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 ontariosunshinelist.com. 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 ontariosunshinelist.com 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.

 

 

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13 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

13 responses to “The more we dig, the deeper the hole and truth is stranger than fiction

  1. John Valean Baily

    The more important question, which has been lurking for more than 10 years now, is, why are we still depleting the aquifers and not seriously looking for alternative water sources, the ‘Big Pipe’ for instance.

    The aquifers will run dry sooner rather than later, then what ?

    John Valean (Val) Baily FBA Member Sent from my iPhone (416)619-0230, &, (519)546-2902

    >

  2. Rena

    Val, you are so right. I do recall many years ago when your late wife Laura was on council having this same discussion.

    As for the rest of Gerry’s blog…….reminds me of the movie ‘One flew over the cuckoo nest’

    Time for a wholesale vetting of City Hall.

  3. geo

    Surely a forensic audit by an independent auditor is mandatory by now. Current City management should not be allowed to spend another dime until a competent independent auditor can tell us what the hell is going on!

  4. Capricorn

    I’m shocked at the details you continue to expose. Makes me wonder what else has been going on without the public’s knowledge. I too feel that it’s time for an outside party to take a serious look at the history of activity, financial and otherwise, while Karen Farbridge was mayor. No one should get away with so much disregard of the public trust.

  5. CD

    At what point will Karen Farbridge be investigated for fraud?
    Surely she must have committed one, if not several types of fraud in her tenure as mayor given everything we’ve seen so far?
    Even if she didn’t commit the acts herself , she let these kinds of shenanigans go on while she was in charge.

  6. Capricorn

    My guess is that, being such a bright lady, Karen Farbridge protected herself by putting other people in the position to do what she wanted done, if there was any activity that was on the edge of the rules.Remember her “non-apology” for Urbacon. It was on behalf of the city. She never took ownership unless there were awards being handed out. At this point, no one can say if she intentionally mislead the public and misused tax money, but I think there’s enough evidence to warrant an investigation into how she did things while in office. The public needs protection from abuse of their resources.

  7. LenH

    We are all talking about investigations but until something officially happens, nothing will be done. Does anyone know the protocol for taxpayers to demand an inquiry into the running of the city, province, federal business. That is our only hope. We can threaten all we want. Let’s get it done! We know the lefties are the best organized. Why can’t we fiscally aware people do the same.Let’s take our city, province, country back. Legally.

    • LenH: There is movement afoot among concerned citizens to ask the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to order an independent audit of the City of Guelph’s corporate financial books and its subsidiary corporations (GMHI).

      There is even more evidence today about the mis-management of public money in the past eight years, and the secrecy using abstracts of the Ontario Municipal Act to justify holding most of its business behind closed doors.

      Having been through this in 2012, the problem citizen’s face is the intransigence of our MPP, Liz Sandals to support any audit in her riding. Here’s how that works, She is the president of the Ontario Treasury Board and will protect her friend, Premier Kathleen Wynne, at any cost. The people of Guelph, who elected her, don’t matter.

      In 2012 she sandbagged a legitimate request, based on accurate and researched back-up information, by not allowing the GrassRoots Guelph group of civic activists to hold a press conference in the Ontario Legislature following repeated requests for assistance.

      Sandals was more interested in two things: To protect her friend Karen Farbridge and her bid to become Ontario’s Education Minister. Well, we know how that turned out.

      Our only opportunity to force change in Guelph is to organize, organize and prepare well-documented petition to the current MAFH minister. So who will step up and form a citizens activist group to make it happen?

      To faciliate such a proposal, watch GuelphSpeaks for notice of a meeting in September that may offer the opportunity to organize and oppose the current administration.

      It will take talents of intelligent folks to pool our resoures and submit our concerns. I am going on record that I will provide material and contacts that I have worked with and published. I unequivocally do what I can to effect reform, common sense and responsibility to our city.

      Let me know what you think and let’s organize to effect change. If you think this is too early before 2018 civic election, you

  8. Tony

    These changes in salary will be dismissed with a wave of the hand. Each of these managers took on extra duties that resulted in big pay increases.
    The thing that is shocking is the 3 managers you have shown haven’t really done anything to support such huge raises.
    GM of water works? The only thing that has been happening there is rates have been sky rocketing while usage has dropped.
    Gm of culture and tourism. We already know about those losses. There doesn’t seem to be a plan to turn this around if the losses are the same year after year(very disturbing). They don’t release numbers for attendance at the downtown museum. Why?
    Gm of economic development. Not sure what he does or what he is in charge of. Broad title with no real tangible results. The only real test was the new business park which hasn’t produced near the number of jobs advertised when built.
    One other guy I looked up has had his salary increase 50% in 5 years he is on the list for Guelph
    . Another had a 19% increase between 2014 and 2015?
    You look at some of the other people on that website and there are huge increases one year then a small decrease then a big increase. The way they pay people in this city just seems bizarre.
    ONE THING IS FOR SURE!
    The city of Guelph sure does pay it’s employees REALLY WELL.

    • Brent

      You got that right Tony…Parks and rec wanted to hire two FTE trail technicians for $125000 each during last year’s budget meetings…they failed to get them but don’t be surprised if they try again this year. No wonder we fork out 80% of our tax dollars for wages and benefits …there’s hardly anything left for capital projects with this level of compensation.

  9. Glen

    I agree that the wages are too high & the changes are not logical. but a “high” year may include vacation not taken & thus bought out as well as overtime; however, at the level of these sunshine list employees they should not be paid overtime. Too many past & current members of council and the administration appear to be illiterate when it comes to finance, technical, and business items. In the “shell game” being played it is obvious who fills the role of “con artist” and who is relegated to the role of “mark” to have their pockets picked. Treating citizens like ATM’s to finance social engineering visions by members of council has to stop.

    • Sue

      Some of my teacher friends were on the 2014 Sunshine List only because there happened to be an extra bi-weekly pay period that year due to the way the calendar fell in relation to the timelines for the list. The same people, in the same jobs, were not on the list in 2015.

  10. LenH

    Gerry. Thank you for your commitment and yes, definitely count me in. It is never too early to start the ball rolling as change takes time and effort. Don’t want to stop at municipal level. Provincial and federal governments are a joke as well. How is everyone liking their last hydro bill. Not a fan of government intervention but this hydro thing is criminal. Charge more if you use it, but also charge more if you don’t use enough???? Seriously? And we have to accept this logic??

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