Posted October 11, 2013
The following is a response by Mayor Karen Farbridge to the launching of a petition delivered to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing October 1, 2013. The petition requested an audit of the City of Guelph’s finances and operations. GrassRoots Guelph (GRG) sponsored the petition and its comments are in Italics.
KF – A press release was issued today by GrassRoots Guelph announcing that they submitted a petition to the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 requesting that the province conduct a forensic audit of the City of Guelph’s finances and operations. While a press conference was to be held at Queen’s Park today, we are not aware of any media being present.
GRG – Did you have someone at Queen’s Park to make that assumption? Are you aware that the press conference was called to answer questions about the petition from the more than 22 media who had received copies of the press release and press kit.
KF – Our staff have (sic) been in contact with officials at MMAH. While no requests for information have been made, we will certainly provide them with whatever they require, if anything.
GRG – That’s comforting. When they ask, the city will be definitely required to respond. Do not turn off the shredding machines.
KF – Our staff have reviewed the concerns of GrassRoots Guelph and in their opinion there is nothing that warrants provincial intervention or the use of taxpayers’ money for additional auditing.
GRG – Were they reading the content of the petition? The fact that the city has exceeded its annual budget for four years by $24,771,000 should be a good starting point for examination of the city’s financial statements.
KF – We will respond to the concerns raised by GrassRoots Guelph. There are inaccuracies in the complaint and we will ensure they are addressed in an open and transparent forum. Members of Council will be provided with the response, as will the public.
GRG – But will you explain the “inaccuracies” in a language that the citizens will understand?
KF – I am confident that the City of Guelph is well managed and we have an open and transparent process. Just 2 months ago, Standards and Poor raised our credit rating giving us independent confirmation that the City is well managed. The AA+ credit rating reaffirms the City’s financial position is not only healthy, it’s getting better. That is a reflection of the Council-approved financial policy framework and the discipline of the management team – CAO, Executive Team, Finance team and Direct Leadership Report Team – in respecting these policies.
GRG – Mayor, there are many people in your city who do not believe you when you state the city administration operates in an open and transparent process. If that had been the case in the past six and one half years of your administration, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
KF – A few years ago, the CFO of the day remarked to me that it would not be long before we would see the positive benefits to our bottom line from the establishment of a comprehensive financial policy framework. She was right. Posted by Mayor Farbridge
GRG -Let’s see. Is it possible that you are referring to former CFO Margaret Neubaur who was fired for reasons unknown to this day? Does your “comprehensive financial policy framework” include employing five chief financial officers in your two terms of office? Does this provide continuity of financial management?
GRG’s Final response to the Mayor’s denial of the four-page petition prepared by members of GrassRoots Guelph (GRG)
This petition is an indictment of city management and its policies. Like all indictments, it must be proven. The method as provided by the province, lies in a little known clause in the Municipal Affairs Act that allows 50 taxpayers to petition the Municipality requesting an audit of the finances. GRG attached 162 names to the petition delivered to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Those names were gathered in just three weeks. Since that time, more than 200 have joined GRG.
What else could the Mayor say? Her statements about her administration being “open and transparent” have a hollow ring. When much of the public business is conducted behind closed doors. That’s not open or transparent.
There is a closed circuit of citizens who doggedly support the Mayor and her majority in Council. And in turn, those special interests received regular support.
These include some community groups, the bicycle lobby, wellness lobby, soccer lobby, cultural, environmental and heritage groups. GRG has received copies of many requests for a response from Council that are ignored. Anything of a critical nature is ignored or defused.
GRG stands by its petition and welcomes third party examination of the City’s finances.
This situation will not go away and has long term ramifications not only on the municipal level but the provincial level as well. Next year is building up to be most interesting! GRG will be in the forefront to inform and discuss the issues for which the organization stands.
Gerry Barker, spokesperson