Monthly Archives: March 2016

Mark Amorosi’s flimsy explanation why senior managers were awarded those huge increases

By Gerry Barker

Posted March 31, 2016

Well, if anyone should know the answer to the burning question of why and how the top three senior managers received huge salary increases in 2015, it would be one of the beneficiaries, Mark Amorosi.

Mr. Amorosi sent his explanation to Coun. Mike Salisbury two hours after guelphspeaks broke the story of the excessive increases that CAO Ann Pappert, and DCAO Derrick Thomson also received.

Amorosi, in his multi-responsibility Corporate Services job, is gatekeeper in charge of how much and who receives pay and benefit increases, including his own. He has that job following the so-called reorganization of senior management in November 2014. Then Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsman, was shifted to environmental services, planning and engineering to fill in the vacancy left by Janet Laird’s retirement.

Up steps Mark Amorosi to take over finance among his corporate services responsibilities including human Resources, legal department and clerk’s operations.

It was Amorosi who hired a general manager of finance, Katrina Power, to replace Horsman. That lasted unto March last year when Janice Sheehy was hired to be General Manager of Finance and Treasurer. Ms. Sheehy resigned this month to move on to the Region of Peel.

Today, there is no senior manager of finance, except Mark Amorosi. His track record as financial overseer has been fraught with missteps and confusion. But he found the time to help himself with a base salary increase of $33,279 from December 2013 to March 25, 2015.

In November 2014, Amorosi along with Horsman, and Thomson, were named Deputy Chief Administrative Officers (DCAO). They each received identical increases of $6,361. Then four months later they received the monster increases. It was never revealed to the public because it was discussed in closed sessions of council.

The underlying reason is the rule that no councillor can reveal any discussion held in closed session or be faced with answering to the integrity commissioner who has now departed. This means that a subject of interest raised in closed session cannot be discussed with the councillor’s constituency.

These closed sessions raise a bar for public disclosure that, in effect, the public’s business becomes secret, self-serving and dictatorial.

This is management by denial. It is a throwback to the way Karen Farbridge ran her city and controlled the supportive caucus. The trouble began following the 2010 civic election when people starting asking questions about the Farbridge administration and its frequent use of secret meetings denying the pubic access to most of the city’s business.

Here is a copy of an email sent to Coun. Mike Salisbury Monday morning by Mark Amorosi after the news of the senior management salary increases was published by

“1. The Sunshine List includes base pay and other payments made in a year eg retro payments, pay adjustments, overtime (if eligible).”

Question: He fails to mention the top-up taxable benefits received by all three recipients of the excessive increases. What are pay adjustments and what is the basis for awarding it? Why did we have to wait a year to discover the truth about senior management compensation?

“2. Ann’s (Pappert) number is base pay plus council approved increase for performance. There was a significant retro payment because in the past year of the last term there was no notification to human resources to process any increase.”

Question: Who judged her performance in the run up of the 2015 budget to justify an increase of $37,591? Was this discussion also held behind closed doors and on what justification? Ms. Pappert is a public employee and the public has the right to know how such an increase was approved. There is a strong feeling among the citizens that Ms. Pappert’s performance was affected by making such misleading statements regarding the Urbacon lawsuit and its affect on property taxes.

“3. For the dcao’s are numbers reflect base pay plus performance increase and a change in pay for two reasons. At the time of the reorg a market review was done for our level of job as it had been more than two years since a market review was done (council approved process). Second given the increase in our responsibilities a five percent increase was applied (council approved non-union compensation policy).”

Question: How do they compare a salary review over two years for a job that didn’t exist until created in November 2014? The first salary increase was 3.61 per cent for DCAO’s, not five per cent as you state, why would you quote the wrong percentage? Do you think it’s fair to conduct a market survey to justify your personal salary wish list? Every city is different and continually to base senior management pay structure on what the other DCAO’s are receiving, is misleading and self-serving.

Mr. Amorosi, you tell a councillor that guelphspeaks’ report on the senior management salary increases is contrary to your explanation above. Please, explain to the citizens what you mean when you say that guelphspeaks got it wrong.

It is now obvious that salary negotiations between senior staff and council should by determined by an independent official third party of citizens whose recommendations would go to council and be made public … before any increase is awarded.

The Amorosi explanation is bureaucratic bafflergab to defend the indefensible.

It’s time to loose the surly bonds of Guelph and take the magic elsewhere.


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What did senior city management do to deserve these huge salary increases?

By Gerry Barker

Posted March 28, 2016

The 2015 Sunshine list of public employees earning more than $100,000 reveals startling information about the very people whom we trust to prudently manage the city’s business.

The 2015 Guelph Sunshine List contains the salaries of the highest-paid Guelph staff senior managers, comparing the years 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Fasten your seat belts people; this is going to be a shocker.

Let’s start with the Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert. Her salary in 2013 was $204,805. In 2014, she received a 2.35 per cent increase raising her salary to $219,657. In 2015 the CAO received a 17.11 per cent increase taking her salary to $257,248 plus taxable benefits of more than $6,500. This amounted to an additional $37,591 last year,

Since joining the city staff in 2008, Ms. Pappert has more than doubled her salary. Don’t forget, we paid her an additional $20,000 to move from Waterloo to Guelph.

Either Ms. Pappert is a superstar when negotiating her salary and benefits, or the 13 individuals on council had a brain cramp when they approved it in the March 25, 2015 budget. That is the first one prepared by the new council and it included a 3.98 per cent increase in property taxes. Now we know why.

Whatever prompted city council to grant that increase? It occurred in the year following the election of a new Mayor and council. Because such matters are improperly discussed in closed session, regardless, the new council approved that increase and more to Pappert’s deputies,

What were they thinking? Did the majority bloc of seven on council use their votes to ram it through? This smells to high heaven of a payback for services rendered in the name of the former Farbridge administration.

It is now apparent that what they did for themselves ended up doing it to us.

Still unconvinced? There’s more …

Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO), Mark Amorosi in three reporting years, had his salary with the city increased by 18.31 per cent. The biggest jump was in 2015 when he received a 14.70 per cent increase from $182,761 in 2014 to $209,629 in 2015. That’s an increase of $26,868 in one year.

Keep in mind that Amorosi is DCAO of corporate issues. This includes overseeing salaries and collective bargaining negotiations. He is also in charge of finance and during his term of responsibility from November 2014, Guelph has had two general managers of finance, both of whom are gone.

One would presume that being in charge of two vital departments of the city, that Amorosi would be careful with the public’s money. He was careful all right, he helped himself to a $26,868 raise in salary less than four months after being appointed DCAO. It will be known as the day of the payback by the outgoing Farbridge administration

But there is more …

DCAO Derrick Thomson, a man who has been on the job for little over two years, received a 19.48 per cent increase, taking his salary in 2015 to $207,554. That’s an increase of $33,834 in one year.

Former DCAO Al Horsman left the city last August to become Chief Administrative Officer in Sault Ste Marie. Horsman was the last Chief Financial Officer of the city. He was switched to environmental services, planning and engineering in the November 2014 senior management shuffle following the retirement of Janet Laird and Derek McCaughan. It didn’t take Horsman long to figure out what had happened to him. He left and got a better job.

How the senior staff retained their power

It was a move made just weeks after the defeat of the mayor and some of her council but before the new administration under Cam Guthrie was able to take over. The excuse given by Ms. Pappert was to reduce costs by having only four senior officers instead of the five executive directors. Along with the reorganization in November 2014, there was an adjustment to reflect new responsibilities.

But not one of the three senior managers was assigned new responsibilities to justify the new designations. Two, Amorosi and Thomson, are doing the same job today as they did before their appointment as DCAO’s.

Has CAO Ann Pappert’s job description changed to justify a salary increase of $37,591 in one year?

But how do you justify three key managerial salary increases of 17.11 per cent, (Pappert), 14.70 per cent (Amorosi), and 19.48 per cent (Thomson)?

Even more important, what is council awarding them for 2016? We won’t find that out until this time next year.

This is a gross misuse of public money. The people have no way of knowing, let alone understanding, the process that allows these excessive increases. It’s all done behind closed doors on the premise that it is a negotiation or a personal matter. The theory is this allows such matters to be discussed in closed session.

It is definitely not a personal matter as it concerns spending public money. Also the test of negotiating a new contract remains in the public domain because it’s our money.

Closed sessions are making a mockery of democracy

These closed sessions are mostly used to protect the council and staff from public outcry of important issues that should be discussed in open council. The Corporation of the City of Guelph is not a private corporation. It is one in which the citizens are the shareholders and are being denied access to vital discussion, particularly financial matters.

Can anyone imagine the public reaction if these salary increases had been announced to the public before the 2015 budget approval?

Who conducts the performance reviews of these managers? This is always the basis of negotiating increases in pay and benefits. Why doesn’t the city financial department release the nature and amount of benefits paid to these managers?

This is worse than the $23 million cost overrun of the Urbacon debacle. Rewarding the same people who were involved in that 2008 decision, to fire the former general contractor of the new city hall and provincial courthouse is insanity.

Does anyone elected or, on staff, realize the mess that these increases impact on the future liability to the city?

The Farbridge regime is being rewarded for creating a growing, unchecked, employee liability. All three of these people, plus city clerk Stephen O’Brien, were hired by the former administration.

Our city has been held hostage for too long

The city continues to be held hostage by a group of seven Farbridge progressives on council. They don’t care about what the citizens think, but spout the line that their excessive spending, are really “investments.”

This has to be the greatest insider case of abuse of the city’s treasury in living memory. Mayor Guthrie was elected to keep property taxes to the level of the Consumer Price index. In 2015 it was just under 2 per cent.

His council had to approve these increases so the ball is in his court. But now he needs live support by the public to regain control of council and the city.

The giant questions remains: Will council renew CAO Ann Pappert’s contract, or not? There is ample evidence that her five-year performance has been less than satisfactory. It definitely does not warrant a 17.11 per cent increase in salary.

The best guess is when the public knows about these salary increases; there will be a groundswell of outrage that, predictably, this city has ever witnessed.

It is now up to the citizens to demonstrate their opposition and demand recourse. Contacting their council representative to correct this development is a good first step.

We cannot roll back the 2015 senior management salary figures but we certainly can influence council to reconsider the 2016 salary levels across the board.

It is incredibly ironic that those city employees, covered by collective bargaining agreements, will be as outraged as the people over these excessive salary increases paid to senior management.



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City pays $1,125 fine for failing to take out a building permit for one of its own projects

By Gerry Barker

Posted March 24, 2016

Is this the tip of the iceberg? Recently, Bruce Poole, the former Chief Building Inspector with 20 years service, sued the city for wrongful dismissal. He is claiming $1 million in compensation. This matter is now before the courts.

Why was the veteran Poole fired? Because he approached the senior staff management and said there were some 55 building projects being performed by the city that did not have building permits as required by the Provincial Building Codes Act (BCA).

Poole said he was fired after he warned senior management staff that he would blow the whistle on this breach of BCA protocol. It is alleged that he would institute an action to fine the city for failing to adhere to the Building Codes Act.

Poole was initially offered to step aside and receive his regular pay. He refused. Then the city said he had to take the deal. He refused again and was fired.

This brings up the case of Margaret Neubaur, the Chief Financial Officer of the city for three years. With advance warning, she was unceremoniously marched out of the building in May 2011, by former Chief Administrative Officer, Hans Loewig, and Executive Director of Human Resources, Mark Amorosi. Those two refused to allow Ms, Neubaur to collect her belongings. It was a classic intimidation by the two senior managers. We do not know whether she sued for wrongful dismissal or received compensation for the action. The public was never told why she was fired.

Here’s another example. In 2007, the Farbridge administration fired Chief Administrative Officer, Larry Kotseff, and Chief Financial Officer, David Kennedy, in one fell swoop. It took two years to obtain the settlement details of more than $500,000 through the Freedom of Information Act.

This action gutted the heart of senior management and it has never recovered.

This whole Bruce Poole affair could have been avoided if the senior management had obeyed the rules. Instead, they took it out on their chief building inspector who warned them of the situation.

This is yet another example of incompetence by senior management. And, where was the council in all this? This brings up the excessive use of closed session by council. Under the Municipal Act, a council can go into closed session when the subject is a discussion of a member of the staff that involves personal matters..

In fact, this is yet another example of screening issues behind closed doors. That impacts the public. Rarely are these issues discussed in open council. . Councillors are held to a Farbridge vintage rule that prevents them from discussing what went on in a specific closed session. Often these meetings, held in private before a regular council meeting, turns out to be donnybrooks far from the public’s gaze.

The city now faces not only settling another wrongful dismissal lawsuit but also paying additional fines to the province for all those city projects not having building permits.

And these are the same staff management people who allegedly managed the city’s Urbacon lawsuit defence, that cost $8.96 million to settle, and are now responsible for the Poole firing.

Now we know the city has already paid a fine for not having a building permit for renovations to the West Recreation Centre. Does the new Chief Building Inspector pursues any additional flagrant abuse of the powers given to the senior staff of this administration?

We will never know the answer to this until the conclusion of the civil action brought by Bruce Poole, a man only trying to do his job.

This trial will probably conclude in two years, just in time for the 2018 civic election. Is this not a repeat of the Urbacon decision that cost the city $8.96 million? Later the city admitted the new City Hall contract overrun was $23 million.

Our current dysfunctional city council, with its pro-Farbridge majority, will founder in its attempt to coerce the staff to settle the Poole claim.

The trouble is, because of senior management ineptitude in 2015, they have no leverage. To assault the intelligence of citizens admitting to paying the province a fine of $1,125 for breaching the Ontario Building Codes Act, is beneath contempt. It is no secret that Mr. Poole states there were 55 breaches in city-operated building projects without obtaining a building permit.

The next question is who was getting paid off?

The camera swings onto those contractors hired by the city to perform the work. Why was there no control over these projects?

If Mr. Poole’s assertions are proven in court, and that does not appear to be in doubt, citizens must ask: How did this occur and who benefitted?

Also, the system of management from top to bottom should be subject to professional review to determine what happened and why?

On the surface, Bruce Poole appeared to be a fall guy who allegedly lost control of his department with zero support from senior management. If it reaches trial, the defence will spin that theory.

But reality dictates that the man in charge became so frustrated that he went to the top management and said he had to fine his own city for failing to issue building permits for the city’s own building projects.

You be the judge, is Bruce Poole the victim for doing his job or an inconvenience to the senior staff?

For what it’s worth, my money is on Poole


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Is this the time of reckoning of Ann Pappert’s future as CAO of Guelph?

By Gerry Barker

Posted March 20, 2016

It is reported that Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert’s contract expires March 21 and council will make the decision to renew it or to seek a new CAO. Her Guelph job began in 2008 when she was hired as executive director of Community and Social Services.

Her starting salary in 2008 was $129,146. Her 2014 salary, not including taxable benefits, was $219,000. The 2015 sunshine list has not been published yet. Regardless of the increased responsibility, it represents a huge jump in salary in six years.

Ann Pappert was appointed CAO in September 2011, following the resignation of former CAO Hans Loewig. Like Loewig, she was a mercenary who lived in Kitchener and was one of five executive directors, including two others who lived outside Guelph, Mark Amorosi and Janet Laird.

One of the conditions of her employment as CAO was that she agreed to move to Guelph. This obligation was not fulfilled, until council, in 2013, said it would pay her $20,000 to move to Guelph. It was put to her as an ultimatum and within 30-days she purchased a house in Guelph.

The circumstances of her hiring came about as a result of a headhunting group who were paid $45,000 to present candidates. As the day of selection arrived there were three candidates in the running including Ms. Pappert, Mr. Amorosi and an unidentified outsider, who withdrew his application.

Both the remaining candidates for the CAO job had been hired by the Farbridge administration in 2008. Mr. Amorosi’s resume included a background in Human Resources. Ms. Pappert’s background was mostly in the so-called soft civic responsibilities, including social services and community links.

We’ll never know what former mayor Karen Farbridge was thinking, but Pappert got the job. It is no secret that she was an avid supporter of the former mayor, even to a degree of making public statements defending the mayor.

On the job for her first year in 2012, a friend of mine, a senior business executive, and life-long resident, told me that he attended a Rotary Club meeting at which the new CAO spoke and said she was under-qualified and should never have been appointed to that job.

This marked the beginning of the public view of Ms. Pappert. Was she toady to the mayor and just not up for the job?

As events unfolded, that became apparent to many citizens.

One of Ms. Pappert’s classic statements came when she dumped on the GrassRoots Guelph petition to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, saying the petition “was a waste of time.”

It was a stupid response and she was cautioned by the mayor about it because it attacked citizens who were entitled to question the operations of the city.

Next came the now famous statement that the Urbacon settlement would not affect property taxes. The word she left out was, yet.

So why should council renew her contract?

The finances of this city are in a shambles. We have a secular majority of city council that vote as a bloc and obstruct any attempts to reform and repair the financial damage created by the previous administration.

Now we have the sudden resignation of the general manager of finance and city treasure, Janice Sheehy, who was hired, just a year ago. The question, is was she pushed, or realistic enough to see the dreadful financial condition of the city, and yet found another job with the Region of Peel?

Let’s see, since former mayor Farbridge took over the city in 2006, there have been six employees charged with managing the financial system in the city. Only three had the title of Chief Financial Officer.

Okay what’s the problem? The new council in 2015, approved property tax increases of 6.96 per cent in two budgets, years 2015 and 2016. I sat through all the two-day 2016 budget discussions by council and there was no reference to paying back the money, taken from the three reserves, used to pay the Urbacon lawsuit settlement costing $8.96 million.

Ms. Pappert’s declaration at the time, gave the impression that this was not going to cost the taxpayers because the money came from the reserves. She failed to admit that it was the taxpapyers who supplied the money for those depleted reserves.

During the 2016 council budget discussions, there was no mention of the staff proposal to charge property owners a ten-year; two per cent special levy to pay for needed infrastructure maintenance in the city. That one item will be on the table when the 2017 budget talks begin this fall. It’s not going away and the council must grasp that they cannot mortgage this city for the next 20 years.

When CAO Pappert proposed spending $900,000 a year for five years to replenish the raided reserve finds, Coun. Karl Wettstein moved to reduce that in the 2015 budget to $500,000 and turn the matter over to the staff.

There has been no plan since that put forward by the staff to repay that serious deficit.

Our reserves are seriously depleted, our debt is at record levels, our capital cost commitments exceed our ability to pay. There is no indication that council is prepared to tackle these problems created by eight years of excessive spending. Much of this falls on the shoulders of CAO Pappert, who, after five years in the job, as the senior administrator of the staff of some 2,100 employee, has failed to stem the spending spiral that has created this financial crisis.

Does this performance by the CAO warrant a contract renewal?

I think not.





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Oh! What a tangled web they weave

By Gerry Barker

Posted March 18, 2016

Among progressives, James Gordon is their Pope and Cardinal Richelieu rolled into one.His soft-spoken piety devoted to the NDP and progressive policies, has worked over the years to maintain control of the city.But when accused of a possible conflict of interest as a member of city council, he trots out Susan Watson to lecture the guelphspeaks. ca editor to fact check his assertions.

You all remember Susan Watson. A close friend and financial supporter of former mayor Karen Farbridge, she launched a complaint to have an audit of former candidate Glen Tolhurst’s election financial report.

To bolster her claim before the Compliance Audit Committee, all members appointed by the Farbridge administration, she hired a Toronto lawyer to present her case.

The audit committee agreed with the premise that Mr. Tolhurst took an illegal contribution from the citizen’s activist group GrassRoots Guelph (GRG). The city clerk, Stephen O’Brien, a Farbridge hire just before the 2014 election, assigned Toronto-based auditor, William Molson, to conduct the audit.

His conclusion was that GRG had the right to donate the money and that Mr. Tolhurst was guilty of a minor oversight, he forgot to list the purchase of a $6 city map in his official financial return.

In the end, council took no action and the taxpayers were stuck with an $11,400 bill, the cost of this frivolous charge.

So who should pay that bill, Sue?

In 2014, Watson and her husband donated thousands not only to the Farbridge campaign but also to other progressive candidates. This included a donation to June Hofland who received $500 from Watson and her husband and won by just five votes. James Gordon was also a recipient of the Watson et al generosity.

The city clerk refused to allow examination of the ballots on the required recount but just ran them through the vote counting machine. That’s not a recount, that’s an exercise. Also two weeks before Mr. Molson’s report, Clerk O’Brien said that Watson would not have to pay the costs of the audit.

Council, including James Gordon, never discussed the matter in open council. Are you beginning to see the thread connecting the key people in this scenario?

Another city deal that went south

Moving on, when the former Civic Museum on Dublin Street was put up for sale by the city, there were two bids. One of them was from a husband and wife partnership that proposed converting the building into a set of offices and studios for budding artists and computer developers.

During the public meeting to hear the application, up pops citizen James Gordon who whole-heartedly supported the bid. There was no mention of the second bid, who made it and for how much?

So, this entrepreneurial couple bought the former museum for an estimated $550,000. Then a couple of things happened. The city’s manager of real estate who handled the deal resigned amid rumours that the undisclosed bid was considerably higher. One estimate of the market value was $900,000.

And the end of this story is that there are no budding artists or computer developers in the building. Instead, it is occupied by an up-scale art  gallery, a situation far from the original promised use of the building.

The Akers project, a win-win for James Gordon, a loss for taxpayers

Again, now a city councillor, James Gordon is hot to trot on supporting another progressive scheme to convert the former Akers Furniture store on Carden Street, into a cultural downtown hub for organizations, most of whom are part of the progressive’s network.

Requesting support from the city for this project is 10 Carden Street Space Inc. It is the stepchild of the Guelph Civic League that was founded by James Gordon. This is the same James Gordon whose friend, Susan Watson, claiming he had no connection with the Guelph Civic League or the Hillside Festival for the past 20 years. It is now evident that Coun. Gordon is an influential contributor to the Karen Farbridge cause to change our city regardless of how much it costs.

For the record, after getting elected to council, Mr. Gordon supported two property tax increases last year totaling 6.96 per cent. He also supported increases in the water bills and the transfer a portion of 2016 operating costs to debt.

He voted to spend $14 million to widen Speedvale Avenue to accommodate bicycle lanes, despite widespread protest against the plan by residents in the ward he represents. His support failed because the staff did not recommend it.

He participated in the January 25 walkout, by five members of the Bloc of Seven councillors.

The point is that Gordon doesn’t care about you or me. He is a doctrinaire member of the NDP whose mantra is to force their policies, particularly in municipalities, to gain control of the administration. In Guelph, the progressives have held power for nine years. This group is directly responsible for depleting the reserves, jacking up taxes and user fees to pay the bills, increased the debt and subsidize Guelph Transit by some $15 million a year.

The operating and capital costs numbers don’t lie but the James Gordon Bloc of Seven refuses to accept them or the obvious conclusion. The numbers are taken from the official Financial Information Reports submitted by all municipalities in the province annually.

The core numbers are the comparison of operating and capital costs for 2014 between Guelph and Kitchener and Cambridge. The number for the latter two, show their figures are 50 per cent less that Guelph’s. The figures for 2015 are about to be released. And, that’s a straight-up, apples to apples comparison.

Coun. James Gordon and his six fellow travelers are consumed by a socialist manifesto that most people in the city rejected in 2014. His resourcefulness in getting elected speaks to his determination to continue the Farbridge agenda no matter what the silent majority thinks or feels.

For years he has operated outside the public view working to maintain the progressive’s grip on Guelph.

He is never going to change his outlook or political views. He is an altruistic financial amateur when it comes to managing corporate finances and sticks to his simplistic approach that the taxpayers will provide.





Filed under Between the Lines

Another scheme leading the lamb to the slaughter

By Gerry Barker

Posted March 15, 2016

Last week, a delegation from the 10 Carden Street organization, requested council to help it purchase the former Akers Furniture store at 42 Carden Street. The group’s spokesperson, Julia Grady, described as a co-founder of 10 Carden Street, told the public services committee that the group had already raised $365,000 toward a goal of $400,000.

She offered no details of the composition of the $365,000 claimed to be raised so far. She did suggest to the committee that the city donate $50,000 by “investing” in a community bond. Ms. Grady also requested that council grant property tax relief for an undetermined period.

Does this open the door for other downtown entrepreneurs to receive reduced taxes because they are located downtown? That being the case, why don’t all the downtown businesses get their financing through the “Bank of Guelph?”

This is a ludicrous proposal that could only have been hatched by a political group of those community-minded citizens who are devoid of financial acumen and have a sense of entitlement.

There’s that word again, “investment.” It’s the description used repeatedly by Coun. James Gordon to defend the prolific spending of councils, past and present. These days, there is little talk by the administration about replenishing the drained city reserve funds or controlling spending.

Grady claimed that once renovations are complete, the value of the property would be $2.35 million without mentioning who owned the property and what were the obligations of ownership? Ms. Grady said the financing was composed of a first mortgage, capital grants donations and private sector investment.

She offered no details of the amounts, how much money was in the bank, what commitments were confirmed and who was involved.

Councillors Kathy Downer and James Gordon gushed over the proposal calling exciting and a good news story with many wins. That says so much for their understanding of financing.

In the centre of all this activity is Coun. James Gordon. He has been instrumental in creating a network of what he calls “community-minded” folks. For many years, Gordon’s greatest accomplishments were getting and using other people’s money to control the agenda of a city that is in financial stress over mismanagement of its treasure.

In this case, the committee voted to refer the proposal to the staff who are to report in June.

The timing of this is most interesting. In less than two weeks, Guelph will be without a General Manager of of Finance and Treasurer as Janice Sheehy leaves for greener pastures in Peel. This leaves a huge gap in analyzing this proposal that has more questions than answers. Also what ever happened to the internal auditor, Loretta Alonzo? Last we heard she was ill but that was almost a year ago. If she is still incapacitated, our best wishes go to speedy recovery.

The 10 Carden Street Space Inc. is a spinoff of the Guelph Civic League that supported the previous administration. In fact, James Gordon was a founder of the Guelph Civic League.

Here is a list of questions the staff should ask about this proposal

* Who is buying this building and what is the purchase price? Has the offer been accepted?

* What are the estimated costs for renovation?

* Is the University donating money toward this project?

* Has the first mortgage been approved? Who is the mortgagor? What are the terms of this mortgage?

* What are the capital grants and have they been approved and funds received? What are the sources of these grants and what are the terms?

* How many donations have been received and are they in the bank?

* How much money is there in the bank for this project?

* Which private sector firms are participating and how much are they donating?

* You have named a number of future tenants, what will the rents be for their space?

* Is there a business plan that shows cost of carrying a mortgage and additional funding, cost of utilities, taxes, staffing, insurance, depreciation and maintenance?

Without answers to these questions, it clearly demonstrates that the city should not participate. That community bond proposal means that the city must put up the money, service the cost of the bond and that increases the city debt. There is no plan to repay the city.

This is a major step for the political Left in this city. It is part of a careful plan to dominate city politics for years to come through an established network of supporters and causes.

Starting with the 10 Carden Street organization that purports to be non-profit, this project will provide space for Leftist sponsored organization such as: Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition composed of hand-picked organizers/activists in almost all areas of the city.

Other tenants include the Guelph Arts Council; the Guelph Wellington Local immigration Partnership; Out on the Shelf; Taylor Newberry Consulting; Wellington Water Watchers and Transformation Arts Guelph. Two of these organizations recently received grants from the “Wellbeing Committee.” Out On the Shelf received $5,700 while Wellington Water Watchers got $7,500.

The University of Guelph is to take over the fourth floor of the proposed building for students “doing new collaborations,” whatever that means.

Most people in the city know that you can’t ignore a $23 million mistake and in October 2014 they voted for reform and stronger management of the city’s assets.

Why is 10 Carden Street trying to provide a downtown hub for cultural and political groups to function? Why should the city even consider such a proposal that is so full of unanswered questions? Why didn’t 10 Carden Street present a business plan that justified what they are proposing?

Trying not to sound cynical, because I believe the proposal will probably go ahead with the council majority voting to pile on more debt. It’s classic action by the former administration. An example would be the indoor soccer dome that the city had to bail out a few years ago by guaranteeing the $500,000 mortgage because the non-profit soccer association running the operation couldn’t pay the bills.

Do we really need this proposal right now? Or shouldn’t we first pay the bills that were left by the previous administration?


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More on the world of Coun. James Gordon and a conflict of interest

By Gerry Barker

Posted March 13, 2016

James Gordon continues his theory on building a city to provide services and wellbeing to the citizens. He studiously avoids the word “spending” instead substitutes the word “investments.”

His point is, he and his coleagues are justifying their nine-year spending spree by claiming they are investing in the future. Their list of “investment” failures includes the Sleeman Centre; the new City Hall; the Wyndham Street underpass that prevents large vehicles from using; the organic waste processing facility, the garbage bin collection system; losing a legal battle with the Public Health Service; establishing the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc that has consistently lost money.

Now Gordon wants to build a new downtown library. And, whatever happened to the South-end recreation centre? According to Gordon, these are “investments” for the future of the city. But both were ignored by the previous council. Why?

The man doesn’t seem to grasp that the public trough was emptied by the previous administration, who spent the money on their own pet projects.

Recently, Gordon professed that the taxpayers are content with the way the city is being run and the taxes imposed. And they’d better be because the bloc of seven on council, of which he is the defacto leader, knows best and controls the administration.

While Gordon says the property taxes paid by residents are in line with similar sized cities in Ontario, how does he square that with the truth? The facts are well established. Guelph’s operational and capital spending costs are 50 per cent greater than Kitchener or Cambridge. They are similar sized cities and are part of the Region of Waterloo. When the regional tax rate is included with the local tax rate, their costs still remain 50 per cent less than Guelph.

Members of council have received the details of this analysis, so it’s not like a bolt out of the blue. The fact that the bloc of seven ignores the data taken from the official Financial Information Reports filed by all municipalities in Ontario, bespeaks of the sloppy and careless way our city is really being managed.

Now that Gordon has pontificated his political views there is a nagging suspicion that he may have crossed the line of integrity and is in a conflict of interest.

James Gordon is the founder and director of the Hillside Community Festival that is held on conservation lands on the northwest side of Guelph Lake, outside the City of Guelph.

Before leaving office, former mayor, Karen Farbridge’s controlled council passed a motion to create a “wellbeing committee” to dispense public funds to a wide variety of organizations. It was a job that council used to do but was turned over to a committee composed of supporters of the administration.

Now this was a very astute move on the part of Ms. Farbridge. It gave her control of dispensing money to whom ever her hand-picked committee chose.

This year, the wellbeing committee dispensed more than $101,000 to some 48 organizations. Among them was a grant of $11,000 to the Hillside Community Festival. The rationale was: “The grant will support the festivals, and broaden initiatives including aboriginal drumming, workshops in aboriginal culture, some writing and peacemaking.”

Why, one may ask, is the muncipality supporting a festival whose focus is on aboriginal affairs when this is the responsibility of the Federal and Provincial governments. And we all pay taxes to those governments as well as municipal taxes.

Now this festival is a part social and part commercial enterprise with a number of vendors selling their wares. This places Coun. Gordon in a potential conflict of interest. As Executive Director he had to be involved in the planning and presentation to the “Wellbeing committee.” He will possibly deny a conflict. Regardless, he is part of the administration that approved the $11,000 grant of which he has a longtime association.

Did Mr. Gordon, declare his interest when the grant was awarded?

In his letter to the editor, Gordon stated that the city is obligated to supply the services to make our city livable. He doubles down by saying taxpayers must ensure these services are not cut back or reduced in any way.

He obviously was not referring to the high costs of staff to maintain these self-serving services and benefits to the citizens. The people soundly rejected the policies and irresponsible spending of the previous administration.

Now we have an elected member of city council benefiting from a grant from the taxpayers in which he has a personal interest.

He has two choices: Resign or return the grant to Hillside and apologize for failing to recognize he was in conflict with his sworn fiduciary responsibility to the citizens he represents. Now there is no integrity commission to hide behind. Mayor Guthrie should appoint an independent, special counsel to investigate Mr. Gordon’s association with Hillside and his organization receiving an $11,000 grant.

This is a cancer of entitlement on our city that continues to grow despite the defeat of the former mayor and members of her council.


Filed under Between the Lines

Coun. James Gordon’s cockeyed view of running a city

By Gerry Barker

Posted March11, 2016

In a letter to the editor, Ward 2 councillor James Gordon explains why paying taxes is a good thing, while complaining about high taxes is a bad thing.

Such silly statements as: “ I seldom hear people say, I moved to Guelph because I was looking for lower taxes,” begins the downhill slide of a thesis that is filled with false premises and unattributed evidence.

It’s like the wonderful world of Garp.

Let’s look at some more words of wisdom from the world according to Gordon. You remember Gordon; he was the mastermind of the first Farbridge victory in 2006. He was also the founder of the Guelph Civic League that played a major role in the three elections of the past 12 years.

“In fact, our taxes are totally in line with other cities our size in Ontario.” James, that’s your first Pinocchio moment. If what he says is true, how does he explain that Guelph’s operational and capital spending is 50 per cent higher than either Kitchener or Cambridge? Those are documented comparisons, extracted from the Financial Information Reports (FIR) that each municipality is obligated to send to the province annually.

Gordon, a man who obviously has his ear to the ground, when he’s in town that is, opines: “For most of us who are community-minded, we understand that to keep the quality of life we need to contribute as taxpayers and as good neighbours to maintain that high standard we are now known for.”

Again, another assumption on Gordon’s part that denigrates more than half the population of the city who do not agree with the aggressive spending policies of the former administration. Nor its surviving rump of seven of the present council determined to continue those policies.

The proof of this is in the election of mayor in 2014, when Cam Guthrie received more than 5,000 votes than the incumbent. Mayor Guthrie is the only member of council who was elected by all city voters, as opposed to those councillors who ran in the wards.

As a representative of Ward 2, James, and a council rookie, perhaps you should do some homework and understand the financial management of the city whose costs have soared out of control. Skip all the buzzwords of your beliefs about our city. When taxpayers are faced with a two per cent special tax levy for ten years, to pay for an aged infrastructure, it comes down to choices.

Does council approve more bicycle lanes; higher subsidization of a transit system designed to serve the population of the University of Guelph; more on a community energy policy that will cost millions to execute?

Why aren’t bicycle riders using the road regulated?

Speaking of bike lanes. Coun. Gordon supported the motion to spend $14 million to widen Speedvale Avenue to allow bicycle land between Woolwich and Manhattan Court. The response from citizens in the area was overwhelmingly against the proposal but lost.

Is this a man obsessed with a point of view that is neither rational nor responsible?

James, tell us about how much has been spent on affordable housing in Guelph in the past nine years? How many units have been created and where?

What has been done to attract business to Guelph to strengthen the tax base? The ratio of industrial/commercial assessment has not budged since 2006. The taxpayer portion of property tax assessment remains at 84 per cent. FYI the Ontario average is 60 per cent residential and 40 per cent industrials/commercial.

Attracting business, Gordon says, enables our city to grow our economy and keep our taxes affordable. The key word here is “our” and Gordon seems to believe that his way, or that of those like-minded cohorts, is the only way to make Guelph better. Didn’t that approximate the slogan in Mayor Guthrie’s campaign, “For a Better Guelph.”

James now you are plumping for a new downtown library. Karen Farbridge. in her first term as mayor. promised that would happen 15 years ago. Libraries have morphed big time since then and the last figure I recalled was to spend $64 million on the project.

Old library projects never die, they just fade away

Your bent economic theory that a new downtown library will pay for itself quickly lacks any economic basis. I cannot recall any municipal operation in the city that has ever paid for itself and the capital spent. A great example is the Sleeman Centre whose main customer is the Guelph Storm. It cost millions when a deal was struck with Nustadia to operate the arena during the first Farbridge administration. Today, there is a paid staff of more than 100 to run the place. Tell me, how much business did that bring downtown?

And another example is the Civic Museum. The council has never revealed the operating costs of that $16 million, built on land the city doesn’t own. Has it paid back the capital it took to renovate the pre-Confederation convent on the hill?

Here’s another example of irresponsible spending. The Organic Waste Processing Facility that cost $34 million and was built exceeding the needs of the city of Guelph for 20 years. Today, to keep it running, wet waste comes from outside sources to maintain the function of the operation. We have yet to learn how much compost is manufactured and where it is sold.

Mr. Gordon’s political views are well established. His claim that: “A small minority but vocal minority who would sacrifice service cuts, cut back programs, widen our income gap and turn their backs on investing in the future.”

What? Has Gordon now appointed himself as the spokesperson for the city administration? Again, he has no substantiation for this charge. How does he know the minority is small? Is that in numbers or stature?

Gordon, much like his fellow Farbridge travelers on council, knows how to spend other people’s money. The tight control of the former regime led us to a huge lawsuit defeat that cost taxpayers $23 million, or so the administration has admitted so far. To pay for this and a variety of projects, the reserves were raided to a point that replenishing them will take years and further burden the taxpayer.

So Mr. Gordon, as a member of council, perhaps you ought to seek more information about your colleague’s ambitious plans to build for the future without regard of the city’s ability to pay.

As for your demand for a new downtown library, look inwardly at your caucus. The $34 million approval to renovate the downtown police headquarters further pushed the library down the trail.

Even Gordon should get that.

What’ll you have? Cops or Readers?





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Shake-up of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. as mayor becomes chairman

By Gerry Barker

Posted March 9, 2016

The pieces are starting to fall in place regarding that January 25 walkout by five members of council following a closed session of council. You’ll recall that they refused to return to the regular council meeting.

When asked, Coun. Phil Allt said he could not “reveal what occurred.” He later added that the action was taken to “protect the integrity of the corporation and staff.”

Citizens were left wondering what really happened.

It now appears the reason for the closed session was to discuss the future of the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI). It was another incident of using closed-door meetings to discuss matters that may be politically dangerous.

As guelphspeaks pointed out yesterday, the Ontario Municipal Act, is often used to justify calling a closed meeting. In fact, this has been the trademark of the previous administration in which much of its business was conducted behind closed doors, far from public exposure.

This is known as “controlling the message” and has been abused by councils in the past nine years to the detriment of the public’s interests.

In 2014, GMHI, operating off the municipality’s books, announced a loss of $2.8 million. Then it donated a $1.5 million to the general revenue account of the city of Guelph. The annual report also stated that some $9 million had been sent by GHMI as dividends to the city since the inception of GMHI in 2011. It defies explanation.

GMHI was set up by the previous administration to manage the city’s assets. Mayor Farbridge chaired its first board and the board consisted of city councillors plus two outsiders. The purpose, allegedly, was to buy, sell and create corporate organizations that the city owned or was to own. That’s the asset part and it included Guelph Hydro, the Guelph Junction Railroad and some properties. The crown jewel was Guelph Hydro that services more than 50,000 households and businesses in Guelph and Rockwood.

Yesterday, the city announced sweeping changes to the structure of GMHI.

The previous board was dismissed with the exception of Mayor Cam Guthrie and Coun. Karl Wettstein. Mayor Guthrie became chairman of the new board and Councillors Wettstein and Cathy Downer were named to the board. The city’s Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, was named interim CEO of GHMI.

“The change reflects this Council’s philosophy about governance. Direct Council oversight of GMHI decisions that affect the City of Guelph will ensure better alignment of City assets, resources and strategic planning,” says Mayor Cam Guthrie.

The intent of these changes is to provide more council oversight of GMHI operations. Now GMHI will report quarterly on operations, including compliance, and financial performance.

On the surface, this appears to be a step to making GMHI more transparent and accountable by reporting to council. The question remains, will its operations still function behind closed doors? There is now ample proof of the abuse of the Municipal Act rules governing closed-door meetings of council. It’s not just happening in Guelph but the Ontario Ombudsman has been given the mandate to investigate closed-door council meetings across the province.

Why is it necessary to even have a GMHI? Its only real source of funding comes from Guelph Hydro. The danger of this is the possibility that Guelph Hydro will pass through the funding it sends to GMHI to its customers. The revelation that $9 million has been sent to the city masquerading as “dividends” from GMHI indicates this operation is a money-losing charade.

It’s interesting that the subsidiary GMHI corporation, Envida, was set up to spend millions of citizen’s dollars to install a geo-thermal heating and cooling network in downtown Guelph and the Hanlon Business Park.

That plan is presumably dead, hopefully.

Council has set an 18-month deadline for reviewing GMHI operations. This whole operation, a signature project, was planned and executed by the previous administration. It remains an example of the self-serving policies of a mayor and council that has cost Guelph’s citizens untold millions in a variety of schemes and projects all in the name of wellbeing, environment and sustainability.

We now know the folly of these policies that left the city with a $23 million unbudgeted overrun cost of the New City Hall. It has left a legacy of costly systems and operations that we are stuck with, supporting a failed attempt to create a new city. Trouble is, that administration also left an aging infrastructure that the staff estimates will cost more than $250 million to fix.

That’s why our operating and capital spending costs are 50 per cent higher than Cambridge and Kitchener. That’s why we pay $28,000 per kilometer for road repairs and the provincial average is $11,000. That’s why an estimated 13 per cent of city households and businesses have to pay private contractors to remove garbage. Yet they still pay for those services through their property taxes.

It remains a legacy of financial mismanagement that citizens will be paying for the next 20 years.

Note: Read more about how the city uses closed-door meetings to conduct the public’s business, posted March 8.

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How Guelph council uses closed door meetings to manage your business

By Gerry Barker

March 8, 2016

On Wednesday, March 9, 2016, city council will move into closed session to discuss the performance objectives of the Chief Administration Officer, Ann Pappert.

The agenda contains the following stated for the record only and allows no information being available to the public.

THAT the Council of the City of Guelph now hold a meeting that is closed to the public, pursuant to The Municipal Act, to consider:

C-2016.14 CAO Performance Objectives

Section 239 (2) (b) personal matters about identifiable individuals

There is no doubt the clerk’s office has stated the authority to close this meeting. But there is one phrase that changes the rationale for holding such a meeting behind closed doors. It is “personal matters.”

Now if this meeting is to discuss the performance objectives of the CAO, why is this a subject of which the public has no right to hear, let alone understand?

On the other hand, is this a clever subterfuge to claim there will be “personal matters” to be brought up and discussed covered by Section 239 (2) (b)?

It appears that there is more to be discussed, behind closed doors, than just the CAO’s performance objectives.

What possible personal matters are part of this closed meeting? We’ll never know, perhaps because there are no such qualifying aspects of the closed meeting.

Can it be that council doesn’t want to discuss the CAO performance objectives in open council? As the most senior public servant in the city, does council seriously believe that such an issue is private and not for dissemination to the general public?

Here’s another example of the way our city has been managed for the past nine years, in secret, and without recourse. Five years ago, the Farbridge administration appointed an Integrity Commissioner chiefly to police leaks of council’s actions that it deemed not to be exposed to the citizens.

Despite this overt threat of reprisal, there were still leaks.

Ann Pappert’s responsibility is to the citizens of Guelph. Her history on the job leaves many people concerned about her statements and judgment.

Another example is the firing of Bruce Poole, the former Chief Building Inspector for doing his job. He is suing the city for $1 million for wrongful dismissal. His statement of claim says he protested that 50 city-building projects did not have building permits, as demanded by law.

Of course there are personal issues and contract negotiations that should be discussed in closed session. In Guelph, closed meetings are the rule not the exception.

In this case, it appears that excessive political correction is guiding the council to the detriment of the citizens.

I see no signs of reform in city management and that’s what the majority of people voted for because they saw the flaws and mistakes of the previous administration.



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