Monthly Archives: October 2014

Did Guelph voters jump from the frying pan into the fire?

Posted October 29, 2014

The defeat of Mayor Karen Farbridge rocked the city when she lost her re-election bid by a cumulative margin of 10,417 votes. That is a devastating defeat by any measurement.

Mayor elect Cam Guthrie has a lot to be thankful for but it wasn’t entirely the result of his campaign strategy. It was boosted by a huge surge in the Internet media that resolutely exposed the mayor for her failures in judgment in doing the city’s business. The fact that Guthrie handily won the 14,000-advance poll and Internet vote by more than 50 per cent indicated Friday night, the race for mayor was over.

Congratulations Cam Guthrie.

Now the real work begins. The results of the councillor races in the wards are not conclusive. The official count has seven Farbridge-aligned councillors elected. There is one serious problem in that Coun. June Hofland was declared the winner in ward three over Craig Chamberlain with a margin of five votes.

The balance of power remains uncertain until a recount of the ward three ballots decides the winner – Hofland or Chamberlain. It will also reveal any irregularities that may be exposed during the official recount.

One major irregularity occurred at the Residences St. Joseph where residents have been complaining to the city prior to the election that they were not enumerated and were unable to vote. All of these residents are aged but still able to vote if given the opportunity. Stephen O’Brien, the chief electoral officer should investigate this situation that was reported by the daughter of a resident.

If true, and these citizens were denied their right to vote, then a special election should be called for all residents in the ward to cast their vote to determine who should represent them.

During city council’s November 17 meeting, the staff is recommending that an official ward three recount be ordered. Keep in mind that the current council, led by Mayor Farbridge will make that decision.

In the unlikely event that council turns down the recount recommendation, it flies in the face of the overall election results that people voted for change, including the office of mayor.

Pending the vote, it is interesting to note that Coun. Hofland was quoted on election night when told she had a two-vote margin, that there would be a recount.

She now faces the dilemma not to vote or abstain for a recount of the ballots as a member of the present council. Nor should defeated candidates, Mayor Farbridge, Todd Dennis and Maggie Laidlaw vote on the recount question because they are lame ducks in a council that is almost at the end of its mandate.

The decision is vital to the future management of the city. If the Farbridge majority votes not to hold a recount, Craig Chamberlain has the option to seek redress in the courts to order the recount. That has to be at his expense and he must obtain legal advice.

Craig Chamberlain will be an earnest and valuable asset to the new city council. He epitomizes the kind of councillor that the vast majority of voters wanted on Election Day when they voted for change.

There were more than 10,000 additional votes cast this year than in 2010. It boosted Guelph’s election turnout to almost 50 per cent as opposed to 33 per cent in 2010.

It is now vital for mayor elect, Cam Guthrie, to reach out to Craig Chamberlain and add his support. It’s a mathematical problem for Mr. Guthrie. He has five potential supporters for the new policies for change for which the people voted. The Farbridge supporters currently have seven councillors elected including Coun. Hofland.

The election of Craig Chamberlain will tip the balance to 6 and 6 giving the mayor- elect the crucial deciding vote.

Folks don’t be fooled by the moment of elation. The next few weeks will be pure hardball politics as each side jockeys to control the people’s business.

Failure to act now will make former Mayor Kate Quarrie’s abuse by the people on the left, look like a tea party compared to the potential dysfunction of the new council. Haven’t we seen this movie before?

This is the time to speak up in support of Craig Chamberlain and ensure the playing field is level.

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Now it’s a choice between the Farbridge record or restoring the public trust

Posted October 25, 2014

Two distinctive political solitudes are facing off in the 2014 civic election that concludes Monday night at 8 p.m. There is much at stake as the Farbridge administration has taken Guelph in a direction in the past eight years that has aroused a normally docile electorate to oppose.

There are a number of opposition organizations that have sprung up, not connected, but are making similar points of protest against a deeply-entrenched and financed Farbridge dominated administration.

Then, along came the Urbacon firing and lawsuit. The Farbridge administration was responsible, first for the termination of a legitimate construction contract and then six years later, found responsible for wrongfully dismissing Urbacon from the new city hall project.

Some of the details of this complicated lawsuit and the settlements with the various parties involved have trickled out of City Hall in a controlled and careful manner. There are still a number of obligations the city faces of which details have not been revealed.

Instead, Mayor Farbridge states: “That they had a problem and fixed it.”

By our estimate the real cost of this misadventure is more than $21 million, not the $15 million that CAO Ann Pappert claims is the cost of the overruns, involving the new city hall and renovation of the old one.

It does not explain the Farbridge team, at taxpayer’s expense, attempting to muzzle the damages portion of the trial until after the election. That legal move denied.

There is no doubt now in the public’s mind that not only was there a serious error in judgment by the Farbridge administration in 2008, kicking Urbacon off the job site, but resulting in a costly blunder six years later.

This is why there is outright resentment by citizens who must now pay for this series of errors, cover-ups and the administration’s failure of its fiduciary responsibility.

Public trust in this administration is shattered and lost through its own actions. It was parially driven by arrogance, inexperience and a sense of entitlement.

The other choice

In the fall of 2012, following a 12 month investigation, GrassRoots Guelph, a non-partisan citizen’s activist group, presented a documented petition to the then Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The Minister ordered her staff to meet with GRG and investigate the claims of financial malfeasance contained in the petition.

The outcome of the meeting with GRG was the Ministry officials, confirming that the figures and data in the petition were accurate. Despite her staff’s report, the minister refused to order an independent audit of the City of Guelph’s finances and operations. She described the matter as being “local” and to be resolved between the two parties. Despite GRG’s attempts to arrange such a meeting with the city, it did not happen.

To this day the facts contained in that petition are as accurate as they were two years ago. What later developed is the revelation that the city financial forecasting is unpredictable and a constantly moving target making analysis and accountability virtually impossible.

In the summer of 2011, a founding group of citizens agreed to inform and educate the electors to increase greater participation in civic elections. As analysis and investigation proceeded it became apparent there were many events and decisions made by the Farbridge administration that were covered up.

As GRG reported these events and the impact on citizens, the public trust in the Farbridge administration eroded. This began the polarization between the people and the Farbridge re-election campaign and her supporters.

The phony attacks by the Farbridge supporters on her chief rival, Coun. Cam Guthrie, have denigrated the reputation of the administration and its leader, Karen Farbridge.

The unsigned attack ad linked Mr. Guthrie with convicted robocall participant Michael Sona. It not only broke the Elections Act law about unattributed political advertising but also forced the mayor to admit her team published it. Then she went on a rant about how the campaign is toxic and there is bullying, particularly on the women candidates. She threatened to go on the attack.

What this means is there is a clear choice. Grassroots Guelph has named 12 qualified and experienced candidates for council. This strategy is deliberate because the root cause of the malaise that has infected the body politic of Guelph is because of the dominance of Farbridge councillors in the past eight years.

GRG feels that power must be vested in the members of council, not just the mayor or the staff. Change can only occur at the ballot box.

It’s really a simple decision on Monday. Do you want to support an administration that has cost citizens more than $21 million on just one project? Continue to see annual property taxes and user fees increase beyond the Consumer Price Index?

Or support the GRG candidates who are dedicated to returning power to the people and taking the city in a new direction, more responsible, operating an open and transparent government.

On Monday, whatever path you choose, and have not yet voted, make the effort to ensure your voice is heard. In this most important election the outcome will define Guelph for the next four years.

If you don’t vote, you don’t count.

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Guelph mayor Karen Farbridge linked to ‘political cybersquatting’ in past campaigns

The issue of domain name ownership was brought up this week when mayoral candidate Cam Guthrie was accused of “cybersquatting” in 2006.

“Cybersquatting” is the registering of a domain name related to the brand of someone else with the intent of potential future sale or marketing use.

It has been and still is a common practice on the internet.

Guthrie bought an abandoned domain name of a political candidate after the 2006 Guelph election. It was not used as a website and was immediately transferred to the person when they requested it.

Cam Guthrie’s domain name purchase pales in comparison to what the Farbridge team did to Kate Quarrie in the 2006 campaign .

In contrast, the Farbridge team high-jacked the domain name of the current Mayor Kate Quarrie – KateQuarrie.ca. This was done prior to voting day of the 2006 election. An attack ad style website was created at KateQuarrie.ca and used during the election campaign cycle to deliberately trash Ms. Quarrie resulting in her defeat.

Click Here to see the “dirty tricks” style of internet domain name high-jacking used by the Farbridge gang in the 2006 election campaign.

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Mayor Karen Farbridge’s duck dynasty

Posted October 24, 2014

Okay, here we have a mayor whose fingerprints are all over every decision the city makes including, presumably, the width of the toilet paper rolls. Nothing happens at City Hall without the mayor’s express approval.

Having said that, the mayor takes credit for winning awards and achieving recognition of her vision of the city. But when the feathers hit the fan, the mayor’s name is never associated with the problem, big or small.

A prime example is who ordered the firing of Urbacon Buildings Systems Corp in September 19, 2008? According to Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, consigliore of the mayor’s inner circle, former CAO Hans Loewig carried out the order with the assistance of the Guelph police.

Yes, but who told him to do it? With the exception of the Mayor, members of council at the time said they were not consulted on the decision or asked to ratify it.

The mayor ducks.

The story goes underground as the Farbridge administration frantically hires two outside construction firms to complete the new City Hall that was 95 per cent finished. Also required was renovation of the old city hall into a provincial offenses court. The details of this arrangement including the costs have never been revealed.

What we do know is both projects were part of the original $42,000,000 contract.

Two months after the firing, acting CAO Hans Loewig was rewarded with a permanent, four-year contract with a starting salary of $198,000 plus the unusual provision allowing him to take up to 12 weeks a year in unpaid vacation. Great, for almost $200,000 a year we get a part-time CAO.

The Mayor ducks again. This time it was to protect her reputation in the upcoming 2010 civic election.

In 2009, there was an attempt to mediate in the differences with Urbacon to reach a settlement that failed because the city offer was not acceptable to Urbacon. The company had launched a $19.2 million lawsuit for wrongful dismissal. The city counter-sued for $5 million.

Comingled in all these inner workings of the administration was the hiring and subsequent firing three years later of Margaret Neubauer as Chief Financial Officer. There was never any explanation other than the theory she was demanding that capital projects must all have business plans.

The mayor ducks again. Her reputation as the Teflon mayor grows as nothing sticks to her.

Mayor Farbridge is re-elected in 2010 and the citizens were still in the dark as to the looming impact of her decision to fire Urbacon in 2008.

Starting in February 2013, Justice Donald MacKenzie presided over the Urbacon trial that took five weeks to complete. At the start of trial both parties agreed that it would be split into two parts, the liability portion and the damages portion. The judge ordered that the damages trial must be held within four months of his judgment of the case. That meant it had to start October 14.

In June of this year, the mayor, in full litigious mode, convinced council to have their lawyer, Derek Schmuck, request a separate hearing, the purpose of which was to delay the damages portion of the trial until after the October 27 civic election. That action was dismissed and the judge asked Mr. Schmuck why the city agreed to split the trial into two parts. Schmuck replied: “ Because we thought we would win.”

Then in September, a miracle happened. In a weekend meeting CAO Pappert and CFO Al Horsman negotiated a settlement with Urbacon of $6.45 million.

The mayor ducks again.

The citizens are now scratching their heads as to why Urbacon who won the $19.2 million lawsuit would acquiesce to accept $6.35 million? Did that include Urbacon’s costs of legal fees, court costs, or damages to reputation? It just doesn’t add up because the city will not reveal the true costs of this financial disaster.

CAO Pappert has said the total Urbacon cost over-runs is $57 million or $15 million over the original contract of $42 million.

Let’s add it up without knowing exactly what it has cost because the administration won’t reveal the true costs and liability.

Original cost of new city hall and renovation of the old city hall – $42 million.

Cost of mediations services – $150,000

Cost of two contraction companies to complete the work – Estimate $5 million

Cost of legal representation for the city and Urbacon – $2.3 million not defined

Trial costs – Estimate $1.3 million

Cost of the lien claimants (sub trades), including interest – estimate $4.5 million

Cost of settlement with bond claimant Aviva Insurance – estimate $400,000

Costs of staff dedicated to lawsuit issues for six years – estimate $600,000

Settlement cost with Urbacon – $6.35 million

This adds up to $21.635 million. Not $15 million as the CAO has stated.

The mayor ducks again.

These figures in many cases are estimates but the city refuses to break out the true costs because the mayor wants to be re-elected. Five councillors who were part of the Urbacon firing in 2006 are also seeking re-election. Regardless what any of them say now, they were responsible to the citizens and they copped out.

These Farbridge supporters include: Maggie Laidlaw, June Hofland, Leanne Piper, Karl Wettstein and Mike Salisbury. None of them deserve re-election for 21.6 million reasons.

The mayor ducks.

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The Farbridge Praetorian Guard circles the wagons to protect their leader

Posted October 23, 2014

Farbridge friend and editor Andy Best, a former president of the Guelph Civic League, has called out the Farbridge Praetorian Guard to destroy the credibility of a bonafide citizen’s activist group, GrassRoots Guelph and its founder, Gerry Barker.

Writing in the blog, the Guelph Citizen, the focus is on yours truly, who Mr. Best described me in part “as an armchair general, writing from an undisclosed location that I can only assume is located deep in the fires of Mordor”.

Although I served in the military, I was no armchair general and I work from home as a citizen and taxpayer. After 11 years, the city still doesn’t pick up my garbage. Oh well, we’re only part of the 6,400 residences that have to hire private contractors to remove their unsorted garbage to, wait for it! The landfill! We still have to pay for the waste management operation through our taxes.

Nice try, Andy your Praetorian colleagues are part of the problem facing our city, not the solution. It’s interesting that anyone or any situation that dares question the operations of the Farbridge administration is public enemy number one.

I have been called “evil times two” by one of your colleagues. I have been mocked and experienced hack attacks on my computer. I am accused of misrepresenting the facts, and my favourite, being disrespectful. This is juvenile drivel and indicative of the source of such nonsense fueled by desperation.

You guardians of anything Farbridge are related to the 2006 attack ads and phony websites denigrating then Mayor Kate Quarrie and others. They were part of the Guelph Civic League’s vicious personal attacks and tactics that ultimately led to a sweep by Karen Farbridge and her council supporters.

That was then and this is now and the playing field is a mite more level. So the Farbridge Praetorians launch personal attacks on those who don’t agree with the eight-year record of a tired and colourless administration that cannot separate truth from fiction.

What’s most interesting is all guelphspeaks.ca did was name the organizations and websites supporting Mayor Karen Farbridge.

My, my, my. What a reaction. The Farbridge Praetorians would have you believe that I had put salt in their coffee instead of sugar. They obviously did not appreciate being linked to the Farbridge campaign. But somebody had to do it.

When Best says his website provides citizens with pure, unfiltered information, what does that have to do with journalism 101?

One has to wonder why the Farbridge campaign chose to run that unattributed attack ad in last week’s Tribune attempting to link mayoral candidate Cam Guthrie with convicted robocall participant Michael Sona?

Pure, unfiltered? Even the mayor realized that her campaign took a major hit. Then, The Empire struck back, and she blamed the toxic and bullying atmosphere of the campaign and vowed to go on the attack. That was a calculated PR move to shift from perpetrator to victim.

Is mocking me part of that attack strategy Andy?

I’ve been writing about the Farbridge council operations for the past eight years. My files on the Farbridge administration are extensive.

To suggest to your viewers that the Farbridge team is composed of good people who love the city is over the top. What makes you think that citizens who oppose the Farbridge regime do not love their city? Your lot do not have an exclusive lock on who loves the city. That Mr. Best and the rest of your group, is a figment of your imagination.

Welcome to the real world where a hellova lot of people disagree with you and your leader Karen Farbridge and love their city more than any statements you may make regarding the alleged sterling character of your associates.

And the reasons are simple. It is all about the Farbridge record starting with the Urbacon financial fiasco that is costing citizens, year to date, $15 million. Gerry Barker did not make this up nor did GRG or the other opposition organizations.

To use a baseball metaphor, the mayor is caught in a citizen’s rundown between third base and home plate.

Guess Monday night we’ll find out if she was tagged out.

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Now it’s your turn, there are two choices: More of the same Farbridge or change

Posted October 23, 2014

Mayor Karen Farbridge and the Mercury use the word “toxic” when referring to this election campaign. It’s a word carrying a negative connotation, like it shouldn’t be like this. This isn’t the Guelph way, or so the Mayor and Mercury would like you to believe.

The truth is that there has been constant and accurate exposure of the Mayor’s record. Cumulatively, the details have been highly critical of the city operations led by the Mayor, including the Urbacon financial fiasco that has cost citizens, year to date, $15 million.

What has now come to light is the professional relationship between the city’s $213,000 Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, and Mayor Farbridge. According to information recently received, the city staff is demoralized because every report, recommendation and even planning proposals sent to the CAO are immediately referred to the Mayor for approval.

This would indicate that the mayor personally decides the outcome of all city business. The members of council are not always consulted. An example was the firing of Urbacon that all members of council say they were not consulted nor asked to ratify the decision.

The committees of elected councillors and council itself eventually are presented with the Farbridge approved version. The mayor has complete control of the council in which her supporters are the majority and are dominating the committees.

It is now apparent that one person made the decision to fire Urbacon. It was not former CAO Hans Loewig as CAO Ann Pappert now claims. He was only following orders when he fired Urbacon off the job in September 2008. It was Mayor Karen Farbridge. For the mayor to now say that “we fixed the problem” is simply an indictment of her leadership.

There is another choice

GrassRoots Guelph has aimed its efforts toward returning power to the city council. That’s why it has recommended 12 candidates who, after researching backgrounds and experience, were selected and announced four weeks ago.

GRG’s focus is to elect those who act as the people’s representatives and not just the mayor. There is ample evidence now that the public trust in the Farbridge administration has been lost. A newly elected council, dedicated to change, can only regain it

In a four-part series published in the Guelph Tribune. GrassRoots Guelph has published a plan for change called “New Directions Guelph.” The series identifies the serious problems facing the city today and in the next four years. It offers a plan to identify the true financial position of the city through an independent audit before launching its plans for change.

More importantly, the new council will open the process to the public and operate a truly open and transparent government. The New Directions Guelph guidelines will not embark on a slash and burn destruction of services but rationalize spending with revenues.

Proposed plans involving capital spending announced by the Farbridge administration will be considered. Again, this will be a case of priorities to be monitored during the first year of operations, and pendingnthe outcome of the financial audit.

The Farbridge campaign has mounted a furious campaign to discredit not only GRG but many more anti-Farbridge groups who have grasped the reasons why change must come to city hal The people’s right to demand democracy must be restored.

Already, as of last Monday morning, more than 10,000 citizens have voted through the Internet and advance polls. That’s 28 per cent of the total civic vote in 2010.

Monday, October 27, is the last chance to express your view as to who should act on your behalf at 1 Carden Street for the next four years.

GRG and guelphspeaks.ca urge voters to exercise your right and vote. The polls are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Be sure and bring photo ID and proof of residence.

Remember, if you don’t vote, you don’t count.

You do have a choice.

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Fact checking Mayor Farbridge’s “You deserve the truth” full-page ad

Posted October 22, 2014

In the Tuesday Guelph Tribune, there was a full-page ad by Mayor Karen Farbridge in which she dsiplayed her version of the truth in five areas of municipal management. These are her words and they leave gaping holes when it comes to the truth and credibility.

Let’s start with her explanation of the Urbacon lawsuit that was number five on her list of truths but must be addressed first. It is important that her explanation dovetails with another truth category in which she states, “The city is being run very well.”

Regarding the Urbacon mess, the mayor says: “The truth is there was a problem and we fixed it.”

Fact check: Completion of this $42,000,000 contract was delayed because the Farbridge administration ordered more than 300 change orders. This affected the renovation of the old city hall because of the new city hall change orders. A bitter and toxic atmosphere developed between the city, the architects and Urbacon. The finger pointing was monumental, as Urbacon could not get straight answers to accommodate all the changes it was being asked to perform.

Fact check: The new city hall was 95 per cent completed when Urbacon Buildings Systems Corp. without warning, was literally thrown off the job in September 2008 with police present.

Fact check: The city hired two outside construction firms to finish the new city hall and renovate the old city hall into a provincial offenses court. That work was all part of the original $42 million Urbacon contract. The Farbridge administration has never revealed the extra costs as a result of its decision.

The Mayor’s truth statement: “Costs were rising – to regain control of the project, city administration cancelled the contract.”

Fact check: Costs were rising because the city administration was demanding changes that required not only coordination but also communication. The Farbridge administration was using proxies such as Murray McRae, the city manager in charge of the project, and the architects, Moriyama and Teshima, who were the go-between the city and the contractor.

Fact check: In his judgment citing the city for wrongfully dismissing Urbacon, Justice Donald MacKenzie made it clear that there was a serious breakdown in communications that led to the firing of Urbacon. He further said that the testimony of Murray McRae was contradictory.

The fallout: To this day, the mayor has not accepted responsibility for this $15 million cost over run that is increasing due to other costs that have not been reported. Instead, her Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, laid the responsibility on former CAO Hans Loewig. Both Loewig and McRae are no longer employees.

The facts are that this was the most costly mistake any Guelph Mayor and council have ever made. To slough it off in an ad saying she fixed the problem is an egregious insult to the citizens of Guelph.

To compound the error in judgment, she says the $15 million payout won’t affect the property taxes. The city is taking the money from three reserve funds, none of which are connected to legal settlements. This is nothing but stealing from Peter to pay Paul. Only it’s your money and now Farbridge wants to replenish the depleted reserves with more of your money over the next five years. Remember, she claims all this won’t affect property taxes. It’s this kind of financial manuipulation that has been going on for eight years.

In her Truth message she speaks of lowering taxes.

Fact check: In eight years her administration has increased property taxes by 38 per cent compounded. The Consumer Price Index rose by 17 per cent in the same period. She produces a chart showing the decline of taxes since 2005. The 2014 budget increased taxes by 2.38 per cent. In 2013 it was 1.97 per cent. In both cases, the increase failed to account for the increases in assessment of Guelph properties. That automatically increases property taxes. The real increase this year is 4.37 per cent. What’s the old story? Figures lie and liars figure?

Fact check: Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsman, is on record saying the increase in property taxes for 2015 could be 6 per cent. How does that square with the Mayor’s Truth statement that ”the 2015 target is two per cent?

In her Truth statement the mayor calls “Guelph a great place to do business.”

Fact check: There have been two independent consultant reports commissioned by the city that say the exact opposite. Despite the mayor’s truth claims, our city is a tough place to do business. The proof lies in the ratio of assessment between residential (84 per cent) and industrial/commercial (16 per cent). It has not budged in eight years of Farbridge management.

Fact check: If what the mayor’s truth ad says is true, that “more than 8,000 new jobs” have been created, where are they, how many jobs disappeared, and how many were public sector jobs compared to the private sector?

Fact check: If Guelph is such a great place to do business, why does the mayor want to abolish the Ontario Municipal Board, the provincial board of sober second thought? Why did she challenge the province in the courts to allow Guelph to withdraw from the Wellington, Dufferin Guelph Public Health organization? She lost that one too.

Sorry Madame Mayor, your version of the truth flies in the face of the facts. It’s laden with supposition without basis of fact or background. When your record of performance is up against the wall, it’s about the only course you can take.

But it’s still an abuse of the truth.

Join the GrassRoots Guelph gathering Election Night at the Guelph Country Club. Cash bar and nibbles. Watch the returns starting after the polls close at 8 p.m. on the big screen TV’s.

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