The facts behind the Karen Farbridge administration’s legacy of failure

Posted August 12, 2014

Recently, when Mayor Farbridge issued her so-called apology for the Ubacon lawsuit decision, she pointed the finger of responsibility at four different councils, of which she was Mayor for three of those terms.

This triggered outrage from citizens who protested her statement that included former Mayor Kate Quarrie’s administration. The Quarrie council had absolutely nothing to do with the Urbacon lawsuit.

That, friends, was a decision made by the Farbridge administration. When the mayor praised the nine councilors for having the courage to support her “apology statement” she never admitted any personal responsibility, period.

She seconded her responsibility and explanation to CAO, Ann Pappert, whose finger pointing claimed former CAO, Hans Loewig acted on his own, firing the city hall contractor without informing council.

Surprise, Loewig retired a month before the start of the five-week wrongful dismissal trial held in Brampton. Other officials, associated with the project, were either fired or resigned in the two-year period leading up to the termination of Urbacon.

Loewig’s timely disappearance came at the end of his four-year contract that elevated him from contract employee to permanent staff, two months after he turfed Urbacon off the construction site on September 19, 2008. An interesting coincidence, one could assume.

It was a classic move by the mayor to pick and groom CAO’s who resolutely did her bidding. And who would turn down a job like that? It pays more than $200,000, plus benefits.

So, the unelected senior civil servants become the spokespersons for the city. The Mayor communicates sometimes through her blog and rarely ventures out of city hall to meet the public unless the meeting is tightly controlled. She has yet to hold a press conference in which the media can question city policies.

Her tenure is remarkable, despite her reclusive nature that includes often not returning telephone calls or answering correspondence.

Her deliberate avoidance of engaging her public leaves one wondering: Who is running the city?

These tactics, involving her public persona, has resulted in a litany of poor judgment, mismanagement, dumbfounding stupidity and an arrogance matched only by Marie Antoinette.

Let us count the ways.

* Caving into the heritage crowd in 2007, majority council agreed to spend $12.7 million converting the derelict Loretto convent into a new civic museum. The end cost of this has never been revealed because city staff underestimated renovating the crumbling structure.

* Remember guaranteeing a $500,000 bank loan to build an indoor soccer field to be run by local soccer groups. Trouble is, they couldn’t make the mortgage payments so, last year, the city had to refinance and guarantee the loan. In four years the turf surface and balloon roof will have to be replaced.

* A real dereliction of responsibility allowed the occupation of the city-owned Hanlon Business Park. Urban terrorists set up shop in the park and the result was damage to contractor’s equipment, a stoppage of work and the police never intervened. The bill, later revealed, cost more than $1 million. Who were these urban terrorists? Why they were later connected with participating in the G20 riots and burning tires on the Hanlon? The Farbridge administration failed to step in and stop the occupation.

* Later, when the official opening of the park took place, a busload of guests and signatories were assaulted with yells of profanity, spitting and rocking the bus by these same urban terrorists. The police merely videotaped the assault.

* Who can forget the $33 million spent on an organic processing facility that was built triple the capacity of the city for the next 20 years. The plant lifespan is only 20 years.

* Spending another $15 million on waste bins and special vehicles to pick them up curbside, quickly followed this project. Trouble is that an estimated 6,400 condo units could not be served by the new system. But that was nothing new; the city waste department has never collected the waste of these households. Most have to hire independent contractors to collect their garbage. They still have to pay for collection through their property taxes, as well.

* Then there is the case of the floor in the farmer’s market in the former horse barn. City staff asked for $170,000 to replace the uneven floor. It was approved in the budget and a few months later, staff came back to council and said the job would cost $500,000. So where did the extra $330,000 come from? The de-humidifiers scheduled for installation in the West end recreation centre pool. Now that’s a great way to run a city.

* The Farbridge administration attempted to wiggle out of this joint public health board that involved Wellington and Dufferin counties. The reason was the city’s share of a new $17 million headquarters was $10 million. The Farbridge administration went to court to get out of the deal and lost. The end cost was never revealed. Guelph citizens still had to pay the $10 million.

* Along came the Urbacon lawsuit judgment. The city was found it had wrongfully dismissed the city hall contractor. The flurry of silly finger pointing has subsided probably because an attempt by the city to stay the damages portion of the trial until after the election. Another judge denied the application. This is another example of using the taxpayer’s money to deny, defuse and delay the financial fallout that will cost millions and hopefully end the days of the Farbridge administration.

* Finally, Reid’s Heritage Homes is suing the city for $2 million for overcharging development fees. That trial will be held this fall after two attempts by the city to have the suit thrown out.

Reading this Farbridge leadership litany of absolute arrogance, residents must feel like being hit over the head repeatedly by a hammer. The huge increases in property taxes and user fees are only the tip of the iceberg.

But it doesn’t stop the Farbridge regime as they annouce new projects costing millions.

But a new downtown library or south end recreation centre are not included.

When refers to the Farbridge administration, it includes those councillors who have supported her leadership since 2007. It also includes certain senior members of the city staff who have been loyal agents supporting the Farbridge agenda.

In future posts, those responsible will br named because we now know who they are.



Filed under Between the Lines

11 responses to “The facts behind the Karen Farbridge administration’s legacy of failure

  1. Glen N. Tolhurst

    Would it be appropriate to label the councillors who have supported her leadership since 2007 and the certain senior members of the city staff who have been loyal agents supporting her agenda as “Karenistas”? A fitting label for “foot soldiers”? Just wondering!

  2. Glen N. Tolhurst

    Or like a flock of sea gulls… squawking & crapping!

  3. Mary Heyens

    Glen and Gerry, I like “Karenistas Flock of Seagulls…squawking and crapping”. In future posts, YES please name those responsible! Guelph residents will appreciate the work GRG is doing to expose the Farbridge Administration, and, we will be armed with the right information when we vote on October 27th. “Avoidance tactics, involving her public persona, has resulted in a litany of poor judgment, mismanagement, dumbfounding stupidity and arrogance…”, describes Farbridge perfectly. I would like to add the word Bully to the list. Thank you.

  4. Craig

    Wait until they add all of these expenses up next year . Our city is BROKE and continues to spend money with no signs of slowing. The blue collared working man is getting the shaft for these unguided mistakes make by farbridge and her clown council. Soon the middle class won’t be able to afford to live here , a city built on the ma and pa shops is quickly being swallowed by a select core of individuals with their own agendas in mind. This council should be embarrassed , I as a tax payer am in disbelief at how poorly our city has been managed and operated for the past 5-8 years , it’s time for a change, is Cam the answer? Not sure … Let’s remember that he was a part of this council as well and should be somewhat liable for this disaster in hand.

    • And just a side note: what about the *free* bus rides. Does anyone know the cost to run busses per day in this city? It’s us the taxpayers paying the bill ladies and gentlemen. Don’t kid yourself. We’ll see the increase on the blue tax sheet in 2015

    • Louis

      Yea , and when the city is broke, that pretty much means the city will essentially have to cut everything, bus service, garbage pickup, libraries, the community centers etc. The mayor has no one but to blame but herself. She can’t blame the province, she can’t blame the county, and she can’t blame the PM for the finances of the city.

    • Louis

      $10000 a day to run busses

  5. Ed Wesselius

    Somebody should remind Mayor Farbridge that one of the ‘perks’ of being the major is “the buck stops here”.


      Ed Wesselius:In the case of the mare(sic) “the buck stops here ‘after a 22% increase’ “which may or may not include stipends from boards of Guelph Hydro,Guelph Junction Railway,Public Health,etc,etc.,etc………………………………

  6. Linda Brundage

    The main reason my husband and I left the City of Guelph was because of all the crap that Karen Farbridge got away with. One can only hope that, when she is ousted in the next election, she doesn’t move to Muskoka!

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