By Gerry Barker
May 4, 2016
It seems that the present council is more concerned about leaks of their management processes preparing the city budget, than fixing the problem of alleged incompetence of the Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert.
An email sent last week by a citizen, Rena Akerman, carefully documented the management record of Ms. Pappert since she was named to the post It is an indictment of her lack of responsibility as the chief of the entire city budget and staff. But it gets better.
Here is a copy of the Akerman email:
Dear Fellow Guelph Resident,
Recent letters to the editor in the Guelph Tribune from me and others show that many residents of Guelph are very concerned about the day-to-day management of our City. Overall responsibility for the city’s operational management rests with the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of Guelph. The current CAO has been in office since 2011 and her contract is currently being renegotiated for renewal in November. The Mayor and City Council should NOT renew the CAO’s contract. Guelph residents need to act NOW to ensure they don’t! Here’s why:
- The current CAO has consistently allowed the annual City Budget to be overspent:
2012 – $11 million overspent (budget of $331 million, spending of $342 million)
2013 – $34 million overspent (budget of $346 million, spending of $380 million)
2014 – $6 million overspent (budget of $369 million, spending of $375 million)
2015 – Not yet available
- She has allowed her staff to make misleading statements to the public and Council.For example:
* In September 2015, the final official statement on Urbacon was issued stating that the City Hall reconstruction project cost $65 million, well above the initial budget of $42 million and the approved increases to $55 million. This statement proudly announced that “with the exception of legal and settlement fees, the civic administration building…was within one percent of budgeted construction costs.” (www.guelphtribune.ca/news-story/5834818-mayor-says-case-closed-on-urbacon-file.) A Guelph Mercury editorial correctly noted that this statement amounted to “put(ting) lipstick on the Urbacon debacle pig” (Sept. 11, 2015.)
* In December 2015, despite the 2012-2014 overspending noted in point #1, the Deputy CAO claimed during the presentation of the 2016 budget to Council that Guelph’s “departmental budgets have been reduced over successive years”. (www.guelphmercury.com/news-story/6169580-proposed-bus-fares-amended-as-guelph-council-sets-the-city-s-2016-budget/).
- She has not required the use of proven metrics to help determine department budgets and performance.
Guelph is one of 60 municipalities across Ontario that participates in the annual BMA Municipal Competitiveness Study. This report includes per capita spending on major common municipal services, which some municipalities use to help craft their budgets, assess performance and determine where to look for savings. Citizen inquiries have revealed that Guelph does not do this. Furthermore, city staff have ignored citizen requests for information about the metrics they do use to set budgets. Without comparative metrics, claims made by the CAO and her staff about the operation of the City are questionable. For example, in Fall 2015, the internal auditor released a report claiming that Guelph’s waste collection is “conducted effectively and efficiently”, yet BMA report data reveals that our cost per tonne is $137 versus the Ontario municipal average of $114, and our cost per person is $29 versus the Ontario average of $10 (www.bmaconsult.com/MCD/overview.htm).
- She has made poor project recommendations to Council while not ensuring that basic municipal needs are met. For example:
* In 2014, Guelph embarked on a revenue-generating venture – the processing of additional recyclables from Michigan. This project recently failed. Council’s approval to proceed was based on staff projections that the material sent to Guelph would have a 100% capture rate and a gross profit margin of 9.81% (www.guelphtribune.ca/news-story/6410001-city-dumps-staff-over-failed-bid-to-profit-from-michigan-recyclables). A 100% capture rate is unachievable (not surprisingly, actual capture was 64%) and a 9.81% gross profit margin is unattractive by any standard because net profit margin is inevitably much lower. The CAO should never have brought this project to Council for consideration.
* In February 2016, Council began looking at assessing residents and businesses stormwater management fees rather than continuing to cover these costs through property taxes. Their discussions have revealed that Guelph has hundreds of kilometers of underground pipes and that “no money is now being set aside to replace them on a regular basis.” (www.guelphmercury.com/news-story/6263680-city-of-guelph-eyes-charging-user-fees-for-stormwater-management/)
5. She has not ensured that overspending has been fully covered or given proper oversight. For example:
* In September 2014, the courts ruled that Guelph owed Urbacon $6.6 million for wrongful dismissal on the City Hall reconstruction project plus legal fees of $2.2 million. Since the CAO maintained that “we’ve been putting some money in a reserve” for “a number of years,” Council passed a resolution that transferred only $5.9 million from 3 existing reserve accounts to cover the $8.4 million tab (www.guelphmercury.com/news-story/48400025-guelph-pays-urbacon-6-6m-to-settle-to-settle-city-hall-construction-fight; www.guelphtribune.ca/news-story/5869286-tab-in-urbacon-suit-hits-8-4-million). Although city staff maintained in 2014 that the Urbacon settlement would have “no impact on taxpayers” because it would be paid entirely out of reserves, the City is currently considering taking on more debt because city reserves are insufficient to take advantage of new federal infrastructure spending (www.guelphtribune.ca/news-story/6309062-urbacon-settlement-haunts-city-hall).
* In December 2015, a Councillor questioned staff about waste management spending for 2015 and was advised that there would be a negative variance versus budget of $0.5 million due to the failed Michigan venture (noted in point #4). Only 3 months later, it was revealed that the actual variance was $2.6 million and that this loss could have been avoided if there had been a signed contract with Michigan. Mayor Guthrie has asked for an investigation into what went wrong and why it went undetected for so long. (http://Kitchener.ctvnews.ca/video?binld=1.277213).
Despite her poor performance, Guelph’s CAO received a 17.11% salary increase in 2015, from $219, 657 to $257,248. In comparison, the 2015 salaries of the CAO’s of Windsor, Kitchener and London were $196,056, $213,029 and $234,982 respectively (www.ontario.ca/page/public-sector-salary-disclosure).
Clearly, this CAO’s contract should not be renewed. Guelph needs a more knowledgeable and trustworthy head administrator to manage the city’s day-to-day operations if we are to going to get spending under control and start paying down our multi-million dollar debt.
The CAO’s contract is being renegotiated right now so that she can contribute to the City’s 2017 strategic planning efforts that will begin in July. PLEASE contact the Mayor and/or your ward councilors IMMEDIATELY and ask them to vote AGAINST renewing this contract. For their contact information, go to:
Thank you for your efforts to help improve Guelph and its future for all residents.
Rena Akerman, a concerned citizen and Guelph resident for 13 years
* * * *
As you can see, the email is well documented with cross-references to the print media reports. It should also be reported that the financial data in the Akerman email was obtained from the Financial Information Reports and other data prepared by the city staff annually as mandated by the province.
So why is the council, on both sides of the aisle, including the mayor, so upset about the revelations of Ms. Pappert’s performance?
It appears they are more concerned about the information leaks that GuelpSpeaks reveals periodically as well as Ms. Akerman.
For the record, GS was not consulted, involved or engaged in the production of this damning indictment of the CAO’s performance. Although GS has addressed this situation on a number of occasions, there is absolutely no linkage between GS and the group sending out the email.
But here is some history. In January 2015, GS reported that council was reviewing Ms. Pappert’s contract. It ignited a firestorm of protest and defence of Pappert. It included the Mayor sending out a damning email telling the recipients that the editor of GS was unreliable, inaccurate and to be ignored.
Whew, I might as well have left town after the Mayor’s lynching of my character.
But now we know why there was such a damning protest by the Mayor. Yes, there was a council discussion about the future of Ms. Pappert and her remuneration. But it was held in closed session. It took more than a year to find out why the Mayor was so upset to attack the editor for revealing the contract review. His support of Pappert would amount to putting her on a pedestal and bronzing her image in perpetuity
Pappert rewarded for performance before the new council barely took over
They gave her a 17.11 per cent salary increase elevating her 2015 salary to $257.248 plus taxable benefits of more than $6.000 and contractual benefits making her the highest paid CAO in a group of peer city administrations.
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. There is more, London, Barrie, Windsor; their CAO’s pay packages don’t even come close.
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.
Why wouldn’t citizens complain about this egregious increase that had no basis but political pay back. How can Pappert sleep at night in the face of this damning evidence that she was unable to control the city budget over five years?
Why does Mayor Guthrie support this employee who works under his watch?
Public employees are subject to the same scrutiny as private employees who are in key management positions.
To suggest that Ms. Akerman should apologize is ludicrous and an abdication of the part of elected members of council who are sworn to protect the interests of their constituents. When they view that their job is to protect the staff from exposure to incompetence, it is the hollowing out of our democratic system.
This has been a nine-year systemic manipulation to disregard the citizens who pay the bills and expect to be treated with the same respect that the Mayor and Council appear to ignore.
The closed door awarding of the Integrity Commission was nothing but an attempt by the seven member of the Orange Crush to silence their colleagues so the public doesn’t know what is going on.
When you want to find out who is leaking in camera data, look no further that Coun. Mike Salisbury. His off-again, on-again denial and then confessing he leaked the data to a friendly blogger. speaks highly of his character and performance as a member of council for Ward Four.
This is a wretched time for Guelph with a totally dysfunctional council wallowing through their responsibilities blaming each other for the macabre handling of the public business.
The recent MacLean’s magazine cover was about the killing of the NDP by an eco- based rigid manifesto.
It can’t happen soon enough in Guelph.
Next: The Mayor threatens legal action