By Gerry Barker
Posted February, 27, 2016
The combination of a $1 million wrongful dismissal lawsuit and the abrupt resignation of the city’s general Manager of Finance and treasurer indicates the city’s financial management is in disarray.
Janice Sheehy, who was appointed to the financial management position March 2015, is leaving March 24 to become the Region of Peel’s commissioner of human services.
Ms. Sheehy was hired from Halton Region where she was employed in a non- financial management position. In Guelph, she reported to Deputy Chief Administratiion Officer Mark Amorosi. In the past nine years, she was the sixth person to manage the city finances.
This indicates that power among the senior staff, centres around three people: Ann Pappert, Chief Adinistrative Officer, DCAO, Mark Amorosi and City Clerk, Stephen O’Brien. All three were appointed by the previous administration, headed by former mayor Karen Farbridge.
In November 2014, right after the civic election, Pappert announced a senior staff re-organization. Senior Director, Janet Laird, retired; Operations Director, Derek McCaughan, was eased out to be replaced by Derrick Thomson, another Farbridge appointee; and Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsman was shifted to DCAO of environmental services, planning and engineering, the former Laird job.
Financial management was shifted to DCAO, Mark Amorosi, who said the city would hire a treasurer and general manager of finance. Enter Ms. Sheehy and what followed was a series of mis-statements, confusing reports of the city’s financial position and the revelation that the city’s reserve funds were under-financed.
There is evidence that the reserves were raided by the administration to pay the court costs and the $8.96 million lawsuit settlement, won by Urbacon Buildings Group,Inc. A consultant hired by the city to review finances and operations reported that the reserves were a “red flag of caution” due to underfunding.
The casting of the 2016 city budget turned out to be a marathon fiasco with a council that took two days to finally approve a budget. It continued the pattern of high spending on staff and pet projects of the majority Gang of Seven, who are bent on perpetuating the policies of the former administration.
Since the former mayor was defeated, council has passed two budgets, 2015 and 2016, with a total property tax increase of 6.95 per cent. Mayor Cam Guthrie was elected, promising property tax increases to not exceed the Consumer Price Index that was 1.9 per cent in 2014 according to Statistics Canada.
Former Chief Building Inspector sues the city
Moving on to the wrongful dismissal lawsuit brought by former Chief Building Inspector, Bruce Poole, it is apparent that, once again, the city senior staff made a decision that will probably cost the city a lot of money.
In his statement of claim filed February 11, Mr. Poole outlines he was subjected to: “Harsh, vindictive, reprehesible and malicious conduct by senior officials leading up to his termination.”
July 10, 2014: Poole emailed the entire city executive team that there were approximately 50 city projects with open building permits and, “ongoing issues with construction being carried out without the required building permits.”
Daring to challenge the city administration for failing to enforce its own bylaws, Poole was: “First demoted, then offered a voluntary paid leave, then put on non-voluntary paid leave, and then fired in an attempt to prevent him from carrying out his duties under law.”
Translation? It was a failed, clumsy attempt to shut him up. It is important to understand that both CAO Pappert and then executive director, Mark Amorosi, whose responsibility included human resources, had to be responsible for Poole’s termination. The buck stops at the top.
In addition the former mayor had to be aware of the circumstances of Poole, firing after serving as Chief Building Inspector (CBI) for 20 years. The city’s CBI is a provincially mandated position.
Last November, CAO Ann Pappert denied the city was ever in violation of either its own bylaws or provincial building codes.
In his statement of claim, Poole mentions the CAO alleging: “Pappert has been providing the public with false and misleading statements,” regarding the status of some 50 city projects that failed to obtain buidling permits. The claim states: “Pappert was implying that Bruce was incompetent and wrong in his position and thereby defaming Bruce.”
It is now more apparent that there is evidence of management rot at the top. Despite this, Mayor Guthrie, for his own reasons, refused to stand up and take the necessary steps to excise the malaise at the top echelon of his administration.
Without leadership of the mayor, Guelph will continue to lurch along with mangled finances, excessive spending that has contributed to the huge difference between Guelph’s operating and capital costs, that are 50 per cent higher than either Kitchener and Cambridge
The city is in dire need of a new city manager and a chief financial officer.
Perhaps new senior executive leadership could have prevented Bruce Poole’s $1 million lawsuit
Bruce Poole was fired because he did his job and the Farbridge infected management didn’t like it.
Janice Sheehy quit and got another job because she recognized the dreadful condition of city finances and refused to be part of it.
So Mr. Mayor, when are you going to act and stop this decent into gross mismanagement of the city’s business and turn things around?