By Gerry Barker
Posted January 28, 2016
Last Monday, believed to be the first time in the history of Guelph, five members of council walked out of a council meeting. The five, together with two of their already absent number, stopped the meeting cold following a closed door meeting, as Mayor Guthrie found himself unable to continue the public meeting due to a lack of a quorum.
The underlying reason for this walkout is unknown at this time because Coun. Phil Allt told a citizen that he could not “reveal what occurred” to cause this deliberate boycott of conducting the city’s business. It becomes even murkier with the deafening silence of city clerk Stephen O’Brien.
Well here’s the skinny. We believe the closed meeting was to discuss a personnel matter, a legal reason. When the Gang of Seven did a head count, they were outnumbered six to five because two of that group were absent.
But let’s hear more of this sappy Allt response: “You will have to trust that this rather simple message is of importance to all Guelph residents. By denying a quorum we were defending the integrity of the city as a corporation and staff.”
These are the last guys we should trust to defend the integrity of the corporation and the staff. Besides, it is not their exclusive responsibility to “defend the integrity of the city.” That’s the role of council, the whole council.
Did that closed meeting precipitate the defection of responsibility concerning a senior member of the staff? It has been the opinion of many in the city that there is too strong a bond between the senior staff and the Gang of Seven majority on council.
More importantly, the Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert; Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO), Mark Amorosi; DCAO Derrick Thomson; City Clerk Stephen O’Brien; and City Solicitor Donna Jacques, were all appointed by former Mayor Karen Farbridge and supported by her council majority.
So how do we attain change and transparency if the same team is on the field?
Is this a problem of the Great Divide?
What has occurred here is that we now have two councils, the Gang of Seven councillors who are determined to continue the policies and capital projects of the former administration and raise taxes exponentially, and the real one that is led by Mayor Guthrie, who is the only member of council elected by all the voters in the city with more than 20,000 votes.
The other is led by: Who knows? The role of spokesman has fallen on Mr. Allt, who was elected with some 3,000 votes in Ward Three. His Ward Three colleague, “Landslide” June Hofland, won her seat by five votes.
The bottom line is this group has few bright stars in its stable. In fact, most are financially illiterate to the point where they depend solely on the staff for guidance. The result was the recent two-day budget meetings. The comments from the Gang of Seven destroyed the attempts by the Guthrie supporters to reduce taxes and review the city operations to lower costs.
Collectively, these seven councillors are acting like kids in the candy store with a hundred bucks to spend because it’s not their money.
If you believe Phil Allt, it’s like: “I got the money from Daddy and he said don’t tell Mommy.”
Of course they’re not going to explain their irresponsible actions.
They just didn’t attack the Guthrie administration, they attacked every person in this city and they refuse to explain their actions and on what possible grounds?
Is this the way this totally dysfunctional council is going to operate from now on? If they don’t like something they walk out destroying a quorum?
If the Mayor is smart, he’ll issue a meeting notice to do the city’s business within 24 hours. If the Gang of Seven refuses to attend, then cancel all pay, allowances and perks of those councillors not attending. Revoke any committee chair positions and memberships to other boards they may hold and receive extra pay. Then ask the Integrity Commissioner to investigate the reasons for the boycott.
If none of that works, obtain legal advice to consider suing the absent councillors on the grounds of failure to perform their fiduciary and elected responsibilities. Instruct the clerk that until further notice, there will be no in camera meetings of council.
These seven councillors need to apologize to the citizens of Guelph for their irresponsible actions.