When Urbacon was fired, the mayor and council did know about it and ducked the blame

Posted June 8, 2014 

This week, the city expects to receive a copy of Superior Court Judge Donald McKenzie’s judgment that blamed the city for firing the chief contractor of the city hall in September 2008.

The lengthy trial last year, held in Brampton, was actually a combination of five lawsuits that were related to the now infamous firing.

This week, our mayor, writing from her bunker, in a blog that she expects the “reasons for the ruling will be lengthy” and suggests that it will take “many days for the CAO and city solicitor to review it and offer advice to council.”

So CAO Ann Pappert, and city lawyer Donna Jacques, are in charge of the review. Ms. Jacques was not involved in the case following release of the judgment last March as another city lawyer handled the media enquiries.

Why didn’t the mayor bring up the name of Derek Schmuck, the Hamilton lawyer who argued the city’s defence during the trial?

You will recall that Pappert was quick off the mark, following the Judge’s decision, to blame the previous CAO, Hans Loewig. She stated it was his decision to fire Urbacon under the authority of the “CAO’s bylaw” that allows him to cancel contracts. Under that reasoning, Pappert said, he was not obligated to inform council.

So, a staff member without council’s consideration dumped a $42 million contract. That has the unmistaken odour of shifting the blame on someone who is no longer a city employee. How convenient.

During the fallout, the mayor dove for cover and CAO Pappert was handed the responsibility of speaking for the city.

It boggles the mind how the council was not informed of the decision. So much so that such a suggestion was a bald-faced lie. Testimony at the trial revealed the bad blood that existed between the city officials and Urbacon even at the start of the project. It also revealed that the avalanche of change orders from the city delayed completion of the project.

Apparently, Judge McKenzie saw through the city’s argument that Urbacon was not costing out the change orders fast enough for the city’s agenda. Details of this will be revealed next week.

It is apparent that members of the Farbridge council knew all along what was happening. In fact they received regular briefings from Loewig.

The question citizens have to consider is: When did council drop responsibility and turn it exclusively over to Loewig?

It just isn’t believeable. Members of council are directly responsible for the city, its finances and operations. They are elected to to carry out that responsibility. It now appears that the Farbridge council has seconded this responsibility to the staff, the non-elected civic servants who are reponsible for carrying out the policies of council.

This is the core problem with the Urbacon affair.

The mayor had a choice and if she did not advise her council, and allowed Loewig to fire Urbacon, just who does she represent?

This is a shameful dereliction of responsibility by Mayor Farbridge and the senior management of our city. Her council majority of ten cohorts has also attempted to avoid any blame, hiding behind the CAO and her egregious explanation of what happened.

Madam Mayor, you just can’t duck the tough issues and then announce you are running for another four years.

The only councillor quoted in the news story was ward two councillor Ian Findlay, who claimed he had a contracting background and took “great interest in following construction of the building.”

He goes on to say: “The administration of the day decided to pull the plug. I supported it at the time.”

So council did know that Urbacon was going to be fired. And they went along with it.

Why then was there this silly subterfuge by CAO Ann Pappert to foist the responsibility of the firing on Hans Loewig? Further, that council was not informed or consulted?

To protect themselves, the decision to fire Urbacon was made behind closed doors.

It has taken six years to get at the truth. Even now there is city administration denial of who was responsible.

The mayor is complicit, and her council cohorts are complicit in making a terrible, costly management mistake. The result was the resignation of former city solicitor Lois Payne and city clerk Lois Giles.

This is a sad day for Guelph because its elected officials failed to act on behalf of citizens and destroyed the public trust. Even worse, they lied about it.

They damn well knew the truth about it all along.





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