To the losers go the spoils or how the FOF’s are still running the show

Posted July 12, 2015

Bright and early last Monday, July 6, Andy Best started his new job at City hall as Program Manager for Open Government with a congratulatory comment from former Mayor Karen Farbridge.

Presumably Best’s job is to implement the Farbridge council’s last September 8 approval of the Open Government Action Plan (OGAP). After years of criticism by citizens about the closed-door operations of the Farbridge regime, it paid a Toronto consultant $100,000 to develop the OGAP.

Andy Best is a former president of the Guelph Civic League. During the election campaign, he was founder and editor of the Guelph Citizen, a pro-Farbridge blog purporting to be a neutral publication. It was far from being neutral. Best was not alone. There were a number of pro-Farbridge blogs and broadcasts pumping out the former mayor’s message.

In the end it was in vain as performance trumped propaganda. The lady lost.

Although she is no longer connected with city hall, her policies and supporters still are in charge. In eight years, the civic staff was stocked with FOF’s, Friends of Farbridge. Wonder how many members of the 2,100 fulltime city staff owe their job to Karen Farbridge?

The city lost a number of dedicated public servants who couldn’t work with the influx of FOF’s. Morale plummeted. In one case, a new Chief Financial Officer was hired from Waterloo, who quit after one week on the job. He was immediately rehired by Waterloo.

You can read the excruciating details on the city website if your stomach can stand it. It has to be the apex of the Farbridge years to implement this crazy quilt of incomprehensible gobbledygook (say that three times fast!) that purports to open our government to one and all forever and ever.

We’re not here to interpret but to warn that this AGAP is not in the public interest and not what it purports to be. Words such as council, citizens, and taxpayers are rarely mentioned. Here’s an out-take from the lengthy report:

“Form an Open Government Leadership Team – In addition to the dedicated human resource(s), a Leadership Team consisting of internal and external stakeholders is also recommended. The role of the Leadership Team is to ensure alignment and shared ownership with key community stakeholder groups, City departments and service areas at each phase of the Open Government Action Plan. The Leadership Team will outline systems and processes to ensure consistency across projects and departments and monitor a project plan that includes schedules, key milestones, budgets and results.”

There. Are you starting to wonder what this is really all about? For one thing, the OGAP is designed to serve the public online through a personalized MyGuelph access. No mention of speaking directly with any employee, just access to a number of databases.

On paper that sounds great but the key to an open and transparent government is personal access to staff and dialogue. Municipal politics is a touchy-feely experience. The constant use of the word “stakeholders” throughout the OGAP Action Plan helps to remove the role of the people and, possibly the council from the process.

Not every citizen can use or has access to a computer. This OGAP plan is geared for the cyber age before its time.

It’s a bureaucratic solution to control the agenda without having to bother dealing with the citizens who pay their salaries and benefits.

This was demonstrated March 25 when the 2015 budget was approved with a 3.94 per cent property tax increase.

Was Mr. Best’s position posted and advertised? What are the specifications for this position? What is his salary and benefit schedule? Is he a permanent employee or on contract? Who recruited him and who approved the hiring? Were there other applicants for the position? What are his qualifications for the position?

If these questions go unanswered, then the conclusion is this hiring has all the earmarks of favouritism and the elements of corporate corruption.

This isn’t what the majority of people meant when they voted for a more open and transparent government.





Filed under Between the Lines

5 responses to “To the losers go the spoils or how the FOF’s are still running the show

  1. Joe Black

    Guelph is broken there is nobody in the near future or distance to fix it.

  2. jerry

    I disagree Joe Black.I think Githrie is trying to fix the problem but he is hitting road blocks.
    I figured this would happen,there is always a adjustment period.I think if we give it time it will change.
    I think if Guthrie does some house cleaning in city hall and have a big shake down the attitude will change.But we all knew it would be a up hill battle.And i am sure that Guthrie will get this house in order.

    • booomer828

      I agree Jerry. Give Cam a chance –he is not backing down from the moral minority thus far.

    • Jerry: I wish I could share your optimism about change at city hall. There is an entrenched culture perpetrated by both key staffers and a majority of certain members of council. Mayor Guthrie, to be blunt, needs to reach out to the people and engage them to support he and the the middle of the road members of council to effect change. The mayor must sell himself as the Change Mayor because that’s what his supporters voted for.

      I believe there are some steps the mayor can take to assert himself as the community leader. One would be to hire a Chief Financial Officer to independently manage the tattered city finances that not even Job could translate today. That individual would report to the mayor and council, not through the present CAO. Ms. Pappert is the filter for the Farbridge loyalists in the administration. By that I mean all staff reports and management actions are sent to her office before being exposed to council and the public.

      This is no simple task but with the people supporting him through town hall meetings and a great message on why change must happen, the Mayor has an opportunity to fulfill the wishes of the people.

      All of the key managers on staff were hired by the former mayor’s council. On council there are four members, Hofland, Salisbury, Piper and Wettstein, who were members of the council that fired the City Hall general contractor. The Urbacon affair has already cost more than $14 million and counting in legal action, paying two construction companies to finish the original contract, staff costs, subcontractor settlements, legal fees, and peripheral lawsuits.

      Not one of those four individuals admits they were responsible or sorry. They abandoned their sworn fiduciary responsibility. They had the nerve to run for re-election in the middle of the multimillion dollar Urbacon fallout before the October 27 civic election.

      Two other candidates, both members of the New Democratic Party and former candidates in the provincial election, were elected to council. The other newcomer was former Farbridge campaign manager, Cathy Downer. This gives the Left the absolute majority on council.

      This is the difficult position in which the Mayor must advance his reforms that he promised. The final 2015 property 3.94 per cent property tax increase approved by council was his first exposure to how difficult his job was going to be.

      The period for adjustment will take longer than most of us expected. Collectively, we must be patient and supportive of the Mayor and his council friendlies. Change is possible. Getting there is there real challenge.

  3. Len H

    Many more tax increases like in every one of the last eight years and it won’t matter who is on council or what they do. There won’t be anyone left that can afford to live in this city. Oops, sorry. The golden public sector union workers and retirees will be fine.

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