Posted July 15, 2014
As an apology goes, Mayor Farbridge’s apology to the people of Guelph ranks right up there as if Osama Bin Laden apologized for attacking the World Trade Centre and Pentagon in 2001.
It was hollow and unbelievable.
To add insult to injury, her seven supporting cast of councillors voted to accept the apology in a resolution. Only Jim Furfaro, Cam Guthrie and Andy Van Hellemond opposed the apology resolution. And all three of them weren’t on council when firing the city hall contractor occurred. But they had it figured out.
The resolution was a totally meaningless gesture that predictably will haunt those supporting it in October when they seek re-election.
Let’s go through the Mayor’s statement and drill down to understand the real story.
In her apology, the Mayor traces the events that led up to the termination by her administration of the Urbacon contract to build a new city hall and refurbish the old city hall converting it into a provincial offenses court.
Subsequently, following being ordered off the job site in September 2008, Urbacon sued the city for wrongful dismissal. The five-week trial was conducted between February and March of last year. The contractor sought $19,184,181.7 in damages.
Justice Donald MacKenzie announced his decision last March and his full judgment was recently released. The Judge unequivocally found the city wrongfully dismissed the contractor. His judgment was a scathing criticism about the way the city handled the Urbacon dismissal. He also dismissed the city’s $5 million countersuit.
Despite the judgment, the Mayor states in her apology: “After the damages trial, the city will consider the status of the appeal.” That trial is scheduled for October and is the Mayor so confident of being re-elected that she will consider spending more money to appeal? Madame Mayor, how many causes do you want to lose?
She states that construction of the new city hall involved four terms of council and many city staff employees, some no longer employed by the City of Guelph. Here’s the timeline of the four council terms: Farbridge, 2000 to 2003; Quarrie, 2003 to 2006; Farbridge, 2006 to 2010; Farbridge, 2010 to 2014.
She then says: “Collectively, we are responsible for this project.”
How can she keep a straight face and make a statement like that?
The facts are that construction of the city hall started in 2007 when she was Mayor. Her mean-spirited comment in her blog said the $42 million contract, signed by the Quarrie administration, was “poorly written.” Well, Judge MacKenzie disagreed. He said it was prepared, using a template from the Canadian Construction Association and overseen by both parties.
And who were the senior city officials who prepared the contract for council approval in the summer of 2006? They included veteran Chief Financial Officer, David Kennedy, Chief Administrative Officer, Larry Kotseff, and City Solicitor Lois Payne.
A few months after the Mayor’s election, both Kennedy and Kotseff were terminated by the Farbridge administration. That dismissal, without cause, ended up costing the City $500,000. Ms. Payne and City Clerk, Lois Giles, left the city shortly after the Urbacon termination.
But in 2007, the party was just getting started. With a majority of fellow environmentalists on her council, the change orders starting flowing to make the new city hall into an environmental showcase.
Trouble is communications between the city’s point man, Murray McRae, the neutral overseers of the project, Moriyama and Teshima, and the Urbacon team, became confusing and caused delays in meeting the completion deadline. The city later sued the architects for $2 million. The city also sued Aviva, who held the bond on the project. These lawsuits failed.
Again, the Judge said the confusion and delays was a major problem for Urbacon. At one point the city acknowledged that the flow of 340 change orders caused construction delays and agreed to pay Urbacon $500,000 as compensation.
All this occurred while the Farbridge administration was in charge. It has taken eight years to reach this point. The costs will be decided in the next four months and could possibly double the original $42 million price of the project.
The mayor cannot now claim that there was a collective of elected and staff officials who must share responsibility for this financial debacle that will cost the citizens of Guelph millions before it is concluded.
She says the council acted to fire Urbacon to protect the taxpayers from a “project that had gone off the rails.” The trial evidence clearly shows that the city caused the problems that forced Urbacon to delay completion of the new city hall and provincial offenses court in the old city hall.
Then to end her apology statement that she says the new city hall, Market Square and provincial courthouse are “serving the city well.” This only reinforces her avoidance of “mea culpa” in her statement.
When she apologizes, she does so on behalf of the City of Guelph.
As Mayor, she does not accept any personal responsibility for the project. In fact her statement tried to shove responsibility on others who had nothing to do with her management of this project.
This is an egregious attempt to ingratiate herself to the people because she is facing re-election.
If there ever was a reason not to re-elect this mayor, her own words provide it.