Posted April 8, 2014
Yesterday, Chief Apologist Officer , Ann Pappert, sent a news release to the Mercury in which she stated, unequivocally, that “a complete legal search of Council files has resulted in the following: There was no report to Council seeking Council approval of this (Urbacon firing) decision. There was no resolution of Council directing staff to terminate the contract.”
If Council was not aware of the Urbacon termination of a $42 million contract, who was and who ordered it?
CAO Pappert went on to say that after consultation with lawyers, professional external consultants and project management staff, interim Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Hans Loewig, based on the advice received, terminated Urbacon’s contract.
She said that the interim CAO gave Council verbal updates leading up to September 19, 2008 when he ordered Urbacon Buildings Corporation off the site. The contract was formally terminated on October 17.
Accepting this explanation, were not minutes kept of these Council meetings to verify what Mr. Loewig told Council?
Here’s where the explanation goes off the rails.
In the final days of last year’s trial between Urbacon and the city, the Urbacon legal team introduced into evidence an email sent to Urbacon management in August 2008, from Hans Loewig. In it Mr. Loewig expressed his satisfaction with the progress of the new city hall construction and said he was looking forward to full completion by January 2009.
Less than a month later, Loewig kicked Urbacon off the site.
Hans Loewig was interim Chief Administration Officer when he, on his own without Council direction, allegedly made the decision to fire Urbacon. He was hired in June 2007 as a replacement of Larry Kotseff who was fired previously by the Farbridge administration. He was not on the permanent staff at this time.
A little over a month later, November 27, 2008, the city announced that Loewig would be hired to act as Guelph’s CAO for four years at a starting salary of $195,000 a year. His contract included the unusual condition granting him eight weeks of unpaid vacation per year plus his regular entitlement of paid vacation time.
In the city news release, Mayor Farbridge was quoted as saying: “Mr. Loewig has shown exemplary leadership, integrity and commitment to public service during his tenure in the city. I am thrilled that he will continue to serve as our Chief Administrative Officer for the next four years.”
If he is now being thrown under the bus, did Hans Loewig extract a price for loyalty from a Mayor who, it is now alleged, had nothing to do with the Urbacon termination?
When Mr. Loewig left the city job in December 2012, he was making $209,000 while it appears he was working only nine months of the year. In four years, Mr. Loewig drew some $800,000 in salary not including benefits as CAO of Guelph.
In hindsight, was this entire Urbacon affair terribly mismanaged from the get go? Trial evidence revealed that a flood of change orders contributed to the contract. This delayed completion of the project, twice before termination.
Regardless, Judge Donald MacKenzie did not believe the city’s position and right to terminate the Urbacon contract.
In view of the management of this multi-million dollar issue, how can citizens trust and believe the city’s explanation of who was responsible, given the evidence?
Pappert’s explanation that the elected officials, including the Mayor, were not in the loop when the decision was made to fire Urbacon, is a deliberate distortion of the truth and smells of political interference to protect a Mayor and council.