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?