By Gerry Barker
May 12, 2016
Despite attempts to block public access by doing the citizen’s business behind closed doors, the leaks keep coming. The Guelph city council’s majority Orange Crush continues to obstruct and bring a once great city to its financial knees.
Here’s a word from the plumber: Want to stop the leaks of your private, close-session meetings? Put an end to those meetings and conduct your business in open council.
First, who is part of the Orange Crush? Councillor Phil Allt appears to be the defacto leader, along with Coun. James Gordon and Coun. Leanne Piper, this is the heart of the Orange Crush. Their fellow traveling councillors include: June Hofland, Cathy Downer, Mike Salisbury, and Karl Wettstein.
Collectively, they are dedicated supporters of the previous Mayor who was defeated in the last election. The trouble arises when these seven do everything in their power to stop reform. Reform that the majority of voters in the October 27 civic election chose by electing Mayor Cam Guthrie.
It is now painfully apparent that Mayor Guthrie is not up to the job of leading the city because when important issues arise, he abandons ship.
Here are some examples.
The Mayor failed to stop the reorganization of the senior staff before he took office even though he was a member of the Farbridge council that approved the reorganization. It happened before he took office December 1, 2014.
He stood by when Farbridge loyalist Susan Watson attempted to prevent GrassRoots Guelph from donating to civic candidates. An audit based on her attack that used the election finance statement by Glen Tolhurst, was thrown out by the independent auditor. Mayor Guthrie did nothing to support the candidate. Mr. Tolhurst did nothing wrong, being victimized by a frivolous complaint. The result was the estimated $11,400 cost of the audit was absorbed by the city, not charged to Ms. Watson.
Mayor Guthrie did nothing to stop the firing of the Chief Building Inspector, Bruce Poole who complained to the CAO that the city was breaking its own and provincial bylaws. The Ontario Building code mandates building permits be issued for all construction projects. Poole said the city failed to obtain building permits for some 70 city projects.
He is now suing the city for $1 million for wrongful dismissal. The city’s track record defending wrongful dismissal cases has been dismal and expensive. The Urbacon case comes to mind. Or, remember the $500,000 it cost the city when firing the Chief Administrative Officer(CAO) and Chief Financial Officer(CFO) in 2007?
But Mayor Guthrie supported CAO Ann Pappert, who received a $37,581 salary increase, despite those same councillors giving her a failing rating on her performance. Now apparently he has ordered an investigation in Guelph’s “Salary-Gate,” involving three senior managers receiving excessive pay increases.
This is the same mayor who recently told some 200 persons at a “State of the City” address, that his council, most of the time, was not divided. This comment was made before the news broke that the bloc of seven councillors voted on December 9, in closed-session to give CAO Ann Pappert a $37,581 salary increase for 2015. It occurred October 13, in another closed-session, despite this same bloc rating her performance unworthy of any increase.
It only took 57 days to experience an Epiphany awarding her with 17.11 per cent increase. One of the choice comments made was “maybe we were too tough on her,” at the October meeting.
Is this not a great way to run a $500 million corporation?
And where was Mayor Guthrie when this 57 days of infamy took place? Stone silent. Not only after the fact, he never said a word until the Sunshine List revealed the huge senior management increases awarded December 9, were reported three months later.
Not a whisper until Mayor Guthrie threatened legal action on a citizen, Rena Akerman, for emailing a detailed negative summary of the CAO’s performance over five years.
Instead, Mayor Guthrie gushes about what a great job he’s doing to grow the city. He did mention the aging infrastructure and the cost of servicing crumbling pipes, sewers, streets and city assets needing replacement.
The staff’s solution to handle the infrastructure deficit is to charge businesses and households a 2 per cent annual fee for ten years on top of regular property taxes. The estimated total take on this scheme is $280 million in the ten years.
This staff proposal was brought up in the closed session before the open 2016 budget debate December 9. It was leaked out after the 2016 budget was completed December 10. The proposal was pushed ahead to next November when the 2017 budget is discussed. Where was the Mayor, who chairs the meetings, public or in closed-session?
Is this part of his grand design for the future of the city? Push big decisions down the rabbit hole and avoid conflict at any cost?
You can turn the insurance salesman into a mayor, but you can’t take the insurance salesman out of the mayor.