Posted June 6, 2013
Lest we forget, a quick reminder of what happened to our city government.
After almost seven years of monitoring and commenting on the city administration led by Mayor Karen Farbridge, the menu of miscues, lies and mismanagement of the city, the time has come to say no.
We need to say no to more studies and hiring of consultants and lawyers to propagate misguided social policies that benefit the few. We need to say no to the dozens of costly lawsuits and OMB hearings. It’s all done in the name of reform, to change the way the city functions and operates.
It’s been accomplished by a ruthless small group of elected councillors who are determined to force their agenda on a city. This has resulted in chaos.
Recent polling and a survey, launched by the administration, have revealed the citizens are not satisfied by the way the city is being run. Further, a survey states the city staff is discontent and has low job satisfaction.
How did this happen? How did the matrix of the political management of the city disintegrate in just seven years?
It started with the civic election of 2006. A coalition of dedicated environmentalist activists, heritage protagonists, small business entrepreneurs led by Mayor Karen Farbridge, whose socialist agenda was introduced to an unsuspecting electorate. For four years, the new council bloc held a controlling 11 to 2 advantage with only two members winning re-election from the former administration.
Most were rookies in civic government management. Slowly, senior staff members were weeded out. These included David Kennedy, the veteran Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administration Officer Larry Kotseff. Their departures have been followed by a parade of senior and middle managers.
The key city financial department witnessed a parade of senior managers. One was fired without notice after three years on the job. A deputy treasurer who subsequently left for a job with County Wellington succeeded her. The current financial chief arrived with municipal management experience but no formal accounting background.
Considering that there is no city engineer, no city planner, or no city lawyer. These are key professional positions that should be occupied by those with professional degrees and designations.
This lack of experience and continuity in the key financial and treasury posts has produced a convoluted hodge-podge of financial management and reporting. The practice of paying for non-budgeted capital spending is a game of raiding one of several reserve “envelopes” to account for it. These so-called envelopes are many and some are woefully under-funded but are used by the administration to fund its pet projects.
In this way, the financial reporting and audit as required by the Province become is a 400-page document that no taxpayer can understand and rubber-stamped by an outside account firm. It also is available only on-line.
Trouble is, the outside accountant does not examine any expenditure under $600,000 as per its contract. So the reserve fund shuffle gets mostly ignored. The addition of an internal auditor to examine the various department performances is commendable but too little too late. After seven years, that person faces an impossible task.
The appointment was a sop to the growing criticism of the management of city finances. In a brilliant political move, the Farbridge administration appointed opposition critic, Coun. Cam Guthrie, as chairman of the audit committee. He quickly fell into the role and made some statements about how well city was being run, that baffled his supporters and shoved him firmly into the Farbridge camp.
The enormous increase in city debt, failure to provide details of contracts with various outside organizations, far outweighs the claimed accomplishments of the Farbridge administration. The latest is the letting of a $500,000 renovation contract without competing bids on the grounds the staff knows what it wants. This is the renovation of the Farmer’s Market building that ballooned from council approving $170,000 for the job that suddenly turned into $500,000 approved by staff.
This whole affair flies in the face of conventional management of capital projects.
Is it any wonder the administrations’ own polling and surveys reflect dissatisfaction with city government?
The Farbridge grand social experiment has been a financial and cultural failure.
It’s time to speak up and say no.
There is an organization of citizens forming. Guelphspeaks will keep you informed to join the crusade for change. Stay on site for details to come.
The people are the only hope of making change.