2017. So confident of this happening, the library has hired a fundraiser charged with bringing in $10 million to completely finish the interior of the building as proposed by the library management.

In steps Coun. Ian Findlay, who expresses confidence the project will meet the 2017 completion. “Not only will there be a library but there will be commercial space available,” he said.

What are these people smoking? There isn’t public money available in 2012 or in the foreseeable future. To promote such a possibility is egregious and willful.

The new Downtown library is a possibility but it requires private participation and limited public exposure.

Welcome Mr. Horsmen to the city of whacko economics.



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