Is Al Horsman the fall guy for the $14 million Urbacon lawsuit loss?

Posted August 25, 2015

In 2012 when Al Horsman was hired as Guelph’s new Chief Financial Officer (CFO), there were two issues facing him: One, he was caught in the middle of a brewing lawsuit that could cost as much as a loss of $19.2 million, two, he had no formal financial accreditation to equip him for the job.

The Farbridge administration had decided to fire the former CFO when she dared to question the increased capital spending on major projects without having a business plan. The city’s finances were turned over to a manager in the CFO’s office for about a year before Mr. Horsman arrived to take over. That lady left the city and took a position with Wellington county.

While a city press release patted Horsman on the back announcing his resignation, what was the real reason he was eased out? It confirms the old story, it’s easier to get a job when you have one. Horsman is to take over the Chief Administrative Officer’s job in Sault Ste. Marie, starting September 28.

It wasn’t about the money he was paid in Guelph, ($182,761 plus $6,238 in taxable benefits). It was a about the post election shuffle that took him out of Finance to oversee a huge list of varied responsibilities in which he had little background or training.

Does this sound like a promotion or a prepping of the trapdoor in the Chief Administrative Officer’s office?

His responsibilities included: Infrastructure, planning and enterprise activities including environmental services; planning, urban design and building, and engineering services. The guy had to have the longest job title to ever fit on a business card.

After the Farbridge defeat and the assumption of the job by newly elected Mayor Cam Guthrie, there was a lot of finger pointing and playing the blame game among the defeated mayor’s supporters.

There was denial, disbelief and words of revenge election night and in the following weeks. It is safe to assume that CFO Al Horsman was a target for the election fiasco that saw the mayor fall not only from grace but by more than 5,000 votes.

Now he’s moving on and catching a pretty good job in the process. There is now indication that other staff may choose to move on because of fear and a better working atmosphere elsewhere.

Possibly the time has come to bring in a CFO, qualified and experienced, to pull the city out of the financial mess it is currently experiencing.

The fact that after two hours of debate recently, city council was unable to agree on guidelines for preparation of the 2016 budget. It is a clear indication that financial management is still in disarray.

Also, it doesn’t help that the 2014 Financial Information Report is still not available. The deadline for release is June 30. Presumably when you do not have a CFO and the new general manager and treasurer took over that responsibility in March, things get behind.

Happy trails, Al.

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