More on how the city manages your business

Posted October 21, 2012

By Gerry Barker, editor

Often when reading the reports of city management my eyes begin to water in disbelief.

How can a well-paid and professional city staff admit with a straight face, that they failed to notice the rising costs of using outside lawyers?

Katherine Gray, city service, performance and development coordinator, says hiring outside legal services historically costs some $400,000 annually. This year she estimates the cost will be $850,000. Whenever the word “estimate” is mentioned, duck!.

Two things have caused this doubling of costs. One is that departments, other than legal services, have hired outside lawyers without going through the city’s Legal Services department. The other is “an explosion” in appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

Hmmm! It’s a given that the staff should manage their departments within budget restraints. One would expect that executive management would be aware of other departments bypassing legal services to hire their own outside lawyers.

Why is there no check on this basic requirement to control external legal costs?  The man overseeing legal services is Executive Director, Mark Amorosi, who stated: “there are some policies that do restrict our ability to be agile in the moment.”

Perhaps there should be less agility and more attention paid to controlling costs.

Somewhat belatedly, the staff is recommending that budget practices be changed so that all legal costs go through the Legal Services department.

Joe and  Jill taxpayers must scratch their heads wondering why this is not common business practice. Of course those costs must go through the Legal Services Department. And a request must be accompanied with a business plan to justify the need.

How else can outside legal costs be controlled?

The increase in appeals to the OMB reinforces the claim that Guelph is a tough place to do business. A senior member of staff, who resigned last year, said the city has turned off potential commercial and industrial operations hoping to come to Guelph. The enquiries were bureaucratically stifled to the extent that potential business took a pass on the city and went elsewhere.

A few years ago I interviewed Lloyd Longfield, CEO of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce. He was effusive about potential Asian industrialists considering the city to establish plants and create jobs.

Wonder whatever happened to that?


Filed under Between the Lines

2 responses to “More on how the city manages your business

  1. geo

    I am sitting here watching city council consider giving Guelph Transit more money because the existing bus service doesn’t bring people downtown.
    This is after Guelph paid Dillon consulting at least $250,000 to come up with a new transit plan that took the buses OUT of downtown Guelph.
    Then the powers that be spent untold millions building a new transit hub on Carden street that, in it’s short life span has surpassed The River Run Centre in white elephant status.
    Hundrerds of thousands of dollars spent on consultants, millions of dollars spent on construction and the result, a system that works for nobody.
    Left wing, right wing, engaged, not engaged, how anybody who lives and pays taxes in this city can support this current administration is way, way beyond me.

    • Geo: The city has copped out about the doubling of outside legal services from $400,000 to more than $800,000 in one year. Your point about the $250,000 spent on Dillion Consulting to craft a new transit plan to get the buses out of St. George’s Square, brings up the cost to taxpayers of the parade of outside consultants. This city has to be the Mecca of non staff outside experts. In many cases the staff should be able to solve issues instead of calling in the consultant cavalry at every opportunity. It also gets staff off the hook. Suffer the poor taxpayers as they know nothing about what’s going on.

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