Posted April 1, 2014
The finger pointing has started in earnest with Coun. Cam Guthrie attacking the Mayor for bungling the $42 million contract that resulted in the contractor being thrown off the job despite the building being 95 per cent completed.
The contractor, Urbacon, sued for $19 million over wrongful termination of the contract.
This week the judge in the case said the city was guilty of wrongful dismissal. But that’s all he said. The actual judgment and costs of this case are still to come.
Mayor Farbridge writes in her blog that her administration inherited a poorly written contract. The result, the Mayor stated, was a breakdown of communications with missed deadlines and deficiencies accumulated.
To set the record straight, former mayor Kate Quarrie was out of the picture at the time and the responsibility of building the new city hall and renovate the old one for a provincial offences court was Mayor Farbridge’s task.
Evidence at the trial a year ago revealed there were more than 340 change orders thrown at the contractor. Many of the changes involved made the building as environmentally complete as possible.
The trouble was, there appeared to be no city manager in charge of overseeing the project; it was more like a committee. The contractor was faced with not only a flurry of change orders but trying to figure out whom they were dealing with.
The Mayor states now that: “Despite considerable effort, the financial and operational risk to the city simply became unacceptable and our administration believed they had no choice but to take control of the project.”
She admitted they received external legal advice before firing and terminating the firm’s contract. Whoever gave that advice should return the legal fees.
“Because we believed it was in the best interest of the community and the taxpayers.”
Well, that did not turn out the way the city expected. In fact, the litigation expenses are not insured by the city. The eventual costs will fall on the taxpayers.
The mayor’s lame excuses of why the city acted the way it did, shakes the confidence that citizen’s have in her judgment, to fulfill her fiduciary responsibilities to the stakeholders.
She concludes by saying that since 2006 the city has tendered almost 400 capital projects valued at over $300 million and less that two per cent of those tenders, including this one, were sent to litigations.
Here’s what she does not talk about.
How many of those projects had cost over-runs? How many legal cases has the city handled during that period? How much has the city spent on outside lawyers and consultants? How much has been spent firing people?
But Madame Mayor, you lost a biggie this time. The costs of which will be revealed in due course. To suggest now that staff should keep its mouth shut so not to “put the city further at risk,” is a little late and why put it on the staff?
If the mayor is smart, she should cut a deal and close the door. To suggest appealing the judge’s ruling would be an even greater mistake than the one citizens must now endure.
On that September day in 2008, the mayor’s competence and fidelity disappeared under a veil of ideology that ignored the inevitable unintended consequences.
Call it a learning experience.