A saga of senior management’s protected indulgence in secrecy

By Gerry Barker

October 17, 2016

This week I asked City Clerk Stephen O’Brien to see the minutes of the closed session of council that approved the 2015 increases to four members of the senior staff December 10, 2015.

He replied: “Thank you for your email. Closed meeting minutes are not open public records and therefore I cannot share such minutes with you.”

It was not an unexpected reply. But, how can public business be discussed in closed session and not be part of the public record? This is a threat to the right for citizens to have access to public information. If abused, it sets the stage for illegal and corruptive action on the part of the participants.

There is no public input in these closed sessions. The perfect example of abuse is the salary increases given to four senior managers in camera, December 10, and concealed until the Provincial Sunshine List for 2015 published them last March. How can the citizens trust its elected officials and staff to not deliberately hide information that concerns the public interest and public trust?

The only recourse for citizens is to commence a Freedom of Information request to obtain the details. The risk is what is redacted (blackened out), how long will the request take and be refused again?

Except, we already know the outcome of that closed session, thanks to the Provincial Sunshine List blowing the cover of those oversized increases. What’s more important is what was the methodology of determining Ms. Pappert’s increase of 17.11 per cent or $37,581 for 2015?

That particular increase was the only one to which Mr. Amorosi responded. To paraphrase his comment: ‘Ann did not receive an increase in 2014 because she did not request one from HR.’

Well, as it turned out, that wasn’t true. She did receive an increase of $5,500 in 2014 according to the 2014 Sunshine List. The truth is, the citizens of Guelph, who pay the bills, now have learned that the CAO of their administration received a total increase in her salary of some $43,000 in two years. That’s a 20 per cent increase and did not include taxpayer-funded taxable income..

It was not documented or explained in any way why she deserved that increase, or who conducted her performance review to substantiate the increase.

But the other three recipients, Al Horsman, Derrick Thomson and Mark Amorosi also received 2015 salary increases between 14 and 19 per cent.

The fallout came swiftly. Horsman was first to resign leaving in August 2015 because he knew what was coming. Derrick Thomson tendered his resignation to accept a job in the Town of Caledon. CAO Ann Pappert resigned in May 2016 two months after the Sunshine List revelation.

The last man standing, Mark Amorosi is still with us. Derrick Thomson was recalled to take over as CAO of the city.

The curious part of all this is why Mark Amorosi was passed over twice to become CAO? In each case he lost the job to staffers with less city experience than him. In 2011, he was a candidate for promotion to replace the retiring CAO Hans Loewig. Instead, Ann Pappert was selected.

Again this year Mr. Amorosi, the lone original senior manager with eight years experience, Derrick Thomson was selected as his new boss.

*            *            *            *

In 2008, the city administration, led by former mayor Karen Farbridge, hired Mark Amorosi to head up Human Resources. The new city hall general contractor, Urbacon Buildings Group being fired off the job in September 2008, overshadowed his arrival. In the following five years, five lawsuits and an $8.96 million settlement to Urbacon occurred just prior to the 2014 civic election.

The blame game was played to the extent that in October 2014, Ms. Farbridge and two of her councillors were defeated. Two other council supporters declined to run. Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, later said her predecessor, Hans Loewig, kicked the contractor off the job. To this day, not one elected councillor at the time took any responsibility for the wrongful dismissal of Urbacon.

Four of them who were on that council are sitting as councillors today including June Hofland, Karl Wettstein, Leanne Piper and Mike Salisbury.

Mark Amorosi was rising through the senior management ranks to become Executive director of Human Resourses (HR) and Legal Services (LS) under the job title of Corporate Services.

Up to that point, he had served under two CAO’s Hans Loewig and Ann Pappert; two Chief Financial Officers, Margaret Neubaur and Al Horsman, plus a senior manager in the Finance department, Susan Arum who was acting CFO until she resigned. There was another man hired to be CFO but resigned after a week on the job.

But Mark Amorosi remained the constant in the senior management ranks.

His big opportunity came early in November 2014, just weeks after the civic election.

CAO Ann Pappert announced a senior management reorganization. The title Executive Director was dropped in favour of Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO). This was because Janet Laird, chief of Waste Management and Environmental Services, retired. Denis McCaughan, Chief of Operations, left his city job with no explanation.

There were three senior managers who gained that DCAO title, Al Horsman, Derrick Thomson and Mark Amorosi. They all received a $6,200 increase that same month of November to reflect their alleged new responsibilities.

As a result of this reorganization, Mr. Horsman, the CFO, was moved to replace Ms. Laird as DCAO of Waste Management and Environment Services. Derrick Thomson, who had been with the city for a little over a year, was named DCAO of Operations replacing Mr. McCaughan.

Mark Amorosi added finance to his responsibilities of HR and LS. Next to the CAO, he became the most powerful civil servant in the City of Guelph administration.

Lack of continuity of the financial staff

As the new head of finance, Mr. Amorosi has named four people to the job of General Manager of Finance and Treasurer in just 20 months. First there was Katrina Power, no longer with the city. Then Janice Sheehy arrived in March 2015 and left in March 2016. James Krauter as acting GM of Finance and Treasurer replaced her. He is currently on the job during the absence of the newly appointed GM of Finance and Treasurer who has the added title of Chief Financial Officer.

Last July, Mr. Amorosi announced that an analyst in the Finance Department, Tara Baker, was appointed as the new CFO, General Manager of Finance and Treasurer. In doing so, Mr. Amorosi was aware that Ms. Baker was on maternity leave until next year.

In his current position, Mr. Amorosi has been the defacto CFO of Guelph for almost two years. In that time he has overseen two city budgets and is involved today in the 2017 budget. This is the man responsible for the finances of a $500 million Corporation that had a budget of $382 million in 2016.

Guelph resident Pat Fung, CPA, CA completed a financial analysis of the city and sent a copy to each member of council. Mr. Amorosi, hief Financial Officer in the administration, did not agree with the figures. The source of the facts in Mr. Fung’s analysis came from the city’s own audited Financial Information Reports filed with the Province for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. In addition, Mr. Fung used portions of the city’s own consultant’s, BMA Management’s report for 2014.

This information compared Guelph’s operating and capital spending with other similar sized Ontario cities. The results are devastating because Guelph’s operating costs are some 50 per cent higher than either Kitchener or Cambridge.

The per capita cost in each reflected how much more the city is spending compared to the sample cities.

Mr. Amorosi said that per capita costs comparison is irrelevant. He should know because he lives in Hamilton and has not paid Guelph taxes for eight years as a senior employee of the city.

Maybe it was because he said the per capita cost to the people to manage its affairs is irrelevant.

 

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5 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

5 responses to “A saga of senior management’s protected indulgence in secrecy

  1. Glen

    It would appear there is a “closed club” mentality that plays with the “cards close to the vest” to ensure no one can determine what is going on in the back rooms. This permits financial fiascoes such as District Energy and Detroit recycling, to name but two, to continue to be foisted on taxpayers. Guelph council, in appointing an insider to be the new CAO , blew the opportunity to have a change agent as a CAO, whereas Brampton hired an outsider.who is making resounding staffing changes.Similarly, Ottawa hired a new City Manager with major staff changes being made. The contrast of the house cleaning results between Guelph and Brampton & Ottawa is astounding. But the continuing debacle in Guelph is best described by an Albert Einstein quote” We can not solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.

  2. Barry

    I couldn’t agree more Glen on your comments on Gerry’s article about the raises and closed door sessions. One wish I have is that the Mayor now and when he was in Council for 4 years provide a record of his voting on all these questionable issues. It might surprise many people on the results and the hold the remaining 7 Councillors have on the outcome of voting and even those votes behind closed doors. One should ask the Mayor to comply with this suggested request.

  3. Capricorn

    I like Barry’s idea. My one question is…would some councillors decide to call the integrity commissioner on the mayor, if he reveals even his votes on the subjects.

  4. Joe Black

    Corrupt period on a side note I was on Watson Rd north of York and to my surprise they went from 4 lanes to two P.S I didn’t see a bike and Stone Rd between Gordon & Vic if they (city) doesn’t not get the final asphalt down this year it would be 3 ..three years to do this stretch.

  5. Louis

    I think the gang of seven is getting their mentality from Farbridge.

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