Monthly Archives: April 2016

Coun, Mike Salisbury confesses and the Orange Crush takes a hit

By Gerry Barker

April 27, 2016

Monday night, Coun. Mike Salisbury finally admitted that he tipped off the friendly blogger Adam Donaldson about why the five Orange Crush members walked out of a closed meeting Jan. 25. He left the chamber with the Integrity Commissioner (IC) sitting in the audience.

But for Salisbury, his confession did not come easily. At first, he denied he spoke to the friendly blogger. Then he left the chamber and admitted he was the one who leaked the reason for the walkout of five councillors.

It was a wild night of charges and counter charges, prepared statements regarding leaks of closed session information to bloggers including GuelphSpeaks (GS) Its editor has been reporting the news about our city’s governance for four years. In that time, a library of more than 767 posts or columns, have been published. The content has become an invaluable tool in writing new posts and, by consistent audience measurement, guelphspeaks.ca is the top read blog in the city and beyond.

This blog would not exist without the support of citizens who supply tips and comments. Somehow the Orange Crush believes that there are officials among them including members of council, who are providing so-called confidential information to GS. I am aware of the backbiting and finger pointing that has bee going on about who is leaking the information to Barker. I keep my sources confidential and that won’t change.

On Monday night the poisonous vitriol surfaced in open council.

It is now safe to say that those two elected officials who have admitted leaking information about that January 25th walkout, are members of the Orange Crush, Phil Allt and Mike Salisbury. Both, it is presumed, failed to understand that under the code of conduct, they are forbidden to comment on any information of content of any closed session meeting.

But a motion by Coun. Mark McKinnon and Coun. Andy Van Hellemond demanding that Salisbury be sanctioned and suspended for 90 days was predictably defeated.

Whether the IC will recommend sanctioning both these two leakers remains to be seen. We are still stunned that Robert Swayze, the IC whose contract expired at the end of March, was given another five-year contract. Again, this was approved in closed session with the Orange Crush majority supporting it.

The unfolding story of the Guelph Municipal Holding Inc. spending

 Reports and leaks are occurring over former mayor Karen Farbridge’s Community Energy Initiative (CEI).

The municipal holding corporation was formed in 2012 and operated outside the city’s financial accounting. There are two basic reasons for this: One, it gave the mayor who was chairman of GMHI, the ability to use Guelph Hydro as a revenue source to create a company called Envida Corporation. We know how that worked out. Check your Hydro bills.

This artful use of tapping into taxpayer funding outside of the property tax base of revenue of the city, was off the city’s books and not reported in the annual Financial Information Report mandated by the province.

So the former mayor introduced a new revenue stream, the source of which was buried in your electricity charges. There was a cute wrinkle. GMHI has sent more than $9 millions back to the city as a dividend. What anyone with financial smarts can’t figure out is how can GMHI do that when the 2014 annual statement reported a $2.5 million loss?

Two, the CEI through Envida commenced launching the geo-thermal underground system in the city without city funding. The first Chief Executive Officer of GMHI was Guelph’s CAO, Ann Pappert. As a trusted lieutenant of the former mayor to whom she owed her $257,000 annual job, Pappert was part of the plan to launch the CEI starting in late 2013.

This was done just prior to the civic election. The whole operation was not revealed to the public for fear of the former mayor losing her job. But she had other reasons to be defeated including settling the Urbacon Buildings Group lawsuit of $8.96 million.

The GMHI conducted all its business behind closed doors. The public had no idea except for annual reports that were so fudged that they were essentially meaningless. Last month, the board of directors, except Mayor Guthrie and Coun. Karl Wettstein, was dismissed. Mayor Guthrie took over as chairman and Coun. Cathy Downer was added to the board.

The reasons for this sudden major change have not been made public. The new board however has promised to report the financial status of GMHI in June.

A former GMHI board member says the report will stun the public with the spending on various CEI projects including the thermal heating and cooling plan in the Hanlon Business Park and downtown. Apparently, without public knowledge, GMHI proceeded with this thermal energy program through its corporate partner Envida Corporation.

Reports of special electric heat/cool exchange pumps installed in the Selman centre and Hanlon Park are already operational to serve the CEI thermal heating and cooling plan. One report says the cost of this project has reached some $35 million. Not even Guelph Hydro can support that kind of spending by Envida. Seeing that is operating off the city’s financial books, what is the basis of the plan, which is paying to operate the fledgling CEI system?

What the former administration did was saddle future generations of taxpayers with capital projects and policies reflecting the then administration’s goals without public input.

Now there is wiggle room for increasing spending without raising property taxes and user fees to record levels in comparison to peer communities across the province. The dog is off the porch and only cuts in spending to reduce debt and maintain a strained credit rating can turn things around.

Guelph can no longer sustain this financial boondoggle. It is imperative that GMHI be collapsed and its tattered financials brought back to the city financial authorities, whoever they may be.

If you want to watch a horror movie, check out the Rogers Community TV channel to view the disgraceful performance of our most of our elected officials.

Okay, let’s start to think about the 2017 budget. First, there is the $2.6 million lost in 2015 but pushed forward to 2017. Oh, that was taken from the reserves before year-end to balance the books.

Next the staff has proposed a delayed ten-year special property tax levy against taxpayers of two per cent over ten years. Add that to the annual increases in staff, capital costs and the looming GMHI financial losses trying to complete the Farbridge dream of CEI, and you have a load of big-time financial trouble in the Royal City.

There are five people on this council who understand the severe ramifications of this financial mismanagement. The Orange Crush who collectively bleats that the council is dysfunctional, reviles them.

Until the Orange Crush members leave a new Guelph will not occur.

In 2018, the citizens will elect representatives who will bring true reform. Between now and the next election, discord and disfunction will grow to the degree that warrants an investigation today by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

 

 

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Now more information is leaking out about that five-councillor walkout

By Gerry Barker

April 25, 2016

Tonight is the night when the Integrity Commissioner will attempt to discover who leaked the reason for the January 25 walkout by five councillors to a local blogger, (not GuelphSpeaks).

There is a new element in the coup that deposed the former board of directors of the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. It turned out to be a messy dumping of the board and an investigation into finances. It was carried out in closed session. The code of conduct rules prevent any councillor from revealing what was discussed for fear of being sanctioned by the Integrity Commissioner and the council. The secret discussion was to drill down to what this operation has cost the taxpayers.

My informant says the costs will dwarf the $2.6 million, lost by the waste management group.

GS will never reveal the source but it came from someone who was there the night the walkout occurred. Under the Farbridge imposed rules of procedure, no person attending can disclose details of what occurred that January 25th night.

But the administration will say the details weren’t in the public interest. Translation it was none of the public’s business. Wrong, who are they protecting?

In March 2015, following a closed session of council, excessive increases were awardied to the three top senior managers. That was in the public’s interest but was withheld until a year later by the rule of confidentiality.

Maybe it was the bananas

Not even the Integrity Commissioner can advise council on this issue. Because he is bound by the same procedural rules as you and me, and the participants in closed session. It’s comparable to: Monkey attends, monkey listens, and monkey walks out because it didn’t like the outcome of the discussion, (or the bananas). And monkey’s lips are sealed.

Well not quite. One of the Councillors who walked out, Coun. Phil Allt wrote in an email that “protecting the integrity of the corporation and staff,” prompted the move.

But in my opinion, that explanation is a breach of the closed session rules of confidentiality. The statement was political but he broke the rules. Tell me, when did dysfunctional politics replace political common sense?

The operations of this administration are to deceive, and cover-up their incompetence revealed in management mistakes. They are driven by an ideological detraction, developed by a group of NDP big brothers who direct, they think, the way we should live.

The 128,000 citizens of this city have been lulled into complacency. It hangs like a cloud of lassitude enveloping our city in which we have lost control. It is an existential surrender of our rights. It’s about as close as most of will ever get to a dictatorship by a small group that has been ordained with absolute power. And, they know how to use it.

I don’t have to tell you about our soaring taxes and user fees. I don’t have to repeat the millions of dollars of your money that has been wasted on social experiments or unnecessary environmental projects.

We are blanketed by a hardcore group of individuals who make policy mistakes and refuse to admit failure.

Because friends, it’s all done in secret.

Using your money to shut you up

Thousands of dollars have already been spent by the administration to proclaim the walkout by five councillors, was “political” and not illegal.

But there is a morality issue here that the administration conveniently overlooks. The 13 members of council have a moral obligation to represent all the people of the city. The Orange Crush has managed to elect members to council in wards in which a few thousand votes are cast giving the majority of winner’s, power to control the entire city. All the people across the city elected only one member of council, Mayor Guthrie, who only has one vote.

The city’s political and electoral structure needs reform to put a stop to this ward system that delivers control to members of a political party. A minority of electors in each ward has the same single vote power of the mayor. This majority collective of councillors has dominated Guelph governance for nine years.

It’s time for a referendum by all the people to level the political playing field

The following is a framework of reorganizing the administration to return power to the people:

Start by advocating that all candidates are elected at large and are full-time. One full-time councillor representing a specific ward, is to be elected. Three additional fulltime councillors would serve as a board of control with an appropriate increase in pay to reflect their responsibilities. Also elected at large are a deputy mayor and the mayor. The deputy mayor would chair the council meetings.

The Mayor would have veto power on all bills involving public funds. The Board of Control, plus the mayor and Deputy Mayor, would appoint councillors to the various boards such as the Police Services Board, Fire Department and Emergency Services, public health, and County of Wellington liaison.

The city solicitor and clerk will review all procedural bylaws to streamline operations and ensure the public is informed. The goal is to stop the closed-door sessions. It is the antithesis of the way our city business is currently being conducted. It will be the true reflection of an open and transparent government.

The city would hire a city manager to direct the staff. The city is now advertising to hire a Chief Financial Officer a long overdue development, as the position has been vacant for 17 months.

Abolish the present management structure

The present structure of Chief Administrative Officer would be abolished, as would the Deputy Chief Administrative Officers. Five directors report to the city manager and through to the Board of Control. The responsibilities would include: Operations, Engineering and Planning, Finance, Administration and Parks and Recreation.

Operations – Includes infrastructure replacement and repairs, Guelph Transit, water management, emergency services, liaison with Guelph Hydro.

Engineering and Planning – Includes Waste Management, Street lighting, Processing all development plans, Building department, and zoning, Economic Development.

Finance – Tax accounting and collection, money management including restoring the reserves, financial reporting and internal audit. Annual Financial Information Report, required annually by the province, and external audit. Pension management. Creating quarterly financial summary reports for the citizens. Supervising all capital spending. Creating the annual budget based on reports of all departments. Adopting a zero-based budget system.

Administration – Legal staff and legal issues, clerk’s office including overseeing an independent election committee, Inter-government liaison, Human Resources including union contracts, hiring and terminations. Liaison with appointed public boards and committees, communications and tourism promotion, Information Technology, review support for worthy groups representing the arts, culture and poverty.

Parks and Recreation – Includes social and welfare programs, senior services, parks and city beautification programs, recreation facilities, Guelph Library system, maintenance of all city-owned property, heritage and forestry departments. Guelph Civic Museum and McRae House, all historic monuments and the Sleeman centre.

First responders’ management reports to the city manager. This will ignite protest from the Guelph Police Services Board. The Board’s demand to have the city pay $34 million for the renovation of police headquarters requires more financial oversight on police spending. The Mayor is ex-officio of all department management units.

Restoring common sense to the budget process

Most important, the budget process must be changed. Instead, each major department director would prepare the budget reflecting operations for the coming year. The data would be presented to the city manager and to the Board of Control for review and any recommended changes. Then sent to the council for approval. Each senior manager would be responsible for the department budget. Each department budget is based on a zero-sum system annually.

The managerial target is to reduce costs in areas that do not affect performance or provision of essential services.

All committees, boards and organizations that depend on the city to fund their operations will be required to produce a business plan to validate their operations.

The Guelph Municipal Holding Inc. is at the top the list for review if it has not occurred already.

Once approved by council, only emergency services and operations are permitted to request variances. This will force the administration to adhere to the budget and stop balancing the books each year by raiding the reserves.

Such a system would prevent a single party taking over the city, as all candidates would require election by all the people, not just a few in each ward. It would also attract candidates with more experience in management, culture and professional accreditation.

How much would this cost? For discussion purposes, the six full-time councillors representing the wards should receive $65,000; the three councillors on the Board of Control, $80,000; The Deputy Mayor, $100,000 and the Mayor, $150,000. The City Manager should receive $200,000, the five department directors, $165,000.

This would shift control of the administration back to the officials who have been elected by all the eligible voters.

Food for thought and action.

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How the Orange Crush has crippled Guelph

By Gerry Barker

Posted April 21, 2016

“Power is not given, it is taken,” anonymous

It started in October 2006.

That’s when the New Democratic Party (NDP) swept into power in the City of Guelph with the election of Mayor Karen Farbridge and ten supporting councillors. They did it legally using tactics that most citizens never experienced before. First, they spent three years opposing and obstructing former Mayor Kate Quarrie’s administration of moderation.

The undying support of the civic unions, the backbone of the NDP power source, provided the financial support needed to achieve victory. The Orange Crush was also financially supported by a group of so-called “silk stocking” socialists, wealthy individuals. These supporters were usually professionals who were paid from the public purse.

The Orange Crush took power. It has led to nine years controlling the city administration. It forced a series of projects that reflected the platform of the New Democratic Party.

Today, self-serving Orange Crush socialists who dominate Guelph, are determined to maintain power and continue to impose their spendthrift policies on the Royal City.

To seize power in the 2006 election, they invented phony issues such as the ‘Big Pipe” to bring water from Lake Erie. Signs opposing this sprouted across the city prior to election day. They sent out vote- at cards to voters, advising them to go to the designated poll and vote for their candidates. Fear tactics? Yep.

The Orange Crush 2006 offensive buried the political moderates

The sad part was the opposition was ill-prepared to face up to these tactics or worse, they remained in denial. Kate lost along with five councillors that heralded the beginning of a total dictatorship by the NDP and its elected supporters.

The Orange Crush was in charge, orange being the official colour of the NDP.

Then they launched a campaign to stop urban sprawl, launched to convince voters that the city should only be engaged in intensified housing development. Supporter and urban planner, Tony Leighton, writing in the Mercury, decried the cookie-cutter appearance of single-family homes being built in the city. It was another attack on freedom of individuality.

The Farbridge administration spent millions shrinking major arterial roads to accommodate bicycle lanes. The unintended consequence of the Orange Crush’s “war on cars” was that the volume of vehicular traffic today in the city is greater than ever before. One former councillor, Maggie Laidlaw, bragged that within 20 years there would be no cars on the streets of Guelph. This is why in Guelph today, the cost of maintaining a street or road is $28,000 per kilometer while the provincial average is $11,000.

It was all part of the Orange Crush’s plan to get people out of cars and onto bicycles or walking to their jobs, shop and visit the doctor or do their banking. It was as if they wanted to turn a functioning and vibrant city into a series of connected villages that have all services within walking distance of the condominium home.

The astonishing thing is they decided to carry out this socialist nirvana plan patterned after cities in Europe that were built hundreds of years ago. The present NDP control is the essence of collectivization of Guelph’s basic transportation; social order; waste management; sustainable access to power including electricity, heating and cooling.

And what a price we have paid

It represents the concerted effort to dumb down a society that had developed a lifestyle that allowed freedom of choice, individualism and human development. The Orange Crush policies reflected a political ego that they were right and knew what was best for Guelph.

That’s why the Farbridge communications team kept publishing handouts to the media, crowing about the awards the city was receiving for it “progressive” policies.

The decimation of the NDP in the fall general election was because of the adoption of a new manifesto created by veteran socialists Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, at the Edmonton NDP National convention. It demonstrated the need for the party to return to its socialist roots in an effort to become a credible political movement. It’s back to the days of NDP icon, Tommy Douglas.

Canadians have voted they are not ready for this brand of politics. Did I mention they also fired National Leader Thomas Mulcair?

Exit single-family detached homes, enter intensified housing

The Farbridge council soon put a stop to single-family detached home construction grinding it to a halt. Instead at the south end of the city, off Victoria Road, the city approved hundreds of multiple-family low rise condos and strip housing. The irony now is the city is unable to collect waste from most of those homes, due to the installation of the $15.5 million cart-bin collection system. Residents in these developments asked, where do we store the bins? The automated pick-up trucks could not manouvre in the narrow lane ways.

The senior managers who created this cock-up, Janet Laird and Dean Wyman are now gone.

The Farbridge regime insisted that Guelph had to reduce the waste going to the landfill.

So here’s what her NDP dominated council did. They spent $34 million to build an organic waste compost facility that was triple the needs of the city of Guelph for 20 years. They then turned over operation of the facility to the contractor, Maple Reinders. To this day, the financial details of that contract have not been revealed. We receive periodic reports of the volume of raw material but not the cost of operating it by the outside operator, Aim Environmental, a subsidiary of the Maple Reinders who sells the compost.

All these decision were made in closed session.

The Orange Crush was only beginning

 Feeling their oats in 2008, construction of the new City Hall and conversion of the old city hall into a provincial courthouse, was missing completion deadlines. It was due to some 300 change orders by the Farbridge administration. On September 18, 2008, CAO Hans Loewig, ordered Urbacon Buildings Group Inc. off the project with assistance of the Guelph police. To this day not one member of council at the time has admitted they voted to toss Urbacon off the job. Mayor Farbridge apologized “on behalf of the city.” She refused to accept responsibility.

This was the beginning of a dreadful breakdown of management on the part of the administration. It became a major repudiation of the Orange Crush domination of city politics.

The end result was the decision in March 2014, by Justice Donald MacKenzie, that the city was guilty of illegally dismissing the general contractor, Urbacon Buildings Group. The timing of that decision could not have been worse for the Orange Crush administration led by Mayor Farbridge who was seeking re-election..

But they didn’t stand pat. They sent their lawyers to argue to delay the imposed hearing for damages deadline to occur before the election. That judge refused to delay that hearing imposed by Judge MacKenzie. Instead, the city negotiated a damages settlement that cost $8.96 million in the fall of 2014..

Not even the Orange Crush could save their leader

The 2014 civic election was the end for Karen Farbridge after eight years of being mayor of Guelph. Her CAO, Ann Pappert, told the public that the settlement would not affect property taxes. Well, that wasn’t quite how it worked out. The administration drained three reserve funds to make the payments. Property taxes were increased by 6.96 per cent in two budget cycles, 2015 and 2016. To date, there has been no staff plan revealed to replenish those three reserve funds, as instructed by council in the 2015 budget discussions.

Ms. Pappert finally reported that the new city hall project cost an additional $23 millions over the original contract cost.

Regardless, today the Orange Crush is still in control of managing Guelph.

In a recent letter to the Tribune. Oxanna Adams said that the majority of people in Guelph are progressive adherents. Her argument was based on the results of the recent federal election won by the Liberals, plus a couple of leftist runners-up.

In her irrational analysis, Ms. Adams’ theory compares apples to oranges, orange being her favourite colour. The issues in the Federal election had little to do with the mangled financial mess that affects all Guelph residents. The Orange Crush Sherpas such as Ms. Adams, are aiding and supporting a failed and dysfunctional city government.

The growing number of closed sessions amounts to an ongoing cover-up denying the citizens of information that affects their lives, and pocketbooks.

In my view, the administration is on the defensive because of the Orange Crush’s mismanagement of the city’s finances.

To defend wasting $23 million of the city hall project, losing $2.6 million on an abortive contract with a Detroit waste company and ram through a $34 million on an over-buily organic waste compost plant, are not “investments” as Coun. James Gordon states.

The combination of the Farbridge appointed senior managers, CAO Ann Pappert, Deputy Chief Administrative Officers, Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson plus the bloc of seven Farbridge supporters controlling council, means the Orange Crush is still in charge.

If you believe that national political parties should not stay out of municipal politics then you are dreaming in NDP orange.

If you are like the rest of us, instead of drinking the orange Koolaid, let’s take back our city. Now is as good a time as ever to start.

 

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Part 1 – Who knew about the disappearance of $2.6 million and when did they know it?

By Gerry Barker

April 18, 2016

We learned recently of the city administration losing $2.6 million on a garbage exchange contract made with a Detroit corporation.

Dean Wyman, the former General Manager of solid waste in the environmental waste management department, negotiated this contract. Wyman told the city council that the deal would require an extra shift of workers to handle the increased volume shipped from Detroit.

He agreed to allow regular shipments of recyclable material from Detroit that would have a 100 per cent recovery rate in the city’s materials recovery plant on Dunlop Drive. In fact, the recovery rate was less than 70 per cent. This resulted in unusable recyclable material either being shipped back to Detroit to be incinerated or sent to the landfill.

When Wyman requested permission from council to hire some 32 additional sorters to handle the Detroit volume, he said the deal would have a net profit of some $320,000 a year.

Of course, nobody knew anything about this deal or received reports on its profitability. In fact, apparently there was no business plan developed for the proposal.

Why the departure of the two key managers?

It is now apparent that Dean Wyman left the city for a job in Edmonton knowing full well the truth about this abortive scheme. When his boss, Al Horsman, departed to become CAO of Sault Ste Marie last August, with respect, it is now clear the deal was rapidly unraveling. Wyman left in December leaving the citizens totally in the dark about the $2.6 million Detroit deficit.

The question now is when did council learn of the loss? The internal auditor detected it last year but the result was not released.

Who ordered it not to be made public until last month?

Did council know about the loss during its 2016 budget preparations? If they did, why was it not brought up?

One explanation was that the loss would have impacted the 2015 budget close at year-end. There was already a negative variance of some $1.2 million. Simply, in the past three years at year-end, this administration has overspent its own budget. Because the Municipal Act demands that municipalities must file a balanced Financial Information Report at year-end, the Guelph administration dips into the reserves to make up the shortfall. Voila! The books are balanced and signed off by the outside auditing firm.

Well, there has been a lot of dipping into reserves in the past three years including the $8.96 million needed to settle the Urbacon Buildings Group lawsuit over the new city hall cost overruns.

How much money is collectively left in the reserves?

Why has the city not released the status of those reserves, how much remains, how much is being paid back and who makes that decision?

It is clear that the office of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), is failing to reduce costs and control overspending in three consecutive budgets

Did any senior manager, councillor or former members of the administration, give references to Wyman when he applied for the Edmonton job?

It is evident that something went terribly wrong with this contract. Did Wyman receive any benefit for his part in negotiating this arrangement? When were officials told he was leaving?

When two senior managers in the very department that was affected by this $2.6 million shortfall leave the city within four months of each other, it warrants a police investigation.

The office of the CAO has mishandled this affair resulting in unwarranted speculation and doubt that there were questionable outcomes that required answers.

This is just another continuation of polices that increase property taxes and user fees every year.

It is a self-serving culture in city management that has resulted in Guelph having operating and capital spending costs exceeding Cambridge and Kitchener by 50 per cent.

And Coun. James Gordon calls these multi-million dollar losses “investments?”

 

Part 2 – When the code of conduct becomes the code of silence

 The Guelph Tribune published an excellent report concerning the walkout of five members of council in a closed session last January 25. It was based on a complaint made by a resident and investigated by Integrity Commissioner Robert Swayze.

For the sake of clarity, Robert Swayze’s contract expired March 31. Apparently council, in closed session, appointed him to another five-year term without revealing the terms and conditions of his new contract. In his last term of office, Mr. Swayze received an annual $5,000 retainer and charged $250 an hour to investigate matters as directed by council.

We presume this contract renewal was done in another closed session. We assume that there was no attempt to open the contract for other bids.

This issue has been fraught with lies and deception, all done behind closed doors. The administration invited an outside consultant to investigate the citizen’s complaint. This was about the five who walked out and failed their responsibility by deliberately shutting down a public meeting, causing a lack of quorum.

The consultant, Amberley Gavel Ltd, of London Ontario, conducted an investigation and concluded there was no evidence to support the citizen’s complaint and dismissed it. The cost of this has not been revealed to the public. Oddly, the consultant described the walkout as a political event. but not illegal.

Enter another consultant, the Integrity Commissioner. He is now investigating further allegations regarding leaked information of the closed session sent to a political blogger (not GuelphSpeaks). It came from an anonymous source who attended that Jan. 25th meeting who is possibly a member of council. At its April 25th meeting, council will discuss this new development. It is hoped that the offending member confesses that either he or she sent the information to the blogger. Yeah, like that’s going to happen.

This is yet another example of how the public’s business is being shrouded in self-serving privacy through a never-ending series of closed meetings by council and staff.

It’s as if civic secrecy can be compared to the secret society of the Illuminati, in which a founding principle occurs when the facts are deliberately withheld from the public.

The perfect example of this is the large pay increases given to CAO Ann Pappert, DCAO Mark Amorosi and DCAO Derrick Thomson, prior to the completion of the 2015 budget. Council approved the increases in closed session.

We the public was not told until 14 months later when the Provincial Government Sunshine List was published. It listed every public employee in Ontario who was paid $100,000 or more.

You have to ask yourself, is this a truthful and responsible way to conduct our business? Why are we going through thousands of dollars to investigate five elected councillors who deliberately shut down a public meeting in which they were expected to attend?

How long will it be before the office of the CAO can bring the promised openness of government and transparency to the people?

How long are the people going to put up with their money being used against them without any recourse? If you formally complain, you get drop-kicked by hired guns who were never elected and don’t even live in the city.

As long as we let this happen, it will plague us for years to come.

Our city has been captured by an irresponsible group of elected officials and senior managers. There is little the great majority of residents can do except remember how terrible the political poisonous atmosphere lingers over us like a darkened thunderhead. This group is systematically destroying any vestige of responsibility to the very people who pay the bills.

The abuse of the public trust is reaching monumental proportions as almost every day there is a new revelation of mismanagement, losses of public funds and deliberate cover-ups.

You will notice the complete absence of the CAO in all this. She is strangely silent. Maybe she’s dusted off the resume. Who knows where Ms. Pappert lurks as her mandate disintegrates?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Now we have the Breeze Brothers on a mission for Farbridge

By Gerry Barker

Posted April 13, 2016

Oh My! The Mercury is gone. The Trib ad rates are too high so, two councillors invite citizens to “shoot the breeze” about the way their city is being run.

What a breezy suggestion. Offering citizens to tell them how the city should be doing to lower taxes, stop the excessive spending, and forgive the millions of dollars lost spent because they were “investments” in the future of Guelph.

Those cheery members of council, Phil Allt, and James Gordon, are two defeated New Democratic Party candidates to represent the City of Guelph in the Provincial Legislature. They are inviting citizens to have a coffee or beer with them to “shoot the breeze.”

This method of communications may work in the union hall with members of the trade unions in the process of negotiating a new contract. But this is a different world.

Let’s look at the 15-month record of these two “breezy” councillors who want your input as how the city should be managed.

These are the same two who voted, in closed session, for the secret salary increases awarded in the 2015 budget to the three senior managers of the staff. That decision, made in closed session, was not revealed to the public until the provincial Sunshine list was published more than a year later well after the fact. It showed the stunning increase awarded to CAO Ann Pappert of a 17.11 per cent or more than $37,000.

When you think about it, that increase was more than each of the 12 ward councillors make in a year as so-called part-timers. Yet the Breeze Brothers voted for it, but didn’t tell anyone.

They also voted to increase your property taxes by 3.98 per cent in the 2015 budget. Before the 2016 budget discussions began, voted to take a staff recommendation to implement a two per cent, ten-year special assessment on property owners off the table. The money collected was to pay more than $250 million to rebuild the aging Guelph infrastructure. Their action pushed the issue to the 2017 budget discussions in November.

They also twice supported increases in the staff and walked out of a closed session of council in the name of “maintaining the integrity of the corporation and the staff.”

These are the same guys who vote in lock step with the bloc of seven majority of council. They obstructed any attempt to reform the administration that was the main reason the people rejected continuation of the Farbridge agenda.

And you really want to talk to them?

This is nothing but a silly public relations attempt to change the spots on the leopard. They will not change. They will not work with council to achieve curbing costs. These are doctrinaire social democrats that couldn’t manage a two-car funeral.

You don’t have to look any further when Farbridge loyalist Alan Pickersgill, wrote in the Tribune, “Guelph doesn’t have a spending problem it has a revenue problem.”

Really? With more than 50 per cent of city revenue coming from property taxes, Pickersgill has declared open season by his leftist friends to milk the taxpayers, again and again and again.

Alan, Guelph has a spending problem when it blows $23 million failing to control or manage the new city hall project. It has a spending problem when it loses $2.6 million in a crazy garbage exchange deal with a Detroit company.

But friends, look what occurred in Calgary last weekend to see the leadership demolition of the New Democratic Party. National Leader Thomas Mulcair suffered a humiliating defeat.

It only goes to show that the NDP is not the only political party to eat its young.

Mr. Allt and Mr. Gordon, is there a lesson here?

Your closed-door colleagues have to realize that the people are reacting.

No amount of coffee and beer will change that, until you recognize your responsibility to serve all the people, not just your political friends.

Being breezy with the facts won’t cut it.

 

 

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More on the senior staff’s sneak attacks on the public’s trust and purse

By Gerry Barker

Posted April 11, 2016

There were two events happening within three months following the 2014 civic election, all discussed in closed sessions. The first was the senior staff reorganization that converted five executive director jobs into three Deputy Chief Administrative Officers (DCAO), Mark Amorosi, Derrick Thomson and Al Horsman. This happened in November 2014, on the heels of the retirement of Janet Laird and Derek McCaughan.

It occurred during the final days of the Farbridge administration and before the new council was even sworn in.

Part of that reorganization came with a $6,361 pay increase for the remaining three senior managers taking Mark Amorosi’s annual salary to some $182,761. Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert, stood pat at $219,657.

At that point, the salary spread between the CAO and DCAO’s was $36,896. But then when the new salaries were awarded prior to the finalization of the 2015 budget, again in closed session far from the public eye, that spread grew to $47,619.

So the spread between the CAO’s salary and that of Mark Amorosi increased by $10,723. Amorosi said council based on Pappert’s performance, approved the 17.11 per cent increase for his boss. The DCAO went on to say: “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.”

Hey! I can’t make this stuff up. Is Amorosi saying that the “retro” payment was made on the basis that Pappet did not ask for one in 2014? Regardless of that fatuous explanation, Pappert received a $37,591 increase two months later.

The dereliction of responsibility here, rests with those four executive managers who helped themselves to the public treasury, conned the majority of council to approve them in closed session, and buried the result for a year.

That self-serving manipulation ranks right up there with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour December 7, 1941, described by President Franklin Roosevelt, as a “Day in Infamy.”

This is a management team that uses your money mostly in closed meetings, to deflect criticism of their actions.

Two examples stick out. First, Public funds were used to discredit a candidate in the 2014 election. Farbridge supporter, Susan Watson, accused Glen Tolhurst for accepting a $400 donation from the citizen’s activist organization, GrassRoots Guelph (GRG). The Election Compliance Committee, appointed by the previous administration, agreed to request an audit of Mr. Tolhurst’s election expenses report. The outside auditor hired by City Clerk Stephen O’Brien, stated that GRG had the right to donate money to candidates under the Ontario Municipal Elections Act.

That frivolous complaint cost the taxpayers $11,400 and Watson did not pay for it. We did.

The second misuse of public funds occurred when a resident of the city complained to council about the walkout of five councillors from a closed meeting, forcing cancellation of the public council meeting for lack of a quorum.

The city clerk engaged the services of the Local Authority Services (LAS), a partner with the Frank Cowan Company, one of the largest risk management organizations in the country.

So, you may ask, why did the administration hire this firm to investigate and advise on the walkout of the five councillors, January 25? Whose risk was at stake here?

It could not have been done to support the citizen who complained. Certainly the city, (read that the clerk), wasn’t at risk or why would he have hired LAS in the first place? No, it was to mitigate the risk taken by the five councillors who walked out of a closed meeting.

So, more of your money is being used by the administration to protect five councillors. They walked away from a closed meeting on the grounds they were protecting the integrity of the corporation and the staff, according to Walker Coun. Phil Allt.

The report by LAS stated that the five councillors did not breach the closed session section of the OMA and there was no evidence to recommend action against them. Are you not surprised at this outcome? And. Mr. O’Brien, how much did this cost the taxpayers?

This is the same administration, led by CAO Ann Pappert that has made little attempt to curb costs. It’s the same leadership that has allowed negative variances in the annual financial report every year for the past three years.

The Municipal Act says a municipality cannot carry a budgetary loss but must have a balanced budget. So every year, they raid the reserves to balance the books.

Ms. Pappert heads an administration that is deceptive, arrogant, and careless and ducks responsibility managing our money.

Let me ask you; is the CAO deserving of a performance increase of $37,591 for 2015? Too late, she already got the money.

Indeed, hiding these large senior manager salaries for more than a year is our day in infamy. More to the point, not one person, staff or council, revealed those inceases approved in the March 25 closed session wrapping up the 2015 budget.

Only the people can change it. Now is a good time to start the process by letting your ward councillors know that there has to be a stop to this obstructionism to reform city operations.

We have already experienced administration failure.

Now it’s our turn to tell them to manage responsibly or leave.

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Why Guelph’s legacy of irresponsible management continues an ongoing financial crisis

By Gerry Barker

April 8, 2016

When Deputy Chief Administrative Officer(DCAO), Mark Amorosi, says his department conducted a market review of senior management salaries, turns out the three top management staffers looked after their own salary increases in 2015.

Comparing the Guelph Sunshine List, (reporting public employees earning more tha $100,000 a year), to other similar-sized communities, it is apparent that the so-called market review to estimate what senior managers should be awarded, turned out to be self-serving, flawed and manipulated.

The evidence now is the admission by Coun. Karl Wettstien that council had no control of challenging the salary increases of any employee under the rank of Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert.

Does this elevate the CAO to a position that she runs the operations of a $382 million budget with no recourse, no objection, no public input, and no control involving the public interest?

This is yet another hangover from the previous administration. Two people for the past five years have run our city, former Mayor Karen Farbridge and her hand-picked lieutenant, Ann Pappert.

Here’s how Ms. Pappert’s 2015 salary of $257,248 compares to Kingston’s CAO, Gerard Hunt, who was paid $215,764 or $41,484 less than the Guelph CAO. Or take Kitchener’s CAO Jeff Willmer, who earned $213,029 or $44,219 less than Ms. Pappert.

So what basis was there to award Ms. Pappert with a 17.11 per cent increase in 2015? Mark Amorosi claims there was a market review, comparing salaries of CAO’s. The report must have left out the two most obvious municipal comparisons, Kingston and Kitchener.

The pattern of control by the council dominated Bloc of Seven

The Bloc of Seven, seven councillors elected in 2014, controlling the council follows the policies of the former leadership of the left, the defeated mayor of Guelph, Karen Farbridge. She set the rules to establish tight control of the administration. Her followers elected to council, slavishly follows her direction and vote to support her strategies, policies and financial management.

After eight years, it resulted in a monumental financial disaster called Urbacon that cost the city $8.96 million to settle.. It cost her and some councillors their jobs. The fallout was the comparison of Guelph’s operational and capital costs in 2014 that were 50 per cent higher that either Cambridge or Kitchener.

Today, the remnants of these destructive policies are the same old gang trying to prevent any reform or reduction of costs.

Guelph has 12 general managers whose responsibilities and salaries vary by the scope of responsibility. Here is the list of general managers, their salary and taxable benefits in descending order:

Kealy Dedman – GM Engineering and Capital Infrastructure –      $170,637 – $756

Donna Jaques – GM Legal Services city solicitor                                   $158 997 – $1,667

Todd Salter – GM Planning, Urban design, Building Services         $157,978 – $767

Peter Cartright – GM Business Development and Enterprise         $153,997 – $3,467

Peter Busatto – Plant Manager Water Services                                      $152,188 – $699

Rodney Keller – GM operations                                                                   $142,491 – $4,299

Colleen Clack – GM Culture Tourism, Community Investment      $142,017 – $1,599

David Goodwaldt – GM Human Resources                                               $140,003 – $699

Kristene Scott – GM Parks and Recreation                                               $140,003 – $699

Phil Meagher – GM Guelph Transit                                                             $137,566 – $676

Mario Petricevic – GM Facilities Management                                       $127,206 – $2,435

Laszlo Petroczi – GM Guelph Junction Railroad                                     $110,448 – $538

In 2015, the city staff had 15 senior managers including the top three. Take another look at that list. There is no general manager of finances let alone a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). For more than 15 months, Guelph has been without a CFO. Instead, DCAO Mark Amorosi, head of Corporate Services, assumed responsibility for financial management.

Two budget cycles and still no CFO

Under Amorosi’s watch, we have gone through two General Managers of Finance and currently the vacant position is being filled with an in-house senior financial staffer. What more evidence do we need that Mr. Amorosi, who holds no accredited financial background, is out of his depth managing the city’s finances? Couple that with the chair of the finance committee, June Hofland, whose financial background consists of being a former bank teller.

These two people are managing the finances of a $500 million corporation with an annual budget of $382 million. The past three years management has overspent its budget by and average of more than a million dollars. Because the city must report a balanced budget to the province, raiding the reserves covers up the budget excesses.

Also, missing from the list are those employees of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI) who earned more than $100,000 in 2015. Only one shows up as GM of Guelph Junction Railroad that is part of GMHI. There are no Sunshine List salaries from Guelph Hydro or Envada Corporation, also components of GMHI. These employees are paid from the public purse but not included in the Sunshine list. The revenue backbone of GMHI is Guelph Hydro. So when GMHI sends a $1.5 million dividend back to the city, it comes, indirectly, from your Hydro payments.

Since GMHI was formed by the previous administration, it has lost money but paid dividends totaling $9 million to the city general revenues. In 2014 alone, $1.5 million was delivered to the city while the financial statement of GMHI showed a loss of $2.8 million. There will be a report of GMHI due in June that could reveal other loses. (GS will have more on this subject later). In the the recent GMHI reorganization, the board was replaced with more council oversight of its activities.

DCAO Amorosi’s area of responsibilities also includes the annual human resources report in which he reports the full-time staff is 1,275. What it leaves out are some 45 per cent of employees paid from the public purse including part timers, contractors, police, fire and EMS.

A further subverting of the public interest is the use of closed sessions of council. These meetings are secret and participants are warned that they cannot discuss the closed sessions.

This is how those three super-sized salary increases to Pappert, Amorosi and Thomson were not revealed for a year after the council approved. The only reason the public found out was the provincial 2015 Sunshine List revealed the increases, not the city.

It’s time to put a stop to our city being held hostage by the same people who caused the operational problems accumulated in the past eight years.

Let’s take back our city.

 

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