Police HQ: What did the Mayor know and when did she know it?

Posted December 8, 2013

When Mayor Karen Farbridge took office in January 2007, she automatically became a member of the Guelph Police Services Board. That was seven years ago. As part of her civic remuneration the mayor receives an extra $5,000 stipend over and above her base salary.

Since her appointment, the mayor has sat on the board through the tenure of two police chiefs. Coun Leanne Piper, who also receives an extra stipend for her Police Services Board responsibilities, joins her

A taxpayer may ask why are they on that board? The Mayor and Coun. Piper have a fiduciary responsibility to maintain the financial state of the municipality. That includes capital spending and financial management.

After seven years, did the mayor not know that conditions at police headquarters had become overtaxed and in dire need of renovation? Did she not know that the city was obligated to pay for any renovations to the aging building using taxpayer’s money?

So where was she for seven years? Did she miss some meetings? Did she not understand the shabby conditions in which we ask our police to carry out their important work? Was she too busy creating a waste management system that is seriously flawed?

Now she tells her council that the police can force the city to pay through legislation available to them to renovate the headquarters building.

Two weeks ago this writer predicted that the majority of council, over which the mayor is in control, would pass this $34 million project. The positive vote for the basic motion was 9 to 4.

It’s magic folks! On the one hand, supporting the project is dependent on a staff report on the “business case”. On the other hand the mayor says the city has no choice but to spend the $34 million. It’s not hard to figure out where this is going.

Now here are the optics of this mess.

The mayor is preparing to soften the public up with a number of 2014 pre-election promises and goodies. The 2.38 per cent property tax increase is a beginning. Then the subject of a “business case” burbled to the top in which $20.4 million was conditionally approved pending the outcome of the so called “business case”.

A further mystery was the role of the Police Chief, Bryan Larkin, in the past nine months as he went on a public relations exercise to convince the public of the need, after the price jumped from $13.3 million to $34 million.  If he read the papers and the blogs he’d realize that the public was mad as hell about this project’s zooming costs.

Did anyone at police headquarters think that a business plan, to support this expenditure, might be useful when the time came for council to approve it?

Did our mayor, sit quietly in the corner, at police board meetings, and not inform them that such an increase was a public disaster and they had better justify it?

So it took council little time to ratify the project with the sham of demanding a “business case” before releasing the money.

And all it took was an unfounded threat by our mayor that the police could force the city to pay anyway. Why didn’t council request a confirmation of this claim?

Some people would call this exercise just politics. It is much bigger than that. It goes right to the heart of trust of those elected to represent us.

The irony remains that Coun. Maggie Laidlaw was the only one who opposed three subordinate clauses to the main motion.  Was she the only councillor to see through this deal?

The odour of this shameless $34 million decision will hang around until next October.




Filed under Between the Lines

9 responses to “Police HQ: What did the Mayor know and when did she know it?

  1. Glen N. Tolhurst

    Were the elected members of council who sit on the GPS board dozy or just dozing while the world passed them by? To clear the foggy thinking away, here is a business case with the sequential steps to be taken before one more cent is spent on any renovations of the police HQ. First step: ascertain if there is indeed legislation giving the police chief the right to demand the city pay whatever he wants for HQ renovations. If that is correct, the second step is to tell the chief to chill out on his renovation aspirations and if he will not comply, the third step is to terminate him on the spot for failure to follow orders. (If he does not have the right to demand funding for the renovations, remind him who pays his salary and and order him to toe the line.) Any contract payout for termination that some out-of-touch court could impose would be way less than the cost of the renovations. The fourth step is to announce the amalgamation of the police services, fire services, and ambulance services with a study being undertaken to decide how to achieve the amalgamation and the cost savings accruing from it. While the study is taking place, the fifth step is to appoint an acting police chief whose contract is term limited and constrains him/her to not asking for any facility renovations.
    The only alternative to the above business case is for council to roll over and do the bidding of an unelected official by approving the $34 million for police HQ renovations, yet drop all other capital projects to enable it to go ahead with no negative tax impact. See how the citizens of Guelph would welcome the chief as he waltzes into a renovated HQ.

    • Glen N. Tolhurst: Interesting analysis. The finger should be pointed at the co-called civilian Police Services Board that has sat on this deteriorating police headquarters for the past seven years with an enabling Mayor Farbridge and Councillor Leanne Piper sitting on their hands. The problem is that Farbridge and company had other priorities that sucked the available capital away from needed police facilities. Our city has more financial albatrosses established by the Mayor and her cohorts including: The $16 million civic museum; the $33 million composting facility; the $15 million waste cart collection system; the $19 million lawsuits over construction of there new city hall; failing to get out of the Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health Unit after losing a costly court fight; deals made with out-of-town condo developers suspending development fees; spending more than $1 million to develop a Well-Being” program that is nothing but a conduit to funnel money to friendly organizations; Failing to regulate student housing in singe family residential areas. The list goes on as revelations regarding the management of taxpayer’s money are disclosed. The only solution at this point is to defeat those councillors who have slavishly supported the Mayor and elect competent and responsible candidates to replace them. Finally, let some air into one Carden Street so the people know and understand how their city is being run.

  2. Jerry

    Hi Gerry
    Was this not the same mayor that sat on the Health board.If i recall she
    played dumb then right to the end.Did not even try to put some money
    away for the new building,instead went to court (costs us taxpayers a
    fortune in lawyers fees)and we still had to pay.
    So to answer your question she knew all along about the new building for
    the police.But she held off on letting us know an decided to use it as a
    political item.
    She is trying to show how well she handles the city finances coming up to
    a election year.
    But the problem for her is we have been thru this for 7 years.(7 years too
    long in my opinion.).We all see thru the smoke and mirrors and it is time
    for a change.Change for mayor and council.
    (well certain councilors).
    I guess i will see you and others on election day.

    • Jerry: There will be a lot of citizens heading to the polls election day. These will be informed and concerned citizens who want to change our civic government by electing candidates who will bring spending and operations under control. Hope you belong to GrassRoots Guelph and join the hundreds of citizens who have already become members. If not, send your name, full address email address and telephone number to: grassrootsguelph2014@gmail.com

  3. Paul:

    In order to get rid of the free spenders on Council – all 8 of them it will require a large turnout of voters, Turnout in the last election was a dismal 33.9%, One thing we can count on is that the Farbridge supporters WILL VOTE! It will be necessary for voter turnout to be above the 50% mark, A turnout of over 60% would be fantastic and would help to get rid of the free spenders on Council – ALL 8 OF THEM.
    One important aspect in the 2014 Municipal Election is the person who runs for Mayor. The only one expressing an interest is Cam Guthrie and in my opinion he is not the right candidate. He has about 6 months to prove that he can be a fiscally conservative member of Council and to undo his rather spotty record of this term. We need a Nom Jary type to lead Council, I don’t see this financial mess being cleaned up unless the next Council has a strong mandate from the voters.

    • Paul: Statistics show that civic elections normally attract a low turnout. Looking at the numbers in the 2010 election Mayor Farbridge won by some 4,327 votes over David Birtwistle. The two other mayoralty candidates captured more than 2,060 votes. By that measure the Mayor’s margin was only 2,267. Compare that to her margin of victory in 2006 of more than 5,300 over incumbent Kate Quarrie. That is a serious drop in margin of more than 3.033 votes. And she spent $85,000 to achieve the 2010 re-election. In my view the mayor and a number of her supporters on council are vulnerable next October based on their second term track record. Of course it depends on who is running against them. We’ll know better by the end of April when the serious candidates will have paid their fee and taken out their papers as official candidates. Cam Guthrie has indicated he will be running for Mayor.

    • Gerry: When you make one you make a doozie. We reported that Cam Guthrie voted for the 2014 city budget. In fact, he voted against it. My original information was incorrect although the source is impeccable. So Cam, sorry about that. I am pleased that you did the right thing along with Gloria Kovach, Jim Furfaro and Andy Van Hellemond. Why? Let the mayor explain it in her own words: “I am very pleased and proud of the path we are forging with our open government strategy.” Yes folks, that’s a Pinnochio moment.

  4. Paul:

    Oh, I overlooked one thing!
    Gerry you made note that The Mayor along with the “Heritage” Councillor Piper sit on the Police Board.
    I think you neglected to point out that Kovach was originally appointed to the Police Services Board and was “removed” by the Mayor and her support cabal. The voters need to be reminded of this stab in the back approach as often as the opportunity allows a reminder. This is definitely NOT “OPEN AND TRANSPARENT”

    • Paul: I have written about the “night of the long knives” on a number of occasions. Gloria Kovach was elected for four years by unanimous vote by the new council in 2007 to sit of the Police Services Board. Piper engineered the coup with the connivance of the Mayor and her cohorts. Nice people, eh?

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