Brace yourselves for the looming fallout of the Urbacon lawsuit

Posted April 2, 2014

We’ve learned from the announcement of the judge’s ruling, finding for former city hall contractor Urbacon Buildings Group Corp. (plaintiff) and the city’s crude attempt to foist the blame on others.

You will recall that more than a month ago, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced she was not prepared to order an audit of the City’s finances and operations. It was prepared and sponsored by GrassRoots Guelph, an independent activist organization.

The triumphant response from the Mayor and CAO was the petition was a “waste of time.” The Minister never said that or inferred it. Nevertheless, the city’s spin machine went into high gear with a childish and unwarranted response.

On Monday, the city’s spin-doctors were at it again blaming the former Kate Quarrie administration for a “poorly worded” contract. Then they claimed the city fired Urbacon in the best interests of the taxpayers.

Really! This administration has rarely placed the best interests of the taxpayers at the top of its priority list.

Instead, when the proverbial stuff hit the fan Monday, the CAO offered the specious argument that failed to address the core issue of competence. The Mayor issued a statement on her blog but did not conduct a press conference and has not commented since.

The ball was tossed to deputy city solicitor, Scott Worsfold, to handle the press and state the city’s position.

Where were the CAO Ann Pappert, CFO Al Horsman, or city solicitor Donna Jaques?

The city’s spin machine entered a no-comment mode as the administration reeled over the lawsuit fallout.

Worsfold gamely released information that further exacerbated the growing doubts about the competence of the administration.

He said the yet to be determined costs that will have to be paid by the city, were not insured as a protective shield because it was considered, at the time, as unnecessary. The case was considered a slam dunk. In short the taxpayer’s interests were once again shuffled to the bottom of the deck.

Then the solicitor said that payment of costs could come from various reserve funds or “the municipality has identified funding sources related to paying damages … would require repayment over an extended period of time.”

Take that to mean the city may have to borrow money to pay the costs.

Next question: How will this impact the capital spending program that includes a new $34 million police headquarters?

For this city council, the chickens have come home to roost. For many years the administration’s spending has been front-running the revenues, i.e. they have been spending more than they have been receiving in the normal course of business.

As it turns out, the city property taxpayer was being soaked with high annual tax increases. In eight years of the Farbridge administration, the increases, compounded, amounted to 32 per cent. This council turned your property into its ATM machine.

This situation was raised in the GrassRoots Guelph petition presented to the Ministry, requesting an audit of the city finances and operations. One of the key problems discovered was the city financial staff’s failure to accurately forecast expenses and revenues.

The Ministry officials sent to interview GRG stated that the petition figures and supporting facts were accurate.

The Urbacon case fallout will reverberate around our community for months.

But the key question remains. It is all about competence, and lack of it, in the highest positions of our city government.

 

 

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