By Gerry Barker
Posted April 4, 2016
The 2015 salary reported this week showed that Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, received a $37,591 increase in 2015. This increase was 17.11 per cent more than her previous base salary of $219,657 earned in 2014. For the past year, Ms. Pappert has been paid $257,248.
Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Mark Amorosi, explained that the payment to Ms. Pappert was discussed in closed session prior to the approval of the 2015 budget, March 25, 2015.
So, who knew about this 17.11 per cent increase? There was DACO Mark Amorosi as head of human resources and finance and who received a 14.7 per cent increase; DACO Derrick Thomson, who received a whopping 19.48 per cent increase; the 13 members of council including the Mayor, City Clerk Stephen O’Brien plus some administrative assistants who had to know for logistic purposes.
Not one of those people revealed the increases on the grounds the decision was made in closed session. It took a year for the public to know the results of those secret meetings that awarded the huge base salary increases. The news came from the 2015 Ontario Sunshine List published annually in March, a year after the fact.
This is a pure example of the lengths this administration will go to protect its own interests. And it is happening regularly when the public is denied information to which they have the right to know. It is the people’s money.
But let’s examine the performance of Ms. Pappert that led to this clandestine decision made a year ago. Keep in mind that the buck stops with Ann Pappert as the top staff manager. When there are mistakes or misjudgment, she must accept responsibility. Here are a few:
The Bruce Poole firing and subsequent $1 million lawsuit
The CAO had to approve the firing of Bruce Poole, the chief building inspector for 20 years because he warned that he would charge the city for not complying with the Building Codes Act. The charge was that the city was not taking out building permits on its own projects. If anyone would know about this, it would be the Chief Building Inspector.
The $2.6 million loss by waste management importing Detroit’s recyclables
This loss was recently revealed because the Rizzo Brothers in Detroit failed to supply 100 per cent of suitable recyclable materials and the ratio fell to 64 per cent. The material that was unusable was shipped to the landfill contracted by the city. Two former waste management staffers resigned in the fall, DCAO Al Horsman and General Manager Dean Wyman, who negotiated the deal with the Rizzo Brothers.
Telling the public the $8.96 million Urbacon settlement would not affect property taxes
Ms. Pappert made that statement following the Urbacon settlement in September 2014. What she did not fully explain was that the $8.96 million was taken from three unrelated reserve funds. She said the city would replenish these reserves by paying $900,000 a year for five years. Coun. Karl Wettstein moved to reduce that to $500,000 in the 2015 budget. Since then the staff has not reported how the reserves will be repaid, if ever.
Presiding over property tax increases of 6.95 per cent in two budget cycles
In March and December of last year, council approved 6.95 per cent property tax increases. These sequential increases were approved by the majority of council on the advice of the staff, of which Ms. Pappert is in charge. These tax increases far exceeded the goal of Mayor Guthrie who promised to keep tax increase even with the Consumer Price Index that was 1.95 per cent in 2014. In 2015 the CPI was 1.1 per cent chuefly due to the lower price of fuel.
As CAO, supervising the costs of the new city hall overruns of $23 million
As CAO, Ms. Pappert was in charge of reviewing and reporting the actual cost of building the new city hall and provincial courthouse. There were charges left out including the money paid to two contractors to complete the work that Urbacon could not finish because the general contractor was ordered off the job. That action by the city led to the Urbacon lawsuit and the financial disaster that ensued.
Adding more than 100 permanent staff in her five years as CAO
As CAO, Ms. Pappert is responsible for all facets of staff operations including the hiring of new staff. There is little factual reporting on staff increases to justify the needs of the operation. These occurred despite warnings of the future liability to the city to guarantee retiree’s staff pensions.
Being complicit in the Susan Watson election complaint that cost $11,400
The case of Ms. Watson was a futile attempt to challenge the election financial statement of ward 6 candidate, Glen Tolhurst, for accepting a donation from the citizen’s activist group, GrassRoots Guelph. The result was exoneration by auditor William Molson. The $11,400 costs were not charged to Ms. Watson so the taxpayers were stuck with the bill for Watson’s frivilous action.
Recommending the 4.15 per cent increases in water bills in 2015 and 2016
Every year the cost of water increases exponentially because the charges are made from water usage and not included in the property tax levy. These increases are made despite the drop in water consumption in the city. Now the plan is to levy citizens for storm water usage and maintenance involving hiring additional staff to run the operation.
As CAO, transferring certain operating costs to debt to reduce tax increases
This occurred and was included in the 2016 budget. It is a thinly disguised attempt to keep the operating costs of the city lower. It is a dumb decision that transfers an amount of annual operating costs to debt. This is further proof that Guelph’s operating and capital costs are 50 per cent higher than either Cambridge or Kitchener. It’s more voodoo financial management that future citizens will be paying for years to come
Hiring Andy Best to manage the “Open Government and Transparency Plan”
Andy Best is a leading political operative for former mayor Karen Farbridge. He received a contract job paying him $92,000 a year from the current council to manage the former administration’s lame and expensive plan to open government and transparency. Instead there are more closed sessions of council that ever before, such as awarding huge increases to three top managers in March 2015. Where was Best when that occurred?
As CEO of the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc, she was in a conflict of interest
The former Mayor chose her CAO to be Chief Executive Officer of the new Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. Ms. Pappert was the manager of this off-the-city books organization. The losses of the GMHI are staggering, as we are about to discover when the books will be opened under a re-organization plan. The reason is the spending by the Envida Corporation to carry out the former mayor’s plan to install geo-thermal heating and cooling to downtown buildings and the Hanlon Business Park. It has the sexy handle of the Community Energy Initiative. Trouble is almost all of the funding is coming from Guelph Hydro. That means the citizens are indirectly funding this hangover from a defeated mayor.
Do you still think that CAO Ann Pappert deserved a $37,591 increase in 2015? Her fingerprints are all over these and other decisions that affeted your taxes and do not warrant renewal of her contract.