Uncorking the truth about the Urbacon debacle is like pinning the tail on the donkey

Posted September 10. 2014

First let’s set the scene. Almost six years ago, in September 19, 2008, the Guelph police were called to boot the primary contractor off the new city hall construction site. The compamy, Urbacon Buildings Group Corp. sued the city for $19.2 million in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit.

In March of this year Justice Donald MacKenzie found the city wrongfully dismissed Urbacon. Subsequently this week, the city in a press release, announced it had settled with Urbacon for $6.635 million. It later announced the legal and associated costs were $2.3 million.

The blogosphere is now boiling over the $8.935 million Urbacon-to-date costs. Even the staunchest of Farbridge supporters are devoid of serious explanation of how it happened.

A couple of comments insist that it’s not too bad as it represents less that two per cent of the city’s budget, so what’s the big deal?

Well, here’s why it’s a big deal. The money used to pay the bills of this multi-million dollar blunder is the public’s money. The Farbridge commentator claims it’s applicable to compare the two per cent to household or private corporation budgets. He still don’t get it.

It remains a serious breach of the public trust. Already the manicured message from city hall is avoiding the details of this settlement and the costs incurred to fight the lawsuit in the past five years.

For example, how much did the city pay Urbacon for work completed before the firing? How much did the city pay the two construction companies hired to complete the Urbacon contract? How many contract change orders or directives did the city and its architects order? Did this affect the completion dates that kept changing? How much was paid to architects Moriyama and Teshima?

More questions: Why was there no liability insurance taken out by the city to protect its interests? Who actually ordered the firing of Urbacon? Did council agree to fire the contractor? Why did council award former Chief Administrative Officer, (CAO) Hans Loewig, with an ironclad, four-year contract a month after the firing? What was CAO Ann Pappert talking about when she said that Loewig acted under a bylaw giving him the right to unilaterally cancel a contract without council’s approval?

Even more questions: In the past five years, how much has been spent on city staff who were engaged in preparing the city’s rebuttal to the Urbacon lawsuit? How much money has been spent modifying the new city hall after completion?

Mayor Farbridge, as the elected head of council and the municipality, needs to answer these questions that the public has a right to know. Her message has been tailored to the extent that she and her council have done nothing wrong. Leaving out the details of this debacle is classic Farbridge-speak.

Throughout this entire episode, the mayor has not accepted responsibility nor have any of her councilors. Here is a list of those 2008 councilors who were involved.

Ward One – Kathleen Ferrelly (retired in 2010), Bob Bell (candidate 2014)

Ward Two – Vicki Beard (defeated in 2010), Ian Findlay, (retiring 2014)

Ward Three – June Hofland (candidate 2014), Maggie Laidlaw (candidate 2014)

Ward Four – Gloria Kovach (retiring 2014), Mike Salisbury (defeated in 2010, candidate in 2014)

Ward Five – Leanne Piper (candidate 2014), Lise Burcher, (retiring 2014)

Ward Six – Christine Billings (retired 2010), Karl Wettstein (candidate 2014)

In view of the revelations regarding the Urbacon project, why would anyone vote for Karen Farbridge, June Hofland, Maggie Laidlaw, Mike Salisbury, Leanne Piper or Karl Wettstein, all seeking re-election? They were on that council when the city fired Urbacon.

Regardless of all the poetic subterfuge that has been spouted by CAO Pappert that the council was not involved, the facts are clear. Each councilor had a responsibility to protect the public’s interest. Most failed.

Not directly involved but still worthy of non-support is Farbridge supporter Coun. Todd Dennis, elected in 2010 in Ward Six and candidate in 2014. Cathy Downer, was the former Farbridge campaign manager in 2010, and is currently running in Ward Five.

The Farbridge forces have, so far, nominated 17 candidates for 12 jobs. That bespeaks the determination to retain power at any cost for another four years. Fortunately, there are a number of qualified candidates who recognize the need for reform and change.

GrasssRoots Guelph will soon be recommending candidates following the close of nominations 2 p.m. this Friday. The GRG recommendations will include those who recognize the need to change the way our city is being managed and who bring skill sets and good judgment to the job.

If elected, they will pin the tail on this donkey.

1 Comment

Filed under Between the Lines

One response to “Uncorking the truth about the Urbacon debacle is like pinning the tail on the donkey

  1. The announcement left me this way:

    “No way. Go out and raise the money with interest yourself. Those reserves belong to us, the citizens of Guelph, not to you, so get your hands off our hard work, get your hands off of our money. We built up those reserves and we will decide how they will be used.”

    Enough is enough.

    The public trust has been broken.

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