How does the city hire outside professionals?

Updated January 31, 2013

How does the city go about hiring an outside lawyer or consultant to provide services not available within the ranks of staff? The trial between Urbacon Buildings Group Corporation and the City of Guelph over the $42 million new city hall construction, is a case in point.

Currently, there are 13 litigation actions against the city.

In addition, 17 disputes being adjudicated by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) are outstanding. In the past year, four OMB issues have been resolved.

There are three other unspecified legal matters to be resolved. Two other legal matters were resolved since 2012.

Added to the list are 19 actions with insurance protection that involve using legal professionals. The report states that two insured matters have  been resolved.

This is enough work to keep a moderately sized private legal firm in business for years at the present growing rate of deputes with the city administration.

The City of Guelph has become a mecca for  lawyers not employed by the city. Most interesting is the high number of OMB disputes that points to the failure to encourage business to establish in the city.

The taxpayers are entitled to know the details of hiring outside experts. Also what provisions in the budget are set aside for settling legal matters? These details are almost never forthcoming. If one trusts the annual audited multipage financial statements of the city, the real costs are not readily available.

Take for example the public trial of the City of Guelph versus Urbacon now underway in Brampton. This trial is scheduled to take five weeks to complete. The judge will then study the evidence provided by both sides to reach his judgment. Assessing the costs and damages will occur next October at a separate hearing.

At stake are claims worth millions of dollars. Urbacon is seeking $19 million while the city is counter-claiming $5 million. The dispute arose when former Guelph Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Hans Loewig, fired Urbacon September 2008 claiming that the company failed to meet completion deadlines.

The city has already spent money in an abortive mediation attempt last fall to resolve the matter. The cost of this process has not been revealed. The two sides failed to agree so the matter has gone to trial.

It is not difficult to figure out that win or lose; Guelph taxpayers are already stuck with extremely high legal costs. And if the city loses, those costs will soar.

So, how does the administration choose to settle or proceed with an action?

Mark Amorosi, Executive Director of Human Resources, Legal and Realty Services, plays a vital role in the analysis and strategy concerning the many legal issues facing the city. And there are a bunch of them.

The city solicitor also gets involved along with CAO Anne Pappert. Where it gets murky is who makes the final decision and does council get involved? Taxpayers have no idea.

One would believe that the Mayor must be involved as well as her governance committee. Does council blindly follow the staff recommendation to hire outside experts and professionals?

Take the case of the hired gun representing the city in the Urbacon case. Derek Schmuck, 55, practises law and resides in Hamilton.

What are the terms of his open-ended contract including his fees? How was he selected? In which area of the law does he specialize? Has he been hired by the city prior to this engagement?

Is he a friend or acquaintance of Mr. Amorosi who also lives in Hamilton? Did Mr. Amorosi hire him?

For all the public knows, Mr. Schmuck may be doing a first rate job defending the taxpayer’s interests. It’s about how he got the job and the process used to hire him.

These are but a few questions to which taxpayers are entitled to know the answers. Spending on outside services has increased exponentially under the Farbridge administration.

The record of obfuscation, lack of clarity in city generated information, and obscured transparency, is the legacy of a tired and arrogant administration.

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7 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

7 responses to “How does the city hire outside professionals?

  1. Jerry

    No matter how you flip this coin.This administration is 0 for 3 so far on
    court proceedings.
    Every time it has been with a different lawyer representing the city.
    Every time they have lost,no surprise.
    This administration has got to stop hiring their buddies or family members
    to do the job.
    .And in the last three times have we once had a response from the city
    about what the procedure costs?Nope,so if i were you i would not hold my
    breath.
    But in saying that i am glad there is a person like you that brings this
    forward to the public.
    Keep up the great work you are doing.
    Jerry

    • Jerry: Blush! You make me feel so good! My thrust is to get people thinking about how their investment in Guelph is being mismanaged and abused by the majority of council who use their position of power to push their narrow and costly agenda. City government should reflect the points of view of the many, not controlled by a political party whose agenda is not shared by the majority. Insider tip: Help is on the way. Stay tuned and tell you friends.

  2. geo

    I believe Guelph’s involvement in so much litigation, litigation that the City almost always loses, demonstrates gross incompetence by a person or a group of people who are on City staff.
    I would like to know who is making these foolhardy, incredibly expensive decisions and why said decision makers face no consequences?

  3. joseph paul phelan

    Farbridge and her henchmen should all be hung up in the highest tree in town after having been tarred and feathered….they are all a disgrace to the citizens of Guelph….incompetence and arrogance at its very finest!!!!

  4. Hi, Gerry, the City has raised the amount for which it is counter-suing, from $5M to $10M. How much is that move is strategy, or theatre? Both? And could it backfire if it is seen as such? It could indicate confidence but then it again it could signal bluster.

    • Craig Chamberlain: It may just be a taxpayer-funded expression of sheer terror of losing. This is another example of what we don’t know and are not informed. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. The province forced the city to report regularly on the status of outstanding legal issues including litigation, Ontario Municipal Board hearings, and a number of insured claims that require adjudication. The costs associated with the 13 ongoing litigation cases can be devastating to the taxpayers who must fund the legal boo-boos. The outcome of these cases is not as important as the associated legal and court costs. This is what happens when senior staff are fired, retired or leave. The vacuum of common sense and knowledge loss is thundering.

    • joseph paul phelan

      Thundering yes….at the tax payers expense as per usual in the city of Goof….

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