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