Monthly Archives: August 2016

Part Two of Pat Fung’s analysis of the high costs of city operations and how to fix it

Posted August 31, 2016

By Pat Fung CPA, Ca

Pat Fung is a resident of Guelph who has analyzed data produced by the city and its management consultants, BMA of Hamilton. Part One offered detailed charts that compared costs in certain areas and certain management positions paid to Guelph staffers to those in the same or similar jobs in other cities. The information not only reveals the discrepancies of employment, but Mr. Fung provides solutions to reduce operational costs.

Part One may be found in the archives for those who missed it.

Sent to all members of City Council August 18, 2016

Fire (Chart B, line 2)

  1. According to the 2015 Sunshine List, Guelph’s Fire department has 8 Platoon Chiefs in Training all making around $125,000 per year. No other municipality in Ontario has this position.
  2. Guelph also has an “Assistant Chief Fire Prevention Officer” at the same pay grade, but few other cities have this position.

Eliminating these positions will save $1,125,000. Cutting administrative staff should have no impact on fire services. Are there other positions in the fire department that perform administrative tasks that if not done do not affect service? If so, the tasks and the personnel should be eliminated.

Waste Collection (Chart B, line 3) and Chart C 2nd from last line

How many personnel in this department do administrative tasks rather than direct waste collection work? Administrative tasks not directly providing service should be drastically eliminated, thus eliminating the need for some administrative personnel and reduce costs. I have spoken to the Waste Collection management on two separate occasions about changing the waste pick up schedule to follow the Vancouver model wherein no overtime is paid on the weeks where a public holiday occurs. This is simply done by postponing pickups permanently for 1 day until the next public holiday. (e.g. if your regular day is Monday and there is a holiday that Monday you permanently move to Tuesday until the next holiday then you move to Wednesday etc.) I was told the City spends over $60,000 in overtime because of the way it currently picks up waste when there is a public holiday. There are no publically available numbers to determine why costs in Guelph are higher on a per tonne or per person basis. You will have to question this department yourselves and dig into the numbers and flush out the reasons and act accordingly.

Roads (Chart B, line 4) and Chart C last line

Given what we spend ($27,617 per km vs Ontario average of $11,847 per km), why are Guelph’s roads not in better shape/condition? As a Council you will have to delve into the numbers and flush out the reasons why our road costs are so high compared to other Ontario municipalities and act accordingly.  Is road work done by outside contractors? If so, are rates paid in line with other cities? How many personnel do administrative tasks versus direct road work? Elimination of administrative tasks and personnel will reduce the costs for roads.

Parks (Chart B, line 5)

The 2016 budget request included a request for a trail technician and other new personnel totaling over $500,000. We are already higher than the Ontario average for parks spending, so any new additions made in 2015 and 2016 should be eliminated.  Also, how many personnel in this department do administrative tasks versus direct parks related work? Elimination of administrative tasks and personnel will reduce the costs for parks.

Library (Chart B, line 6)

For a city our size, why do we have two high priced administrative positions that are paid over $100,000 per year? What other administrative positions are in the library spending that do not directly provide library services? Elimination of administrative tasks and personnel will reduce costs for library.


Clearly, Guelph has financial challenges and it’s time for the Mayor and City Council to deal with them. Bob Moore made this point well in his July 28, 2016 Mercury-Tribune editorial

I have demonstrated in this letter that there are numerous opportunities to address our financial challenges through reductions in operating expenses, especially through personnel reductions. The CAO has expressed concerns that we would be “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. (See first link below). In my opinion, we have too many Peters, so having fewer of them is a great way to help fund Paul.

That said, how does the City justify not having a CFO until next year? The recently appointed CFO will be on maternity leave until 2017. This is not wise under the current circumstances surrounding the 2017 budget and should be reconsidered.

Similarly, why aren’t the CAO and the DCAO of Corporate Services on the same page when it comes to the City’s finances? In the July 15, 2016 Mercury-Tribune article, CAO Thomson said:

“City Hall currently doesn’t have enough money to build all of the projects in the city’s nine year capital forecast, let alone to begin to address our infrastructure backlog.”

However, on the city website announcing the new CFO, DCAO Amorosi said:

“I have great confidence that she will provide strong leadership and continue to strengthen the City’s solid financial foundation.”

Why does the CAO say we don’t have enough money, yet the DCAO says the City has a solid financial foundation? They both can’t be correct.

Finally, why shouldn’t we look at reductions in services in addition to reductions in administrative operating expenses? In the July 15, 2016 Mercury-Tribune article, CAO Thomson said that reductions in services are not being considered:

“One option that staff won’t present to council this fall as a solution to its capital funding woes is…drastic cutting of services because staff don’t believe this would provide enough money for capital needs.”

This statement by the CAO shows a clear disregard for what the Mayor asked for earlier in the year at a Corporate Services Committee meeting. The Mayor specifically asked for funding alternatives other than a tax increase. The DCAO agreed to provide a list by the summer. Why is the Office of the CAO being insubordinate? Isn’t it the job of the Office of the CAO to carry out Council’s wishes? It seems in this City that the Office of the CAO dictates to Council, not the other way around.

Does staff believe that reductions in services won’t provide enough money for capital needs or are they just protecting their jobs? After all, it’s much easier for staff and management to recommend tax increases rather than to face their colleagues and subordinates and tell them they are being terminated or their salaries are being reduced. Why is it every time Guelph is looking for funds, its first response is to add fees or increase taxes?   There is always this veiled threat that services will be reduced if expenses are cut. In the business world, expense reductions happen all the time. Why is Guelph the exception?

As I said in a letter published in the Mercury-Tribune in response to Councillor Salisbury’s Feb 23, 2016 letter to the editor stating that “the City is not at fault for the infrastructure gap”, we should get a new management group if we can’t achieve a 6% reduction in expenditures in this City.

As I stated earlier, it is time for Guelph to reduce its operating expenses by $20 million and freeze taxes and fees at current levels to fund the capital/infrastructure gap. We cannot afford to continue to increase spending on operating costs on top of spending for capital and infrastructure.

If you would like to have a discussion on anything in this letter, I am open to it. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.


Pat Fung, B. Comm., CPA, CA

Ward 6

This analysis report was sent to members of city council, August 18, 2016

Part Two concludes Mr. Fung’s analysis. While there has been some verbal discussions between Mr. Fung and some members of council, there has only been one response from a member of the majority Bloc of Seven. That response was framed in the form of questions. Time will tell if this council will seriously consider the data and work together to lower operating costs and eliminate wasteful spending.

Part One may be found in the GuelphSpeaks archives for those who missed it.

Your comments, as always, are welcome. The public response to this data has been outstanding and totally in support of Mr. Fung’s efforts. GuelphSpeaks suggests that citizens who want to see operating costs reduced, should email or write their their responses to their council representatives.

In future posts, GuelphSpeaks will follow up on this study and will comment appropriately.




Filed under Between the Lines

An expert’s analysis of the numbers why City Council must lower run-away operational costs – Part One of Two parts

GuelphSpeaks is proud to present an open letter sent August 18 to city council by Guelph resident Pat Fung, CPA CA. Mr. Fung will take you through the reasons why the city’s operational and capital costs are well above the average of cities across the province. The charts describe in detail eight years of soaring taxes and user fees to pay for operations caused by the previous administration. He has used 2015 and 2014 as the latest baseline for comparison purposes.

We urge all citizens to carefully examine these important documents, with Part One to be posted Monday, August 29, and Part Two to be posted Thursday September 1.

This letter is a serious analysis from publicly available documents that details the high costs of operations since 2008.

As usual, your comments are most welcome. GB

By Pat Fung, CPA, CA

I am glad to see that some on Council have now stated that our operating costs are too high (Guelph Mercury-Tribune July 15, 2016 – “Special tax levy back on Guelph council’s radar”-

It is time to reduce operating costs from 2016 levels and freeze taxes and fees at the 2016 levels.

I will reiterate the point that I made at the public budget council meeting in November 2015 – according to the BMA report, there are areas where we spend far too much compared to other Ontario municipalities. In response to my comment, Deputy CAO of Corporate Services Mark Amorosi called BMA cost per person statistics irrelevant. Subsequently, I sent you emails proving otherwise, as such learned organizations as the Fraser Institute, BC Council of Business, Trent University and University of Toronto have stated that cost per person is relevant. Additionally the County of Brant in its local paper professed it was proud to be the low cost provider of services based on the BMA report.

Councillor Allt asked Mr. Amorosi for a full response to my query at that November 2015 meeting. However, other than repeating that he considered cost per person irrelevant and twisting the words of the president of BMA to suit his purposes, Mr. Amorosi has yet to provide what he considers to be important metrics for measuring city performance even though it was requested several times. It is irresponsible for Mr. Amorosi to say something is irrelevant without stating what he considers to be relevant. If he has his own metrics, he should provide them to the taxpayers of Guelph. If the DCAO doesn’t have metrics for measuring performance, how does the Office of the CAO defend its current rate of spending and its statement on the City website last year that said a critical review of budgets was done and the organization was lean? Statistics from the 2014 BMA report which the City paid for indicate otherwise:

A simple review of Guelph’s historical spending makes it evident that Guelph’s expenses are increasing at an unacceptable rate. As can be seen in Chart A below, operating costs rose by 56% or $139 million from 2008 to 2015 while CPI only went up 11% and population went up less than that (Census data not available).

Chart A – Guelph Operating Costs 2008 to 2015 (source: audited financial statements)

($ thousands) 2015 2014 2008   Change ’08 to ’15 % change
General government 27,070 25,136 18,891 8,179 +43.3%
Protection services 79,550 75,506 51,855 27,695 +53.4%
Transportation services 60,381 57,405 43,380 17,001 +39.2%
Environmental services 76,238 72,697 35,035 41,203 +117.6%
Health services 29,180 27,522 18,524 10,656 +57.5%
Social and family services 43,601 52,280 51,183 -7,582 -14.8%
Social housing 21,372 20,444 n/a 21,372  
Recreation and cultural services 40,906 39,481 23,947 16,959 +70.8%
Planning and development 7,313 6,155 3,986 3,327 +83.5%
Total Expenses 385,611 376,626 246,801   138,810 +56.2%
Consumer Price Index 126.6 125.2 114.1 12.5 +11.0%
Cost per capita (120,000) $3,213 $3,138  

To halt this trend, I recommend laying off staff, reducing salaries of senior staff and reducing other non-payroll expenditures in the areas cited below in Chart B. There appears to be ample room for reductions because Guelph spends $30 million more per year than the average Ontario city in the following areas:

Chart B

Selected areas from 2014 BMA report Guelph cost per person Ontario cost per person Excess spending relative to other Ontario Cities based on 120,000 population in Guelph
1) General government $229 $104 $15,000,000
2) Fire $185 $165 $ 2,400,000
3) Waste collection $29 $10 $ 2,280,000
4) Roads $244 $198 $ 5,520,000
5) Parks $77 $59 $ 2,160,000
6) Library $72 $50 $ 2,640,000
Total $836 $586 $30,000,000
2014 Operating costs $3,138 N/A  

Other notable metrics from the 2014 BMA Report:

Chart C

Water/Sewer 2014 BMA Meter size Guelph BMA Ontario Average % difference
Residential 200 cu M 5/8” $808 $858 (6%)
Commercial 10,000 cu M 2” $31,999 $28,849 10%
Industrial 30,000 cu M 3” $94,316 $84,510 10%
Industrial 100,000 cu M 4” $308,548 $273,931 11%
Industrial 500,000 cu M 6” $1,522,293 $1,344,195 12%
Waste collection $/tonne $137 $114 20%
Roads $/kilometre $27,617 $11,847 133%

Except for residential water/sewer, why are commercial and industrial water/sewer costs 10% to 12% higher than average Ontario?

Why are waste collection costs 20% higher than average Ontario?

Why are road costs 133% higher than average Ontario?

Based on the above, if Guelph’s operating expenses are reduced by even $20 million (a 5% reduction of the $385 million actual spending in 2015), and taxes and other revenue are held constant, the City will build up its reserves by $200 million in 10 years which will go a long way to funding the capital/infrastructure gap.

Here are some specific reductions within the areas cited in Chart B that should be considered:

General Government (Chart B, line 1)

General government is not a service and all attempts should be made to reduce costs in this area. Reductions here should not affect the general population of the city.

  1. According to the 2015 Sunshine List, the City may have too many Human Resources personnel. We cannot afford them all. Notably,
  • There are 6 people working in Guelph City Hall with HR in their title making over $100,000 per year. One that appears superfluous is the HR Manager, Client Services making $117,000. This is not a position that appears in most HR organization charts. What clients does this position serve? What is its purpose?
  • In HR, there is a Manager, Total Rewards and a Compensation Specialist, both of whom earn over $100,000. Why is it necessary to have 2 positions paying over $100,000 for compensation? Isn’t most of this covered by union agreements?
  • Two other staffers in other departments that look like HR people – a Chief Training Officer earning $126,000 and a Training Officer earning $119,000 – We cannot afford two people in training each earning over $100,000. How many others are there in training? This appears to be way out of line compared to what teachers earn.

Collectively, $362,000 in reductions in annual HR payroll could be achieved by eliminating these management positions – and that’s before considering whether all of the staff that report to them are necessary and/or affordable.

  1. According to the 2015 Sunshine List, Guelph has one of the highest paid CAOs at $257,000. The following chart compares this salary with the CAOs in some Southern Ontario cities. Why does Guelph pay more for a CAO than larger cities?



CAO Salary


Salary Difference versus Guelph



Population Difference versus Guelph
Guelph $257,000 121,700
Kitchener $213,000 -$44,000 219,200 +97,500
Brampton $230,000 -$27,000 523,900 +402,200
Barrie $241,000 -$16,000 136,100 +14,400

Is the high salary reflected all the way down the chain of command? If so, management salaries must be reduced. We cannot afford paying more than other cities. Guelph’s high salaries certainly are not justified. The poor results that we have seen in recent years do not reflect exemplary performance (e.g. Urbacon; Direct Energy; Recycling Detroit waste; being over budget in expenses most years since 2008; 2016 budget error in waste disposal; CRA assessment reported in 2010 and again in 2012).

  1. According to the 2015 Sunshine List, Guelph has a General Manager, Business Development Enterprise making $156,000. The comparable position in other Southern Ontario cities is paid less, even in Mississauga and Toronto!
City Business Development Manager Salary Difference versus Guelph Population Difference versus Guelph
Guelph $156,000 121,700
Kitchener $132,000 -$24,000 219,200 +97,500
Brampton $111,000 -$45,000 523,900 +402,200
Barrie $140,000 -$16,000 136,100 +14,400
Mississauga $135,000 -$21,000 713,400 +591,700
Toronto $120,000 -$36,000 2,615,000 +2,493,300

Why does Guelph pay more for its Business Development Manager? Are Business Development staff similarly paid higher than others? What are the performance metrics for this department? What revenue has it brought to the City in recent years?

  1. According to the 2015 Sunshine List, Guelph has a General Manager, Culture Tourism and Community Investment who is paid $142,000. This Manager’s salary seems out of line since this position only has responsibility for Tourism while directors in other cities are responsible for Tourism plus Economic or Business Development:
City Position Salary Difference versus Guelph
Guelph General Manager, Culture Tourism and Community Investment $142,000
Hamilton Director of Tourism and Culture $146,000 +$4,000
Brampton Director of Economic Development and Tourism $167,000 +$25,000
Brantford Director of Business Development and Tourism $134,000 -$8,000
Toronto Manager of Tourism $122,000 -$20,000

Given the above, and referring back to point #3 above, Guelph has two high-priced General Managers covering business development and tourism. Is this necessary given the practice elsewhere of combining these responsibilities? It certainly doesn’t appear affordable. What are the performance metrics for this position/department?

  1. At Council meetings. there are staff present (presumably getting paid overtime or time in lieu) who either don’t get called on to explain anything or present reports that are so brief that they don’t appear to justify the staff member’s presence in a Council meeting for 4-5 hours. How much does the presence of non-essential staff at Council and other committee meetings contribute to City Hall’s high overtime costs? How many other meetings do staff attend where they are observers and not participants? Observers and other non-contributors should not attend meetings. They should just receive the minutes.

The complete organization chart for the City is not publically available. However, according to the 2015 Sunshine List, there are 92 Guelph positions with the word “manager” in their title. Clearly, the City has numerous middle managers in addition to other senior staff. The City must reduce these positions and flatten out the organization to make it more responsive and more cost effective. In our financial situation, we cannot afford this huge layer of middle management.

On Thursday, September 1, read Part Two of this important document that demonstrates the facts of soaring operational costs. Mr. Fung doesn’t mince words pinpointing where some of our financial problems lie and how to fix them. His analysis is based on a combination of audited financial statements issued by the city since 2008 and the 2014 BMA consultant’s report.


Filed under Between the Lines

Why voters are saying: Gee! I didn’t vote for that

By Gerry Barker

August 25, 2016

While many Guelphites are on vacation and catching the rays, it dawns on me that many people are still wondering what has happened to our city in the past nine years? Traffic congestion is greater than ever due to the shrinkage of lanes on some major route; Taxes are at their highest level since 2006; Garbage collection and processing covers only 87 per cent of the households and businesses; the infrastructure repairs and maintenance in Guelph will cost more than $250 million in the next ten years, according the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO).

We have been governed by a number of aggressive progressives, aka the “Progs” who have had their way with the public purse employing tactics to achieve their goals that would make Donald Trump blush.

They had power and used it. They set records for closed meetings doing the public’s business. So let’s look at some of the progressive achievements that a minority of citizens supported. If you did not vote in 2006 or 2010 don’t get mad, get even and make sure you vote in 2018.

But let’s look at how the progressives changed your city.

* Coun. Mike Salisbury moves a motion to spend $600,000 on bicycle lanes on Woodlawn Avenue in the 2015 budget and was supported by his majority of colleagues. They became known as the Bloc of Seven. A perfectly good four-lane road in one section of Woodlawn Road East was re-marked to a lane each way, a centre left turn lane and bicycle lane.

Gee, I didn’t vote for that!

* The city rebuilt Wyndham Street under the CNR mainline that does not provide enough height for large trucks with trailers to pass under. Depending on your point of view, during the Santa Claus parade the big guy nearly had his head taken off as his float passed under the bridge. It still hasn’t been repaired and the engineer in charge is no longer with the city.

Gee, willikers, I didn’t vote for that!

* DCAO Mark Amorosi of Corporate Services and Human Resoures, first advertisied for a Chief Financial Officer, then hired a headhunter to locate a suitable candidiate. He ended up appointing a junior financial analyst in the finance department as CFO, General Manager of Finance and Treasurer. Now that’s a giant leap up the ladder! Problem is the lady is on maternity leave and will not report for work until next year.

Is it possible he made a mistake? I didn’t vote for that!

* Guelph Hydro has hiked electricity rates by 42.5 per cent since June 2013 to July 2016. And a Hydro executive said that Guelph Hydro had one of its best years ever in 2015. Really!. Combining the electricity increase, water and sewage rates for the same period, in June 2013 – water $130/sewage $141; in July 2016, water $159 sewage $173 makes Guelph one of the highest energy and water cost city’s households and businesses in the province.

Holy bananas! I didn’t vote for that!

* Mayor Cam Guthrie campaigned in 2014 promising a Better Guelph and property taxes contained to the Consumer Price Index. The index was 2.1 per cent in January 2015 but the property taxes including increases in assessment were 3.96 per cent under his watch.

Leapin’ Alligators, I didn’t vote for that!

* The operating costs of two culture centres in the city show a city subsidy of $780,000 just to keep the the doors open. In case you’re wondering, the cost for the RiverRun Theatres – $531,000 and the Sleeman Centre – $249,000. But hold the phone, The city negotiated a new 10-year deal with the Guelph Storm Hockey Club to reduce the city share from the receipts. It has been reported that the cost to the city is $5 million over the term of the contract. The Storm are the only lessees for the Sleeman that goes dark for three months each year.

Blazing hockey pucks! I didn’t vote for that!

* Coun. James Gordon describes his role on council is to deal with housing, poverty, environmental sustainability, a living wage, food security and climate change. He is serving on a municipal council not an NDP member of the Ontario Legislature, he tried once but he lost. Every vote in which he participates is a function of his personal beliefs and not those of the people who elected him.

Beliefs, Schmuliefs. I didn’t vote for that!

* Coun. June Hofland brings 25 years of banking to her job as chair of the council finance committee. She has held the job for four years, but who is counting? Ms. Hofland takes her orders from DCAO Amorosi. She won by just five votes in 2014. That’s not a towering approval rating for the eight-year councillor. The question remains: Are we in good hands with Hofland at the financial tiller?

Will that be $20’s or $50’s? I didn’t vote for her


Filed under Between the Lines

An Open Letter to the Honourable Bill Mauro, Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs

August 22, 2016

Dear Minister:

My wife and I are residents of the City of Guelph. In this letter I will present facts about the nine-year administration of the city and how the citizens have been negatively affected. I am a retired newspaperman who has written extensively about the city operations and currently write a blog called

In all, I have produced 804 posts on the GS blog since 2011.

To describe me as being biased is an understatement. I am politically independent but acutely aware of the betrayal of public trust that eight years of the administration under former mayor Karen Farbridge created. Working with hundreds of citizens in 2013/14, we managed to defeat the mayor and four of her council supporters.

But nothing has really changed. Seven councillors loyal to the defeated mayor are in control of the present council of 13. This Bloc of Seven are supported by a diminished senior staff including the CAO Ann Pappert, resigned in May; DCAO Al Horsman resigned last August to accept a job as CAO of Sault Ste Marie. Only two senior staff remain who were part of the previous administration. Both are in key positions to manage the staff of 2,100.

Cutting to the chase. Who is managing the store?

Here are the facts of a city that is in disarray about the increasing financial mismanagement as there have been seven individuals heading the finance department since 2016. These include David Kenney, Margaret Neubaur, Mark Chapman, Susan Aram, Barbara Powell, Janice Sheehy and Mark Amorosi.

Currently, the position of Chief Financial Officer has been vacant for 19 months. Since November 2014, two individuals were named as general managers of finance and treasurer and the most recent appointee left last March. The DCAO responsible for finances since November 2014, is Mark Amorosi, despite a search for a CFO by a headhunter. He appointed a junior analyst in the finance department as the new CFO. She is currently on maternity leave and will not be available until next year.

The former CAO, Ann Pappert, was responsible for the city staff preparing budgets and ensuring the city’s books were balanced by December 31 as required by provincial law. Every year for five years, there were negative variances near year-end because the budget was overspent. The books were balanced using funds from the reserves.

This resulted in a serious reduction in the many reserves that had been used to balance the books. An independent consultant warned the administration of this situation and described it by raising a “red flag.”

Spending $16.5 million on someone else’s property

The newly elected Councillor Leanne Piper, a former head of the Guelph Heritage Group, initiated the civic museum project in 2007 with council approval. Four years later, the cost had increased by $3 million to more than $16 million. She insisted that the building, a pre-Confederation convent located on property owned by the Roman Catholic diocese of Hamilton, be preserved. The original staff estimate was $12.7 million. Together Provincial and Federal governments gave $6 million. There was protest that the money was being spent on property not owned by the city. Details of the lease arrangement were never reported. The bill for landscaping the building was more than $1 million in 2013.

Paying its share of the 2009 Infrastructure program

The Farbridge administration called the Guelph Hydro note due to the city, to pay for its share of the 2009 provincial/federal infrastructure program costing $22 million. The administration spent an additional $7 million on various projects such as a $75,000 time clock in the Sleeman Centre replacing one that was working perfectly. Another $2 million was spent on Stone Road bicycle lanes.

If you build it, they will come

The organic waste composting facility that was overbuilt in 2011 cost $34 million. This plant was approved to process 30,000 tonnes of wet feedstock per year. The total tonnage of such material from the city each year was less than a third of that capacity. The plant is manned and managed by a subsidiary company of the contractor, Maple Reinders, known as Aim Environmental. The finished composted material is sold to unknown clients. None is offered to citizens who financed the facility. The city refuses to reveal the details of the contract to protect the proprietary interests of the private operator of the plant.

The bin waste collection system that misses 13 per cent of the population

Without public input, the city imposed a $15.5 million waste collection cart system that cannot service some 6,000 condo residences. The automated trucks cannot maneuvre in the new, programmed intensification residences with small yards for bin storage, narrow roads or access. These condo HOA residents must hire private contractors to remove their waste with much of it going straight to the landfill.

The Community Energy Initiative that failed

The formation of the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI) by the Far bridge administration included amalgamating Guelph Hydro with GMHI. It was only recently discovered that Envida Community Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Guelph Hydro, spent $8.7 million on a District Energy program. The plan included an underground co-generation pipeline network supplying hot and cold water to some nearby downtown buildings and three businesses in the Hanlon Creek Business Park. This initiative had no benefit to the majority of Guelph residents. It was another example of controlling, far left agenda, to achieve energy and environmental goals that rightfully were the responsibility of senior governments.

Instead, the administration used municipal revenues and credit to pursue an unwanted agenda. The result was neglect of infrastructure maintenance of a 200-year city. For its 2017 budget, the staff is proposing a 2 per cent special property tax levy for ten years to pay for the eight–year neglect of infrastructure maintenance. Combined with the increase in assessments, this will have the effect of driving property taxes to more than five per cent annually for ten years, not accounting for the impact of inflation.

Minister, This entire Community Energy Initiative was planned and executed in closed sessions of GMHI that were chaired by Mayor Farbridge with four of her councillors, two independents and the CEO of Guelph Hydro. The costs of this enterprise are more that $37.1 million. It was all conducted beyond public scrutiny for four years. Until council was told May 16 this year about the failure of the business plan and associated costs, the people were left in the dark. Both GMHI and Envida corporations have no financial capacity. The City of Guelph is holding an impaired investment of $68 million that is rapidly decreasing as an asset on the city books.

The CEO/CFO of GMHI, told council, representing the shareholders, that an additional $60 million will be required to continue the Community Energy Initiative. Regardless, the council majority group voted to keep the system going until the first quarter of 2017.

The high cost of waste management

The Waste Management Innovation Centre has cost an estimated $10 million to process recyclable materials, non-compostable organic materials, waste for the landfill etc. The deal with the Region of Waterloo to process 10,000 tonnes of wet feedstock at less than cost to the organic plant failed to provide the volume agreed to but the Region still had to pay.

There was an un-documented deal with the Rizzo Brothers waste management company in Detroit, to ship and process recyclable materials to Guelph. The deal fell apart when Detroit supplied materials that failed to meet the standard of condition had to be retured or sent to the landfill. The internal audit showed the loss exceeded $500,000. The manager responsible left the city.

The city hall construction lawsuit

The lawsuit by Urbacon Buildings Group Inc. against the city, was for breach of contract involving the construction of the new city hall and renovation of the former city hall into a provincial court. The original $42 million contract, signed in 2006, was exceeded by $23 million in 2015. The city terminated the contract in September 2008 and ordered the Urbacon staff and subcontractors off the site. Justice Donald MacKenzie found the city in breach of contract in April 2014 and ordered costs to be determined by the parties by October. The city attempted to delay that order until after the election and failed. The city settled with Urbacon in September 2014 paying $8.96 million. Some $5.5 million of those funds were removed from three unrelated reserves. Since October 2014, the funds have not been returned to the reserves.

How the four senior staff members helped themselves

On December 9, 2015, the CAO and three deputy CAO’s witnessed council awarding them with salary increases ranging from 14 per cent to 19 per cent for 2015. The new salaries were not announced but because the meeting was held in camera, the bylaw states the persons attending cannot reveal the content of closed sessions. In our opinion, this is a gross misinterpretation of the Ontario Municipal Act governing closed meetings.

The public did not discover the numbers until the provincial Sunshine List was published in March. The CAO received a $37,591 increase making her one of the highest paid CAO’s in comparably-sized cities in Ontario. She resigned in May in the face of public outrage. Details of that severance have not been revealed. The same can be said for her successor, Derrick Thomson, who was on the job for two years, had turned in his resignation, but was brought back to be CAO of the city.

Mark Amorosi, DCAO of Corporate Services including finance and human resources, said after the increases were revealed that the reason Ann Pappert received the large increase in 2015 was because she did not receive an increase in 2014. The Sunshine List says differently with the CAO receiving an increase of $5,051 in 2014.

Minister, these are some of the incidents of mismanagement and waste that has driven property tax rates to among the highest in Ontario. Hydro bills have soared 42 per cent in four years. Water bills increased on average by 4 per cent each year, despite a reduction in usage by citizens and businesses.

Why the comparable neighbouring cities of Kitchener and Cambridge possessing operating and capital spending that is 50 per cent less than Guelph, speaks to the ongoing mismanagement of the city and its governance.

My wife and I are retirees and respectfully ask that you ask your staff to investigate these facts. We believe we have presented the material in good conscience and responsibility. The palpable misuse of trust and manipulation of the rules has ignited a groundswell of distrust and helplessness but citizens are unable to do anything about it.

Your intervention to correct what we, and many others are concerned about, can give ordinary citizens who love our city, hope. Hope for a return of confidence that our city is running professionally the way the province intends.

And public trust and interest is preserved.

Thank you for your consideration.


Gerry and Barbara Barker





Filed under Between the Lines

The more we dig, the deeper the hole and truth is stranger than fiction

By Gerry Barker

August 18, 2016

Post #803

The enduring grip of the former administration lingers on but the awakening of the silent majority is catching on. There is growing evidence to reject the direction that the Farbridge dominated Bloc of Seven on council is attempting to take us.

Three general managers, Peter Busatto, in charge of the Waterworks; Colleen Clack of Culture and Tourism and Peter Cartwright, of Economic Development, all took significant salary reductions in 2014 following large increases in 2013.

In the three years 2012 through to 2014, it appears there were serious errors in paying the staff, made by the finance department calculating annual salaries for the three managers in the random sample taken from All three in 2013 received substantial increases from 2012 to 2013. Then, in 2014, their salaries and taxable benefits were greatly reduced.

It is important to follow the numbers in these examples. They are taken from the website. The source for the figures is the city of Guelph.

Why do we have water restrictions while sitting on two aquifers?

Peter Busatto, General Manager of Waterwork

2012 salary and taxable benefits – $122,509 plus $851

2013 salary and taxable benefits – $168,739 plus $1,081 – Increase was $46,239 (37.74 per cent)

2014 salary and taxable benefit – $134,585 plus $614 – Decrease was $34,154 (-20.24 per cent)

2015 salary and taxable benefit – $152,188 plus $699 – Increase $17,603 ((13.08 per cent)

Mr. Busatto was given an increase of $46,239 or 37.74 per cent in 2013. How did those responsible for his performance review ever determine that increase? Was he being rewarded for increased responsibilities? Isn’t it odd that the next year, 2014, his salary was reduced by $34,154 or 20.24 per cent? Then, last year Mr. Busatto’s salary increased by $17,603. This is best described as yo-yo management of the Machiavellian employment payment system used by an administration out of control.

Even stranger, why did these managers agree to take it on the chin for a year? If anything, they had a solid case for constructive dismissal. So, why didn’t they quit and move on. Who, in their right mind, would stand for an arbitrary pay cut particularly as senior managers? How many others on staff in management positions experienced the same thing?

It’s time for the administration to explain in detail, name by name, of those staff people who were affected by this salary reduction scheme in the very year there was a civic election. If an explanation is not forthcoming, then the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing should order an investigation to seek the truth of what happened. Is it any surprise why the lower ranked staff have such low morale?

We’ll never know who else was available

Colleen Clack, General Manager of Culture and Tourism

2012 salary and taxable benefit – $127,121 plus $2,529

2013 salary and taxable benefit – $149,422 plus $2,521 – Increase was $22,301 (17.5 per cent)

2014 salary and taxable benefit – $140,798 plus $1,900 – Decrease was $8,624 (-5.77) per cent

2015 salary and taxable benefit – $142,017 plus $1,599 – Increase was $1,219 (.86 per cent)

This year, Ms. Clack has had a meteoric rise in the senior management ranks as GM of Culture and Tourism. During her four years, she was in charge of the Sleeman Centre and RiverRun Theatre. She has reported annual operational losses for both city owned centres of $780,000 a year. Her most recent triumph was to be lead negotiator in completing a new ten-year agreement with the privately owned Guelph Storm Hockey Club The city agreed to lower its portion of the revenue. Then, Ms. Clack was promoted to DCAO of City Operations at an undisclosed salary.

How do you measure performance?

Peter Cartwright, General Manager of Economic development

2012 salary and taxable benefit – $144,381 plus $6,238

2013 salary and taxable benefit – $157.200 plus $6,180 – Increase was $12,825 (8.88 per cent)

2014 salary and taxable benefit – $150,977 plus $4,742 – Decrease was $6,329 (-3.98) per cent)

2015 salary and taxable benefit – $153,997 plus $3,467 – Increase $3,020 (2 per cent)

This is inexplicable. For his entire career with the City of Guelph, Mr. Cartwright has been responsible for Business and Economic Development. The problem is since 2006, the ratio of assessment between residential (84 percent) and commercial/industrial (16 per cent), has not changed. This is one example of why residential property taxes increase exponentially each year. The city is dependent on the annual assessment increases that affect the size of the annual tax increase. By now property owners have received their assessment projections for the next four years. It’s not good news.

This performance cannot be described as a success story in a key management position. So why did his salary grow by $12,825 in 2013 by an astounding 8.88 per cent?

Why were these three general managers named in the sample, all of whom are still working for the city, having their salary and taxable benefits reduced in 2014? How many other employees experienced these incredible salary reductions in which increases are awarded in one year and portions taken away the next year?

But read on, it gets better.

Now, Let’s look at how the 2014 staff salary reductions affected the top senior managers

Ann Pappert, Chief Administrative Officer

2012 salary and taxable benefit – $199,860 plus $6,539

2013 salary and taxable benefit – $214,605 plus $6,317 – Increase $14,745 (7.38 per cent)

2014 salary and taxable benefit – $219,657 plus $6,403 – Increase $5,052 (2.35 per cent)

2015 salary and taxable benefit – $ 257,248 plus $6,508 – Increase $37,591 (17.11 per cent)

Oh! There weren’t any reductions?

Ms. Pappert resigned in May after five years as CAO. In March this year, the Ontario Sunshine list published the salaries of every public employee earning $100,000 or more. Guelph citizens were shocked to learn of the excessive salary increases that the Guthrie council awarded in a closed meeting, December 9, 2015. It was three months later when the truth was known. The public was never told the circumstances of the increases, who voted for them or why not one councillor revealed the increases. Their excuse was they were prevented from revealing details of discussions conducted in closed sessions. Otherwise the Integrity Commission would investigate the “leak.” Whoa! Scary. What do you think? What’s more scary, being sanctioned for breaking the code of conduct or, fulfilling your responsibility of serving your electors?

It was a shameful deportment by 13 councillors who deliberately tried to keep it quiet. This betrayal of the public trust, that all members of councillors are sworn to uphold, will reverberate among citizens well into the 2018 civic election. Trust me, people won’t forget and the minutes of that meeting will be revealed. Those who voted for it will pay the price at the polls.

The result of Ms. Pappert’s leaving presented a serious senior management problem. DCAO Derrick Thomson was persuaded not to leave the city for a job in Caledon, was appointed to succeed Ms. Pappert. Thomson has been with the city only just over 2 years. Again this appointment was discussed in closed session. One has to wonder what planning went into the public confidence fallout that occurred, unsurprisingly. In three months did they not figure out what would happen if Ms. Pappert resigned?

There was no secret that she had lost the confidence of the citizens. Subsequently, according to the bylaws covering the powers of the CAO, Mr. Thomson appointed Ms. Clack, who formerly reported to him as GM of culture and Tourism becoming DCAO of Operations. It was a responsibility, that frankly, Ms. Clack had no experience as head of Culture and Tourism.

In the community there is uneasiness about the latest direction of the city administration. The recent attack by Coun. James Gordon on a citizen questioning the council’s performance is a harbinger of where we are headed for the next two years.

In my opinion, there are two staffs running our city, the haves and the have-nots. The examples stated here shows that the three senior managers helped themselves to substantial salary increases but left department leaders with decreases in 2014.

I regret that this city administration is broken. In addition, our finances are also so messed up and closing in on being broke. There is little attempt to stop the mindless spending that is leading to eventual disaster.

The man who helped himself

Mark Amorosi, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Corporate Services and Human Recourses

2012 salary and taxable benefit – $175,464 plus $6,396 –

2013 salary and taxable benefit – $176,400 plus $6,333 – Increase $936 (.53 per cent)

2014 salary and taxable benefit – $182,761 plus $6,238 – Increase $6,361 (3.61 per cent)

2015 salary and taxable benefit – $209,629 plus $6,432 – Increase $26,868 (14.7 per cent

In my opinion, Mark Amorosi’s performance has created the ugliest failure of financial management control since he took over the job of managing the city’s finances in November 2014. He has hired two General Managers of Finance and Treasurer and both have left. He advertised for a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and employed a headhunting firm to vet the applicants.

Then he announced that he appointed Tara Baker, a financial analyst in the Finance Department as CFO, General Manager of Finance and Treasurer. Ms. Baker is on maternity leave and will not report until next year. She has no experience as a CFO.

Unfortunately, Mr. Amorosi is in complete control of the staff through his Human Resources responsibility and the city finances. Between he, CAO Thomson, DCAO Scott Stewart and DCAO Colleen Clack, the job of preparing the 2017 budget will be a daunting prospect.

Already there is noise emanating from the Bloc of Seven that there must be a two per cent, ten- year special levy on property owners to pay for the years of neglect by the Farbridge administration to repair and maintain the city’s infrastructure. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), a provincial government sponsored organization with representatives from municipalities across the province, has estimated Guelph has a $225 million infrastructure deficit. Coun. Cathy Downer has been appointed to the 41-member board of AMO.

Hiring the man who wanted to leave

Derrick Thomson, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Corporate Services, Operations

2014 salary and taxable benefit – $173,720 plus $6,190

2015 salary and taxable benefit – $207,554 plus $6,472 – Increase $33,834 (19.48 per cent).

Mr. Thomson brings his experience as a CAO of the Town of West Lincoln joining the staff in 2013. His responsibilities are vastly different than those he may have experienced in his former job. He has inherited an administrative disaster the remnants of the previous administration. How he handles it will be his test because he knows what happened to his predecessor.

The completion of the 2017 budget will be the watershed of the direction this administration will go in the next two years.

It’s not going to be easy or pretty.

The previous post regarding Coun. James Gordon can be read in the GS archives.




Filed under Between the Lines

When it comes to political piety, James Gordon should be Pope

By Gerry Barker

August 15, 2916

Dear James:

(In response to your letter to the editor of the Guelph Tribune August11, 2016)

What an unwarranted broadside against a citizen who dared to challenge the operations of the city under the stewardship of you and your six progressives on council.

Hardly know where to start but let’s reply to your vision of the city and the current culture. You state your job, as a councillor is to advocate for such vital issues as: “Housing, poverty, a living wage, food security, environmental sustainability and climate change. Stop there. Those items described as vital are not the responsibility of city council. You’ve taken them from the NDP national playbook, a party to which you belong.

Let me sketch it out for you. You are responsible for the city infrastructure, everything from fixing the sidewalks, potholes and underground services that have been neglected for eight years. In addition, keeping the traffic moving, public safety, recreation, adequate water supply and waste management, municipal bylaws and planning.

So much so, that this “efficient” staff you describe, (not sure which senior manager you are defending), proposed a 2 per cent, ten-year special property tax levy last December to repair and update the city infrastructure. If approved, it would generate $250 million in ten years. Provided past budgeting practices are followed, that will force an indexed property tax increase of more than 5 per cent per year. It does not include the effect of inflation and higher costs.

But that proposal was booted up to the 2017 budget discussions that start this fall. A similar situation happened when the 2015 budget was approved. This included spending $600,000 on new bicycle lanes on Woodlawn Road (Highway 7).

You see James, it makes people who know the basics of financial management, nervous when Coun. Mike Salisbury tells council that the $300,000 earmarked for bike lanes was not spent in 2014. So, so let’s double it. You and your progressive colleagues went along with it.

You deliberately duped the public without understanding that money not spent in the previous year cannot be rolled over. It’s because it affects the requirement that a municipality must report a balanced financial statement.

Where was Coun. June Hofland, Chair of Finance, when this was proposed? Or where was the Chief Financial Officer? Oh! Sorry I forgot we didn’t have one on staff. Not even the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer in charge of finance, Mark Amorosi, spoke up. Nor did Ann Pappert, Chiuef Administrative Officer, question the Salisbury motion.

When you start imposing policies and projects based on a political party’s objectives, then people say help! And James, more and more people are objecting to the way you and your leftist colleagues are perpetuating an agenda. Voters rejected that agenda in October 2014. It was the Farbridge agenda that caused many financial disasters in the past eight years.

If you and your colleagues understood the financial problems, then you should demand a forensic audit to clear the air. You have already received independent warnings from consultants that the reserves are being depleted and one stated the situation raises a “red flag.”

You claim that you and your colleagues in the Bloc of Seven “do not see too much gravy in the system.”

Let me help you to find more “gravy” that will help return the city to financial stability and reduce the burden on taxpayers.

* Reduce the cost of staff that is currently consuming 80 per cent of property tax revenue. Now I am aware of the close ties between staff and elected officials who depend on the staff when making decisions. That’s okay but in my opinion, the reverse has occurred with the elected officials, (the Bloc of Seven) telling the staff to follow their agenda and their policies.

* Shut down the District Energy project. Why you and your colleagues use the excuse that a money-losing project should be maintained that has already lost $37.1 million, is beyond belief. Especially when the CEO of GMHI estimates it will cost an additional $60 million to even get close to breaking even.

* The Wellbeing program should be shut down because the city cannot afford to give money away when the city must balance its books. For the past five years it did so by taking money from the reserves. James, that’s your “efficient staff” consistently overspending its own budget.

* The RiverRun theatre and the Sleeman Centre together are losing $780,000 a year. You say that no city in Canada makes a profit on its culture centres. Perhaps you might consider just managing to break even with proper management? So, you feel it’s okay for Guelph to heavily subsidize these sites?

Again James, look at your former council colleagues who allowed this to occur over the past five years according to figures released in 2014. Our new DCAO, Colleen Clack, previously was General Manager of Tourism and Culture and responsible for the two culture centres.

* The recent deal with the privately owned Guelph Storm Hockey Club was negotiated by Ms. Clack and approved by council. The new ten-year deal includes the city accepting a lower portion of the receipts. This has the effect of driving up the city subsidy of the Sleeman. Yet you claim that the money brought into the city by tourists and fans who spend on food and assorted items makes it worthwhile. And your statement that for every dollar spent on city-owned facilities, you get two bucks back. And your source for this is?

* There is a full gravy boat in Guelph Transit where the employees have the highest overtime charges of any other department. It’s a system designed to serve the annual eight-month visitation of 20,000 undergraduates of the University of Guelph. Previous attempts to reduce service in the summer, weekends and statutory holidays, were rebuffed by your colleagues past and present. That’s an estimated $16 million annual subsidy.

* It’s time to suspend the bike lane program that costs $300,000 a year. Until we get our financial house in order, this program reeks of gravy. We can no longer afford it.

I’ve been writing about the city operations for many years. The personalities that have wasted millions on self-serving pet projects and esoteric efforts to change the world are using taxpayer’s money. You gloss over that residents have to pay provincial and federal income taxes, taxes on fuel, electricity, insurance, liquor and cigarettes, vehicle licenses, clothing, vehicles, maintenance and repairs to property, entertainment, camping, travel, to name a few. And, Starting in January, we will be paying HST on a new carbon tax added to our electricity bills. That James, is the ultimate progresssive outcome, slap a tax on the tax.

And you say you don’t like to pay property taxes over which you have direct control is a specious statement. This council in its first two years in office has jacked up property taxes by 6.96 per cent, water bills by 8.2 per cent. Your unelected colleagues at Guelph Hydro have increased the cost of electricity by 42 per cent in the past four years. Now we know where some of that money went, to GMHI.

So, is it any wonder that the total city assessment ratio is stuck at 16 per cent commercial and industrial and 84 per cent residential? Guelph is one of the most expensive cities in the country in which to live. If you keep it up, the city will follow the dive of property values in Alberta where your NDP coleagues are in charge.

That will result in depressed property values in Guelph as people leave and drastically reduce the city’s ability to pay its bills. We are already experiencing a provincial Liberal government whose spending and policies is continuing a massive deficit that has plagued the province’s finances for more than seven years.

The manufacturing base in Ontario has been decimated by the high costs of services. These include rising costs of electricity, taxation, soaring housing values in the major cities, a deteriating infrastructure, education, gridlock, all exacerbated by the growing carrying costs of debt and deficits. A situation in which more than half of all provincial revenue is used to pay interest on growing debt.

In 2007, the Guelph Community Energy Plan documents said that the co-generation projects would provide a platform to attract new business and industrial/commercial investment. But the needle has not moved in eight years. We are still stuck with one of the worst residential/commercial industrial ratios for a city this size in Ontario.

Does this justify this council and previous like-minded councils, to embark on energy and environmental schemes that were beyond the responsibility of a ward councillor in any city?

What excuse is there to see the growth of Full-time Eqivalent Employees (FTE’s) climb from 1,450 in 2010 ro more than 2.100 today? That’s a 33 per cent increase during a period when Guelph’s population increased by just 8.5 per cent. In just two years in office, your council has added 40 new FTE members to the staff.

Your soggy explanation of trying to justify your performance by dumping on a concerned citizen only points to the failed performance of you and your colleagues.

James, if you can’t stand the heat, then step away from the fireplace and serve your constituents that elected you. Do you ever talk to citizens about their concerns and I’m not just refering to those ward two voters who elected you?

On a final point, James, perhaps you should explain your role when the former civic museum property on Dublin Street was sold to private purchasers. You supported the proposal that claimed would provide cheap space to budding artists and computer developers. We both know that never happened and the property is now occupied by upscale tenants. The city manager of realty, Jim Stokes, resigned shortly after the deal was completed amid rumours there was a higher bid. Your thoughts?

The record shows there is no room for party politics in any municipality including Guelph.

I think you owe Bob Moore an apology.


Filed under Between the Lines

Mark Amorosi’s path to become the highest paid DCAO in Ontario

By Gerry Barker

August 12, 2016

Thanks to a special Sunshine List website, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO), Corporate Services, for the City of Guelph, Mark Amorosi has managed to be instrumental in making sure he was well paid. Since he joined the staff as Director of Human Resources in 2008, he has helped himself from earning $147,800 to being the highest paid DCAO in the province earning $209,629 in 2015. That’s an eight-year increase of $61,829 or 41.8 percent.

On top of that, Mr. Amorosi collected additional taxable income for expenses of $38,960.17 in his eight-year period of employment. Perhaps, because he lives in Hamilton, his commuting costs were claimed. How many people do you know who are paid to drive to work and get free parking?

But when you examine the job description it changes over those eight years. In 2009 as Director of Human Resources, Amorosi’s accredited field of expertise, he received a 5.43 per cent increase with a bump in salary of $8,029 plus a taxable benefit of $5,361. Not bad after just a year on the job.

In 2010, Mr. Amorosi was promoted to Executive Director, Human Resources and Legal Services and his salary increased to $161,383 plus a taxable benefit of $6,256.

You may recall that this was a civic election year and shortly after Mayor Farbridge and a majority of her council supporters were re-elected, City Clerk Lois Giles resigned and City Solicitor, Lois Payne, retired. This left vacancies in major positions and Mr. Amorosi was charged with replacing the two senior employees.

His upward path continued in 2011 as he assumed additional responsibilities being appointed Executive Director, Corporate and Human Resources with a 4.5 per cent salary increase taking him to $168,651 plus a taxable benefit of $6,361. In the space of four years, Mr. Amorosi’s salary had increased by $20,851 or 14.1 per cent since he joined the city. During this period, Mr. Amorosi was responsible for all labour union and management employee contracts, including his own.

The web of progressive’s  domination

The result was he looked after the unionized employees who were strong supporters of the Farbridge-dominated council. The unions were happy with the avalanche of benefits and regular increases, as were the managers who always seemed to get a little more from the public purse when contracts were renewed.

The year 2011 was one of massive change in the city administration as the Mayor pursued her dream of establishing a separate corporation to manage city-owned assets. It was independent of the city but the city corporation remained financially responsible. Known as Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc the Mayor appointed herself as chairperson and four of her council supporters to the Board of Directors. Also on the board was Jasmine Urisk, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Guelph Hydro, along with two independent directors, appointed by the mayor.

Mr. Amorosi applied for the Chief Administrative Officer’s (CAO) job when Hans Loewig retired but was beaten out by Ann Pappert. Farbridge appointed Ms. Pappert as GMHI’s CEO.

The city’s financial management was in chaos as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Margaret Neubaur was fired in 2012 and Susan Arum, employed in the finance department was a temporary replacement. She resigned a year later when Amorosi hired Al Horsman as CFO.

It is clear that Mr. Amorosi had his hands all over these management changes because he was head of human resources and now had influence in managing city finances. It was not a position that he was trained for nor had direct experience. His usual tactic was to recommend to council that they hire a consultant to seek senior staff replacements. In his world, he used consultants whenever there were contentious issues. It was his protective shield and the costs of these experts soared.

The open government head fake that cost $500,000

In 2013, the city hired a Toronto consultant to prepare an open government plan offering transparency and accountability. The lengthy report cost $500,000 and resulted in neither transparency nor accountability by the administration. Political events concerning the construction of the new City Hall had escalated and the impending fallout was consuming the administration.

In 2013, Mr. Amorosi’s salary had climbed to $176,400 plus the taxable benefit of $6,333. Behind the scenes, the Guelph Hydro was raising rates and today is 42 per cent higher since 2013. This became a precursor of the failure of GMHI and the Community Energy Initiative.

In November 2014, just three weeks after the civic election, the senior staff reorganized converting from Executive Directors to DCAO’s. This was due to two key individuals retiring, Janet Laird and Derek McCaughan. In Mr. McCaughan’s case, there is question as to whether he was pushed out or really retired.

Three DCAO appointees, Mark Amorosi, Al Horsman and Derrick Thomson received immediate increases of some $6,000. Horsman was moved from CFO to Waste Management and Environmental Services. He left the city last August to accept a job as CAO of Sault Ste Marie.

In the first months of 2015, is where Mr. Amorosi took control of city finances and human resources. The pressure was starting to mount against CAO Ann Pappert. The GMHI project was being exposed as a financial and operational disaster that eventually was estimated to cost $37.1 million.

It is obvious that those senior management salary increases had to be included in the 2015 budget approved in March.

Salary-Gate  rip-off

Council didn’t approve the increases until December 9, the final day of completing the 2016 budget. Council met in closed session and approved 2015 salary increases for CAO Pappert, DCAO’s Mark Amorosi, Derrick Thomson and Al Horsman. The increases ranged from 14 per cent to 19 per cent. Those increases were not revealed to the public until the provincial Sunshine List was published last March.

The General Manager of Finance and Treasurer, Janice Sheehy, left that same month after only a year on the job. Amorosi had hired her plus another lady who left prior to Ms. Sheehy’s arrival.

Now he has promoted a junior in the Finance Department to be CFO, General Manager of Finance and Treasurer, Tara Baker, who will not report until next year because she is on maternity leave. Details of her appointment will not be known until the March 2018 because she won’t report until mid-2017.

Mr. Amorosi has to carry the responsibility for this choice. He hired a headhunting firm to find a CFO but then promoted from within. He is also expert at concealing pay details including contracts and benefits. This egregious act depicts the actions of a man who has been given undeserved power and has had it since November 2014.

In this case, the Mayor should have said no to the Baker appointment and defer any vote on the matter. Mr. Amorosi should have been ordered to continue the search for a CFO. Unfortunately, the mayor seems to feel that participating in a “ wacky global scavenger hunt” is more important to Guelph and his reputation.

This is what happens when power is concentrated and used for self-interest.

Here is a chart downloaded from the Sunshine List website that shows why Guelph’s managerial costs are way out of line. It clearly demonstrates that members of the senior staff know how to look after their needs and then deliberately hide the facts from the citizens who pay those salaries for four months.

Members of council who voted for these increases December 9 should also hang their heads in shame for allowing this to occur and then attempt to cover it up.

Mr. Amorosi has managed to be one of the highest paid employees in his job category conducting his job since 2010. Now that’s looking after number one!

2015 Highest Earners with Same Position POSITION: Deputy Chief Administrative Officer

1 MARK AMOROSI                            City of Guelph $209,630
2 DERRICK THOMSON                            City of Guelph $207,554
3 ANDREW CAMPBELL                            Town of Innisfil $182,716
4 ALBERT HORSMAN                            City of Guelph $157,441
5 BLAINE PARKIN                            Town of New Tecumseth $133,459
6 CINDY MCNAIR                            City of Stratford $132,041

Notes: Mr. Horsman left the city in August 2015

Mr.Thomson was appointed CAO in June 2016

If interested, you can obtain complete comparisons and details of any employee in the province by going to: Just type in the name you want to check in the box provided.



Filed under Between the Lines

We face a looming management crisis preparing the 2017 budget

By Gerry Barker

August 10, 2016

I had the opportunity this past weekend to speak with a seasoned Canadian economist and retired senior banker.

I wanted some independent feedback about the way our city is being managed and why it appears that there is little attempt to seriously curtail runaway operating costs. We have been consumed by a culture that has wasted millions of dollars without measurable success.

The road to recovery lies only with cutting operational costs. The fact that two neighbouring cities, Kitchener and Cambridge, whose operating and capital costs are 50 per cent lower that Guelph’s, points to the need for reduction of those costs.

That includes, reduction of staff and realignment of responsibilities; chopping funding of special interest projects and lobbyists; capping salary and wages and benefits for two years; kill the CEI and District Energy project; reduce operating subsidies to Guelph Transit, the Sleeman Centre and RiverRun theatre; cease the bicycle-lane expansion allocation; resolve to challange the unfair University of Guelph’s property tax deal that pays $75 per student per year. It even fails to reflect the effect of inflation since inauguration in 1987.

After outlining what I saw as a city in a management and financial crisis, I was asked to give a summary of events that have caused expenses to exceed revenues on a sustained basis for nine years.

So here goes:

The Guelph Civic Museum

* The first occurred in 2007 when council voted to spend $12.7 million to renovate a convent that had been written off by the Diocese of Hamilton in 1997. It was located next door to the Church of Our Lady and not on public land. Senior government grants of $6 million were sought and approved. It was five years before the building was reopened. The final cost, according the city, was $16.7 million, $4 million over the original estimated cost. Touted as a tourist attraction, the administration has not revealed the operating costs or attendance figures for five years.

Explosive growth of city employees’ numbers

* Next came that growth of staff from some 1,250 full-time equivalent employees in 2006 to more than 2,100 today. The staff is the greatest expense to the city costing in 2014 more that $159 million. The 2015 Sun Shine List reveals the senior staff is in the top 95 to 99 percentile of salaries paid to employees with similar or the same job in other cities. In fact, Mark Amorosi is listed as the highest paid Deputy Chief Administration Officer (DCAO) in Ontario. The numbers include generous taxable benefits.

The 2015 city financial figures have not been revealed as the Financial Information Report, as required by provincial law, has yet to be completed by the city’s finance department. This report is normally available by mid-June each year. Keep in mind that we have not had a General Manager of Finance and Treasurer since last March. DCAO Mark Amorosi announced recenrly that financial analyst, Tara Baker, has been named Chief Financial Officer but is currently on maternity leave and will not take over until next year. Apparently a job search was conducted by a head hunter but the decision was made to promote Ms. Baker from within. This decision means the city has been without a CFO since November 2014. The man responsible for this is DCAO Amorosi who took over managing the city finances in November 2014 when the last CFO, Al Horsman, was transferred to Waste Management and Environmental services.

The Waste Management Innovation Centre

* Then, The Farbridge council voted, in closed session, to build a $34 million organic waste processing facility. It was part of a multi-million dollar rebuild of the waste disposal centre on Dunlop Road. Again, capital costs and operational costs were not announced. A recent internal audit revealed there was a $270,000 annual operating loss of the waste management facility. The organics facility was overbuilt and the city had to seek raw materials from the Region of Waterloo and others to fully utilize the facility’s capacity. The finished compost product distribution and revenue remains a secret.

To this day, it is unknown about the contract details of Maple Reinders, that built and operates the organic plant.

City doesn’t pick-up your garbage but charges it on the tax bill

* Then there are the estimated 6,000 residences and businesses, because of their location and access, who don’t have their waste picked up. The city spent $15.5 million buying a bin system that requires special trucks costing $150,000 each to pick up the bins. It costs up to $7,000 each to repair these vehicles that frequently break down. The public was never consulted and it remains a coffee-shop discussion of who really benefited?

The claims, by waste management, of a 68 per cent diversion of waste materials to the landfill are exaggerated and untrue. Remember all those homes and businesses that pay private contractors to remove their waste, where does it go? It is shipped to the landfill. Indeed, it is indicative of the bad communication optics of a secretive and fact-twisting waste management administration to justify the means.

The Detroit connection

* A deal was struck to import recyclable material from Detroit for processing. Additional staff was hired to handle the increased volume but the deal blew up because the quality of the Detroit recyclables failed to meet specifications. The General Manager of Solid Waste Management, who negotiated the deal with out a business plan or contract, left the city. The loss of this operation was more than $5 million.

If you build an underpass, duck!

* The city decided to rebuild the area of Wyndham Street under the CNR mainline overpass. Once completed, it was discovered the clearance failed to allow commercial trucks with trailers to go under because the trailer height would hit the underside of the bridge. Today nothing has been done to correct this and the engineer in charge has left the city.

The Urbacon fiasco

* In 2008, the city fired the general contractor of the new city hall project. The result was a long, drawn out legal battle culminating in 2014 won by Urbacon Buildings Group Inc. The final tab for this was $65 million, some $23 million over the original contract price. The mayor was defeated along with some of her council. Our reserves took a $5.7 million hit.


* In 2015, four senior staff members awarded themselves with salary increases ranging from 14 to 19 per cent. The CAO, Ann Pappert, received a $37,000 increase making her the highest paid CAO in cities of comparable size in Ontario. DCAO’s Al Horsman, Derrick Thomson and Mark Amorosi also received large increases. Council, in closed session, approved the increases Dec. 9. The only way the increases were discovered was when the Ontario Sun shine List of employees making more than $100,000 revealed the huge increases. The man who engineered these increases was Corporate Services DCAO Mark Amorosi, who controlled Human Resources and city Finances. Two of the four senior management employees, Al Horsman and Ann Pappert have left the staff. DCAO Derrick Thomson, received a 19.4 increase in 2015. He was in the process of leaving the staff after accepting a job with the Town of Caledon when he accepted the CAO position in Guelph. His previous experience as CAO was in the town of West Lincoln in the Niagara wine country.

The Guelph Storm deal

* This recent development revealed that the city was a partner with the privately- owned Guelph Storm Hockey Club. The new deal guaranteed the Storm use of the Sleeman Centre for ten years. This was a deal that was made despite the past four years of the Sleeman Centre losing $249,000 a year. Ms. Clack in her previous position as General Manager of Culture and Tourism, was responsible for the Sleeman Centre. It is incomprehensible why the city would negotiate a new ten-year agreement with the Storm that would result in even higher losses. The question remains is why the city is subsidizing a public facility for a private corporation’s exclusive use?

We the public have no idea about the terms of the old Storm contract or details of the new one. We can tell you that three individuals own the team with the chairman, Rick Gaetz, who also is chairman of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) executive committee.

It would appear that newly minted DCAO Colleen Clack, as lead negotiator for the city, agreed to lower the percentage of the city’s share of receipts. This was because the team owners said that the financial arrangement with the city was one of the costliest in the 20-team OHL. Was this a case of the lambs being led to the slaughter?

Again, no figures were produced to confirm this claim. There was no business plan presented to council, just a request to lower the city’s share of the revenues. Council approved the new deal. Again, the public was not informed of the details that were their right to know.

Community Energy debacle

* In five years, this secretive operation has spent an estimated $37.1 million on two District Energy Nodes to supply power to the grid and hot and cold water to a small number of clients near the Sleeman Centre Node pump and the Hanlon Creek Business Park Node. It is losing money each year in operation. Just to repay the $8.7 million it cost to install the Nodes will take an estimated 70 years to complete.

Yet the Bloc of Seven on council voted to extend the system until next March. This is due in part to the Bloc’s steadfast support of the former mayor’s pet project. The consultant’s fee alone is estimated to be between $130,000 and $160,000. The operator of this broken scheme is Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI) who, along with Envida Community Energy, has no financial capacity to continue the project for another nine months. Did I mention the $68.5 million being carried on the city’s books as an impaired asset? It will become a liability as the value of the note drops. This was an accountant’s way of dressing up a liability developed over the past five years. It involves GMHI and Guelph Hydro and is a manipulation of funding off the books, financing this part of the Community Energy Initiative.

For details, check out the July 18 Guelph Speaks post on the city staff report.

Firing the Building Inspector

* When Chief Building Inspector Bruce Poole complained to senior management that the city was not applying for building permits on more than 50 city projects, he was fired after 30 years of service. He has sued the city for wrongful dismissal and $1 million compensation.


A brief analysis of a rogue corporation

After I outlined what I believed to be the inter-connection of Guelph’s problems, my friend shook his head and said there is a serious management problem in the city’s administration. He spent the next hour going over the points I raised and said it appears the city is being either run by incompetents or accountants. Possibly both. There is, he went on, an apparent dearth of senior management skills and seasoned judgment.

Further, he pointed out, the Guelph governance is poisoned by politics, those who have a point of view that is tainted when applied to the municipal level. Some of these projects should have never been financed using the municipal tax base. He pointed out, because the revenue stream cannot handle ambitious, expensive projects when the city relies chiefly on property taxes. Some of the initiatives undertaken require senior government action because of greater sources of revenue not available to municipalities.

Here we are ten years later, dealing with a civic government that is experimenting with environmental and energy issues that have cost citizens dearly and were not successful.

My friend and expert says the city needs new, independent senior staff to effect real change and bring costs under control through best management practices.

It is now apparent that we are getting the same kind of service from the same people who created this crisis of management and misguided financial actions starting some nine years ago.

It is aided and abetted by a majority of Leftists, members of council who have disregard for the interests of the public but regard only their own self-serving interests.

Two members of the Bloc, Councillors June Hofland and Karl Wettstein, should resign for their abject failure to report the aspects of the GMHI operations while sitting as directors of GMHI. They were there for four years and, to this day, have never acknowledged or have been interviewed as to what went on or the role they played. They received a special payment for their service on GMHI.

So much for loyalty to their constituents, transparency and accountability.







Filed under Between the Lines

The Farbridge Fallout: 10 years of a toxic administration leaves an enduring legacy

By Gerry Barker

August 6, 2016

Like most people in Guelph, we are beginning to understand the underground story of financial failure, secrecy and wasteful spending that is slowly emerging following eight years of a Farbridge administration. It is a litany of abuse of the public trust by the majority of elected officials. We have endured an administration riddled with absurd decisions and too much influence over those elected and entrusted with the people’s interests.

We are now witnessing the denuding of senior staff that shares responsibility for spending millions of public money with compliance of the former mayor’s majority of council.

Gone is Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert; Executive Director of Waste Management and Environmental Services, Janet Laird; Executive Director of Operations Derek McCaughan; Former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Al Horsman; Former General Manager of Finance and Treasurer, Janice Sheehy; former manager of Finance (pre Horsman), Susan Arum; Chief Building Inspector, Bruce Poole, now suing the city for wrongful dismissal; former Police Chief Bryan Larkin who played a major role in selling the $34.1 million police headquarters renovation along with former Mayor Farbridge and Coun. Leanne Piper.

Rising from the wreckage is CAO Derrick Thomson, former Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, (DCAO), of Operations; General Manager of Culture and Tourism, Colleen Clack who takes over Thomson’s job as DCAO of Operations including Guelph Transit; Finance department analyst, Tara Baker, recently named Chief Financial Officer, General Manager, Finance and Treasurer. She does not assume the job until next year.

This is another example of moving people up whose experience or accreditation may not match their new responsibilities. Ms. Baker was selected even after the city used a headhunter to conduct a search for a CFO.

There is one senior employee who remains post 2014. Mark Amorosi has responsibility for human resources and city finances as DCAO of Corporate Services.

This situation, in which continuity and responsibility that Mr. Amorosi has artfully engineered, is by reaching in-house and ignoring a professional search. We still paid for it. Since his employment in 2008, he has been the architect of building a bloated bureaucracy that has increased in terms of full-time employees to more than 2,100 from 1,500. He is in charge of all personnel and their issues including salaries, wages and benefits. The city staff is now 80 per cent unionized. And, more than 80 per cent of all property taxes are used to pay the staf.

Staff morale is at an all-time low

The staff has reached the depths of low morale but most hang on because of the money and benefits. Working for the city or the University of Guelph provides above average pay, benefits and job security. But many staffers say it’s a lousy place to work because of a senior management that is erratic, lacks empathy and consistently changes the work plan.

Amorosi, in his unique position of power, also looked after himself and fellow senior staff with those unearned 2015 salary increases for the CAO and three fellow DCAO’s. Those increases ranged from 14 to 19 per cent and the people who paid them were never informed. That is not until the provincial Sunshine List of public servants earning more than $100,000 was released last March.

Talk about a sneaky attack on the public purse. It makes the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour almost saintly by comparison. The Yanks at least knew what was happening in that day of infamy. Citizens were not informed about those increases until months after council approved the deal, in closed session.

What does it take to rid our administration of this individual who has been the author and executor of the city’s declining financial capacity? It is now apparent that Amorosi was picked to meet her objectives by Farbridge as her got-to guy to steer her now misguided and failed vision of Guelph.

In order to accomplish those Farbridge goals, and polices, procedural bylaws were passed by her majority of council supporters. She banned any revelation of what was discussed in closed sessions of council known as “in camera” meetings.

A Code of Conduct that would allow the mayor to censure any councillor who spoke out of line following an “in camera” proceeding, backed up the procedural bylaw. In 2010, the Farbridge council appointed an Integrity Commission whose function was to adjudicate alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct by any member of city council.

There were two such actions sent to the Integrity Commissioner. One was against then Ward Four Councillor, now Mayor Cam Guthrie, who along with a minority of councillors threatened to demand a public document that was refused by the staff. The other was against former Councillor Maggi Laidlaw accused of being belligerent with staff during a committee meeting.

Integrity Commissioner gets another five-year contract

The Integrity Commissioner’s report of both cases did not sanction either party. His bill was more than $10,000. The Integrity Commissioner was awarded another five-year term last March with an annual retainer of $5,000 plus an hourly rate when he was engaged.

That contract was approved in another “in camera” session and details were never revealed. It is another example of the public interest being blocked.

When the former mayor organized the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI), she appointed herself as chairperson and four members of council to hold a majority. The Chief Executive Officer of Guelph Hydro and two Farbridge-appointed independents completed the board of directors. Newly appointed CAO Ann Pappert was named Chief Executive Officer. So there is no doubt about the tight link between the City Corporation and GHMI.

For five years, GMHI conducted its meetings in private session, beyond public access or transparency. In all those years, not one councillor who sat on the GMHI board said anything about what GMHI was doing.

And what they were doing was spending some $37.1 million on developing a District Energy plan that included connecting two Nodes (natural gas fired pumps) to a small number of nearby buildings to supply hot and cold water.

The trouble was that $37.1 million wasn’t enough to make the system function. The Nodes were located in the Sleeman Centre and the Hanlon Creek Business Park. A staff report July 18, 2016, detailed the financing of these projects and stated that it was badly planned and executed and required another $60 million to make it work and meet the original objective.

Spending more money on a failed project

GuelphSpeaks has written extensively about this situation and those posts may be found in the blog archives.

Council, on a staff recommendation, hired Deloitte as consultants to advise them what to do next. Council chose to continue the operation until March 2017. Supporting that motion was the Bloc of Seven Farbridge supporters on council plus Coun. Bob Bell. Deloitte’s bill will range between $130,000 and $160,000.

The only way to stop this growing financial disaster is to complain to the Ombudsman of Ontario regarding all those closed meetings held over six years conducted by GMHI, a wholly owned corporation of the City of Guelph.

If just four residents of Oshawa can complain about its council meeting conducted in camera to discuss the sale of its Hydro, it should not take much to ask for an Ombudsman staff investigation.

Here is an extract of how to complain. I’m sending one in, how about you?

Here are your Ombudsman choices

Have you already tried to resolve your problem with the organization’s complaint procedures? If you aren’t sure what options are available, you can speak to the organization directly or the Ombudsman’s staff can assist you.

Note – Yes, several times to no avail. GuelphSpeaks received one annual report (2014) that showed Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. a wholly owned city corporation that included Guelph Hydro losing $2.8 million.

The Ombudsman can investigate complaints about municipalities and universities as of January 1, 2016.

Note – Guelph citizens can now make a complaint.

Fill in an online complaint form (for other options, see below).
It is also helpful to:

*  Get the names and titles of the people you have dealt with at the government or public sector body;

  • Keep track of the dates of your contact with them;
  • Keep all written communication relating to your complaint.

Note: Citizens were not informed of what was occurring during the five years the city was operating a separate corporation that was making decisions with no accountability, transparency or public input.

Submit a complaint online

Please note that we do not accept complaints through Twitter, Facebook, or any other third-party platforms.
Telephone  Our complaints staff is available 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You may also leave a voice message outside of office hours. Toll-free (inside Ontario only): 1-800-263-1830

Calls with our Office may be recorded for quality assurance and training purposes and/or to ensure an accurate and exact record.


Fax:    416-586-3485

Mail:    Print our complaint form (PDF)
Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario
Bell Trinity Square
483 Bay Street, 10th Floor, South Tower
Toronto, ON
M5G 2C9

In person:  An appointment is recommended for in-person (walk-in) complaints. Please call 1-800-263-1830 to schedule an appointment.
The office is located at 483 Bay Street, (Bell Trinity Square, 10th Floor, South Tower), Toronto. Office hours are from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Review our Frequently Asked Questions. Or call 1-800-263-1-830 during office hours to speak to Ombudsman staff.


Please note:

If you want to complain about the closed-door operations of both the city and GMHI, try to include names and dates of staff or councillor conversations with whom you questioned plus their replies.

A starting point is requesting copies of the minutes of all those GMHI meetings, dates, names and motions. The source is the city clerk’s office.

If you need advice completing your complaint, please send me an email at Identification is a requirement. GB





Filed under Between the Lines

Our 10th year covering the political world of Guelph and beyond

By Gerry Barker

A personal note by the editor of GuelphSpeaks

August 4, 2016

It started in the fall of 2006 when the Mercury refused to publish a letter I wrote complaining about the personal attacks on then Mayor Kate Quarrie. I met with the editor, Phil Andrews, and he said it was the policy of the Mercury not to publish partisan letters 30 days before the October civic election.

I suggested that perhaps I should complain to the Ontario Press Council for the paper’s arbitrary rule not to publish partisan letters. Isn’t the job of the paper to reflect the varied political interests of the community? Phil suggested that perhaps I would consider writing a monthly column, at the bottom of the editotial page starting after the election. My column, “Between the Lines,” was born.

It lasted for five years until Phil emailed me in December 2011 to say the paper was discontinuing the column. I was disappointed but not for long as (GS) was born.

Now most of those influential players of 2011 are gone. The list keeps growing: former mayor Karen Farbridge; Mercury editor Phil Andrews; death of the Mercury; Editor Chris Clark of the Tribune; Mercury municipal beat reporter Scott Tracey; former Police Chief Bryan Larkin; Janet Laird, architect of the waste management system; Hans Loewig Chief Administrative Officer and the killer of the Urbacon new city hall project; CFO Margaret Neubauer; CAO Ann Pappert appointed in 2011; Chief Building Inspector Bruce Poole; councillors Lise Burcher; Todd Dennis; Ian Findlay; Maggie Laidlaw and Gloria Kovach.

And we shouldn’t forget the 2007 firing of CAO Larry Kotseff and CFO David Kennedy. The settlement to these fine public servants was more than $500,000. They were in the way of the Farbridge plans to change Guelph regardless of the cost. Now, how much did former CAO Ann Pappert receive on her recent resignation?

Last man standing

Today, of all those people, only Deputy Administrative Officer Mark, Amorosi, remains in senior city management. Since 2007, Guelph has had eight employees in charge of city finances including Amorosi but not the newly appointed Tara Baker.

That record in itself tells the story of a volatile and mismanaged state of city finances in the past nine years.

I wrote 92 columns for the Mercury and since June 2011, I have written 798 posts on This translates into a growing number of viewers of the posts.

In the 31 days of July, thousands of viewers have logged on to Readership is monitored daily through the Blog’s independent tracking system.

Summer traffic usually declines as folks go away. But not this July. The key is the blog content and I usually write three posts a week. This requires research including contacts, websites and a lot of background gathered in the past ten years.

July 2016 has been a major news month. The rain was falling inside city hall as the news of wasted funding and senior management changes prevailed, but not outside where real rain is needed.

Over the years, it has been extremely difficult to obtain facts and evidence because our city council still conducts most of its contentious business in the back room, in private. Fortunately, the number of contacts and supporters has grown that supply tips and details of how our city is being managed, or in many cases not.

Conducting the public business behind closed doors

To justify holding these closed-door meetings, the city clerk researches a reason to close the meeting according to the Ontario Municipal Act (OMA) regarding closed meetings. Inevitably the discussion bears no resemblance to the legal reason for closing the meeting under the OMA.

This was illustrated by a recent report by the Ontario Ombudsman regarding a closed meeting by the Oshawa council to discuss selling its hydro system. The legal rationale for holding this meeting behind closed doors was for “training and intelligence” reasons. The Ombud said that legal rationale was not only illegal but an attempt to prevent the public from knowing the details of a major issue. It only took four letters from residents to the Ombudsman’s officer to trigger the investigation.

In Guelph there is now ample evidence that the previous administration deliberately thwarted the intent of the OMA, by holding secret meetings, not only council but also by a wholly owned subsidiary, Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI). This was an off-the-books corporation that was controlled by members of council who were paid a stipend.

It owned and controlled two assets, Guelph Junction Railroad and Guelph Hydro.

The result was taxpayers became responsible for spending $37.1 million on a project over which they had no say, no accountability and were kept in the dark like farm-grown mushrooms.

GS is a blog that never sleeps. It is available 24/7 and I am astonished to discover that viewers drop in to read the latest in the middle of the night.

GS is the only convenient and free professional news and commentary source that discusses serious critical issues facing the city. I have written enough about this city’s operations and personalities to fill three novels.

The controlling council denizens of the left are negatively vocal about And the feeling is mutual. You see, I hate dictatorships and our city has been and still is controlled by a group of supporters of the policies of the previous administration. They are part of a nine-year dictatorship that has squandered millions of taxpayer dollars during that time.

Where did all that reserve money go?

Now the cupboard is bare. In 2011, there were 97 dedicated reserve funds holding $77,782,000. Today there are 26 reserve funds and consideration is underway to consolidate the number. It is believed there is less than $10 million in reserves remaining.

Just where did all that money go? This crowd of managers and councillors might as well have worn masks as they robbed the people’s treasure to finance their ideological projects and flagrant mismanagement of our money.

For the 2011 Financial Information Report, the city auditor, Deloitte and Touche, reported that using dedicated reserves to balance a budget is like using your credit card and being charged 22 per cent. The effect is the same.

The city administration has used reserves to balance its books every year since 2011. The management fails to forecast accurate budgets and then overspends to balance the books as required at yearend. The perfect example in 2014 was taking $5.7 million from three, unrelated reserves, to help pay for the $8.96 million required to settle a lawsuit. It followed a trial that found the city wrongfully dismissed Urbacon Buildings Group Inc., general contractors of the new city hall project, before the 2014 municipal election.

Those reserves have yet to be repaid as promised by former CAO, Ann Pappert.

Our new Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Thomson, reports that the current nine-year capital-spending plan, after just the first year, has a $170 million shortfall.

One could say that it is the highest of compliments when the Bloc of Seven councillors strike back at GS for calling them out.

I intend to serve my fellow residents with the most accurate and informative commentary that is the hallmark of this independent blog. I have personally spent my own money to finance GS. I am beholden to no one. I do it because I believe we need true reform of city governance. There will be more on this later.

My name goes on all my posts.

The blog has achieved much and there is much more to cover and report.

I wish to thank the many supporters and contributors. Despite the council majority’s obstructionism, we are making progress.

Please join the growing GS movement to bring common sense and accountability back to our city. Only we can change it. Please let me know about your views and observations by using the pages of GS.

Our greatest opportunity to create change is by collectively challenging the status quo at 1 Carden Street. It means questioning our elected officials regularly by telephone, email and snail mail. Be free to use the comment section of GS to express your opinion.

Contact your friends and neighbours to follow GS and comment their views.

The more citizens who express their views is the key to getting the attention of members of council.

It may be the right time to send some letters of complaint about the closed meetings to the Ontario Ombudsman and request an investigation. A good starting point would be reporting the secrecy surrounding the Community Energy Initiative’s spending and the link to Guelph Hydro.

It’s time to take back our city and return it to the people who own it.


Gerry and Barbara Barker, my editor, wife, best friend and severest critic.


Note: Upon checking the final copy, I discovered several typos.  As as two-fingered typist, they sometimes hit the wrong key. It’s a problem of bad light and errant fingers. GB




Filed under Between the Lines