Posted April 9, 2014
In a letter to the editor in the Mercury, Susan Watson castigated Coun. Cam Guthrie for criticizing Mayor Farbridge over her handling of the Urbacon lawsuit.
Watson, it should be noted, is a stand-up supporter of Mayor Farbridge and her tenure as Guelph’s elected political leader. Her letter goes overboard defending the Mayor on the grounds that the judgment has not yet been delivered nor have the costs been established. The city therefore has not had the opportunity to evaluate the judgment and to determine if there are grounds for an appeal.
Watson would have us believe that details have not been released. The weakness in her argument is the Judge has made his decision known. Guthrie, who is a candidate for Mayor, has every right to criticize the Mayor because she was in charge when the decisions were made.
Just to refresh Watson’s selective memory: There was a mediation session between the Urbacon and the city regarding the contract termination two years ago. The city offered to settle for some $4 million. Urbacon turned it down and the process ended. The dispute then went to trial in January, 2013.
According to Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert, the city now holds former CAO, Hans Loewig, responsible for the decision to fire Urbacon in September 2008. Following that decision, Loewig oversaw the hiring of two outside contractors to finish the new City Hall and to renovate the old City Hall into a Provincial Offenses Court. The original Urbacon contract price for these two jobs was $42 million.
He also demanded that the company holding the completion bond on the job pay the city in compensation for Urbacon’s failure to complete the contract. That was flatly denied presumably because the city terminated the contract in October 2008.
Then, in November 2008, Mayor Farbridge praised Loewig for his “exemplary leadership, integrity, and commitment to public service during his tenure at the city.”
Accompanying that ringing endorsement, Loewig received a four-year commitment as CAO at a starting salarly of $195,000.
Now his successor, Ann Pappert, throws the entire responsibility for that fateful September, 2008 decision onto Loewig, Mayor Farbridge’s choice to manage the city staff as CAO for four years..
Remember, to this day the citizens have no idea what the actual cost of the new city hall and Provincial Court renovation of the old city hall and what their ultimate liability will be.
Those costs include:
Hiring lawyers and outside consultants to advise the city prior to its decision to fire Urbacon
Hiring two contractors to complete the job
Payment of fees to the architects
Settlement of liens placed on project by subcontractors
Cost of the abortive mediation session
Costs of the Hamilton lawyer to represent the city’s case in last year’s civil trial
Brampton trial court costs
City staff costs
Possible punitive award
Judge’s award to Urbacon for wrongful dismissal.
Is it any wonder now that CAO Pappert is putting the blame on Loewig suggesting council was never informed nor asked to approve the termination of the Urbacon contract?
Having a CAO to answer for your mistakes as Mayor, is a handy device to deflect responsibility.
The Urbacon issue reflects the lack of competence of the Farbridge administration.
It is one that has done a terrible job of:
Managing the staff
Forecasting revenues and expenditures
By conducting the public’s business behind closed doors
Taxing property owners and businesses excessively to pay for social engineering schemes and projects
Raising user fees to pay for incompetence
If the Urbacon lawsuit has done nothing else but to wake up the electorate, it has performed a municipal miracle. To alert citizens that their city needs a new council that will bring fiscal order and responsibility to the table and do it in public.