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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2 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

2 responses to “Mayor Karen Farbridge’s duck dynasty

  1. geo

    Her Royal Highness also pays staff to search for awards she can apply for.
    That’s five and the game for dishonourable conduct.

  2. Glen N. Tolhurst

    The Urbacon queen thinks she can dance away from her messy costly legacy. Her body language during the mayoral debate at the Italian Club betrayed the bravado she was spouting from her mouth.
    Let’s see how her dance ends when the clock strikes midnite on the 27th and the royal carriage and horses return to their original pumpkin and mice incarnation and her fairy tale reign ends.

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