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.
12 responses to “Note to citizens: If we don’t get our own way, we’ll strike”
Thank you Gerry for reporting on the ignorant and arrogant behavior of some of our duly elected Councillors. Shame on them, and shame on us for voting for these individuals who obviously have no respect for the citizens of Guelph.
The actions outlined above raise a raft of questions.
1) why have the minutes, audio, & video of the 26 Jan 16 council meeting not yet been posted (as of 0730 hrs 28 Jan 16) on the city web site?
2) who were the 2 members of the bloc of 7 who did not attend the council meeting which was planned well in advance?
3) had the 2 advised the mayor and colleagues in advance of their intention to not show up?
4) did they have a valid personal or medical reason to avoid the council meeting?
5) did the content of the agenda and addendum, which are still posted on the guelph.ca web site, with items relating to GMHI and the notation “authority to move into closed meeting” have any impact on the absence of the 2 missing councillors?
6) which members of council are on the board of directors of the bodies mentioned in the agenda/ addendum?
7) why was the addendum item “district energy update” highlighted then subject to “a strike through” to eliminate it from consideration?
8) what was the subject being discussed in open council that lead to the move into closed meeting?
9) did the closed meeting discussions have the potential of bringing to light activities the 5 rump members of the bloc of 7 deem too volatile to be addressed?
10) why has the newly contracted guy involved in transparency not stepped up to provide information on what has transpired?
11) do Guelph taxpayers have to wait for a “Deep Throat” reminiscent of the Watergate scandal of the 1970’s to tell us what went on?
12) is it time to get the city Integrity Commissioner and/or provincial Ombudsman involved?
13) based on their ongoing “coup” of council activities, should resignations be demanded from the missing /obstructive bloc of 7 councillors or will any of the 7 take responsibility and tender their resignation?
The citizens of Guelph deserve prompt clear answers to the above questions.
Good job in calling out the whining members of council. Is’nt sad that 6 votes could have made such a difference.
Unless a logical explanation comes forth I am lead to believe this is a disgrace and a strong indication of a dysfunctional council. Just one detail that I want to point out Gerry: the minutes have finally been posted and show that Councillor Gordon was present until the end of the meeting. I cannot comment as I wasn’t there.
Councillor Gordon was out in the hall with the other councillors who boycotted the meeting and only reappeared in chambers in order to have a quorum to formally end the meeting. Please remember this dysfunctional group at the next election.
Rena: Wonder who advised Gordon to return to the council chamber in order to fill the quorum and adjourn the meeting? This takes nothing away from this irresponsible act by those five councillors in closing down the public meeting by refusing to participate. Mr. Gordon was a member of that group and knew full well what the consequences would be as a result of their action.
Gerry: not sure whether he volunteered or not. As you say it takes nothing away from irresponsible behaviour by this group. Here’s a thought, let them ALL resign, since it seems obvious that they have no respect for the democratic process.
A few more questions:
1) While in the closed meeting, how did the 5 rump members of the bloc of 7 communicate to each other to suddenly walkout: by a secret code word, a series of hand signals such as a finger drawn the throat or the middle dastardly digit pointed upright, or did one just utter “WTF” and say “let’s bolt the joint”?
2) did Gordon draw the short straw and have to drag his sorry butt back into the council chambers?
3) are the “rump 5” too thick to realize they have disgraced themselves and all of the bloc of 7 should RESIGN?
I agree that if Councillor Gordon returned only to allow the meeting to be adjourned, he is a part of the group that defected. I wish I could think of a legitimate reason for what happened, but, tend to feel that, if there is one, they would have spoken about it by now. What a disgrace!
As you know Marg, some children do not always play well in the sandbox, and this group of 7 are the bullies Mother warned you about.
according to Guelph politico website the extra long closed meeting had to do with negotiations with the 3 local unions contracts that are coming up. No mention of the walkout.
I would suggest that you check the city web site and go to the meeting of January 25th, it will show you what the upcoming item was for voting and where they broke the public meeting.