Posted November 14, 2013
There are basically two people in charge of the City of Guelph
The Chief Administration Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert is responsible for all staff operations and Mayor Karen Farbridge is the top elected official.
This week one of their employees, internal auditor Loretta Alonzo, dropped a 45- page report explaining in great detail the city’s 2013 cost of employee overtime, more than $5 million.
It is an indictment of staff management’s incompetence, arrogance, laziness and irresponsibility. Ms. Alonzo did not mince words in laying the blame on senior management for allowing overtime, in five years, to grow from $2,726,264 in 2009 to $4,219,667 projected for 2013. This does not include employee standby payments of $850,000.
Our CAO, in announcing the audit results, proclaimed that in 2014, the city will save $3 million in overtime costs thanks to management control initiatives being put in place. This is the same CAO who in June 2012 called the council’s demand to restrict the property tax increase to 3 per cent, “regressive”. This statement was made on the heels of a staff recommendation that the tax increase should be 8.5 per cent.
But it even gets better. About a year ago the council met to ratify the 2013 budget. Coun. Gloria Kovach proposed that the staff find $500,000 in savings so that the property tax increase would be 2.97 per cent. Council passed the motion.
In June this year the staff reported it could only come up with $126,000 in “savings”. Most of that included a new source of revenue, not savings. A call to the treasurer’s office revealed that the real 2013 tax increase was 3.74 per cent.
So here we have a CAO bragging about saving $3 million in 2014 in overtime payments, yet this year her staff failed to find $500,000 in “savings” to keep the property tax increase less than 3 per cent. This is the same CAO who was handpicked by the Mayor in 2011 and paid a $20,000 bonus to move from Waterloo to Guelph. Her base salary is $203,000, not including benefits.
And where was our Mayor when this report was made public? Apparently so unavailable that even her lap dog daily newspaper could not reach her for comment. They didn’t have the bunker number? Instead, the mayor chose to respond in her blog, the one few citizens ever read.
Knowledgeable citizens have come to realize that Mayor Farbridge’s communication skills and methods are so tightly controlled, that this internal report comes as no surprise. Regardless, the buck stops with the Mayor. No amount of promises to fix the problem, and many significant others, can change the fact that she has been in charge of our city for seven years.
It’s ironic that less than a week prior to the report’s release, Mayor Farbridge was spinning a grand vision of Guelph’s future before a captive audience, composed of members of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce.
This audit of just one cost area of the city’s operations directly supports the petition requesting an audit of all city finances and operations by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. It was presented October 1st with 162 taxpayers signing the petition. The Municipal Act requires only 50 signatures.
A group of concerned citizens, calling their organization GrassRoots Guelph (GRG), banded together to investigate and analyze city operations. This report, developed by a brave city staffer, vindicates the concerns of these citizens as they seek redress of sloppy and careless management of their city.
GRG has grown with hundreds of citizens responding in support of the group’s basic principles: To control excessive spending, reduce taxes and user fees, control student rental housing and open the city for more business.
Join this growing citizen’s organization and make your voice heard. Send your name, full address, email address and telephone number to grassrootsguelph2014@ gmail.com. Welcome!
Be ready to get into the act of making changes at the top possible.