By Gerry Barker
October 28, 2016
Let’s start by agreeing that it is not normal for any employer, public or private, to pay for traveling expenses from home to work. While accepting a senior management position, there are contractual benefits that go with the job. In Guelph’s case, details of those contracts are not released to the public. Although the terms may be secret the cost is born by the citizens of the city.
Let’s review what we do know about the current two top managers of the city, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Derrick Thomson and Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO), Mark Amorosi.
Each received salary increases in a closed meeting of city council December 10, 2015. Mr. Thomson received $33, 814 or 19 per cent. Mr. Amorosi received $26,868 or a 14 per cent increase. The former CAO, Ann Pappert, also received $37,591 and resigned in May 2016. Included in the Provincial Sunshine List for 2015, are the taxable benefits paid by the city covering a fixed amount of car expenses? Ms. Pappert received $6,508, Mr. Thomson, $6,472 and Mr. Amorosi $6,472.
None of those figures have been revealed by the City of Guelph administration. Nor have there been any supportive details of why the increases’ were approved by council in closed-session. Also, the administration has not revealed the salary increases to the four top managers for 2016, a period in which there were significant salary increases.
Deja vu? Looks like we’ll have to wait until March 2017 to discover what they are being paid in 2016.
I have learned that the taxable benefits are for a vehicle used by the employee paid by the city as a fixed cost.
Now here is where it gets murky.
Mr. Thomson lives in Caledon. Mr. Amorosi lives in Hamilton since joining the city staff in 2008. These two senior managers are in charge of creating the 2017 budget. Neither pays taxes in Guelph. You will recall that city council gave former CAO Ann Pappert $20,000 to relocate from Waterloo to Guelph.
Council was concerned about its senior manager living in the city and offered a hefty incentive to move 30 kilometres. Why isn’t the Guthrie administration insisting on the city’s present top managers to become residents of the city in which they are in charge of managing? Under Ontario employment law, an employer cannot dictate the residence of the employee without consent.
Wasn’t Mr. Amorosi, as head of Human Resources, involved in the Pappert decision and for that matter, responsible for negotiating management contracts of those employees not part of the unions?
Which brings us to how employees are reimbursed for work-related expenses such as travel, entertainment, accommodation and that old favourite, sundry.
Does Mark Amorosi travel home every night regardless of the time change, weather conditions and late night city meetings? The same question can be asked of Derrick Thomson who lives in the snow belt of Mid-Western Ontario.
Have either of these top managers had difficulty in the morning due to bad weather, traffic conditions to get to work on time?
While the Sunshine Lists reveals the salaries and taxable benefits paid to those earning more than $100,000 a year, it does not tell us about expense accounts.
This information is not available. The public has no idea of what their elected officials and non-union staff are receiving for expenses incurred doing their job. In fact, the guidelines for allowing work-related expense claims are also top secret.
The costs of commuting
Does Mr. Amorosi cover the operating cost of commuting more than 200 kilometres a day, five days a week, from his pocket? One way is approximately 100 kms, double it and the cost at 50 cents per kms is $100 every day. That works out to $500 a week times 48 weeks equals $24,000 a year. That does not include parking, emergency vehicle repairs, insurance or accommodation if necessary due to weather or late meetings. How often is he required to stay overnight and where does he stay?
Is Mr. Amorosi claiming these expenses as part of his employment contract?
It was his decision not to leave Hamilton and commute to his job in Guelph.
The same questions are asked of CAO Derrick Thomson whose commuting distance is slightly less.
Is this siuation a repeat of the cozy deal the former CAO Hans Loewig made with the Farbrodge administration? Loewig lived in Brantford and communted to work in Guelph. It was alleged that he often stayed overnight in Guelph at public expense. Also his deal, made just before Ms. Amorosi took over HR in 2008, is alleged to include 12 weeks of holidays at his winter home in Arizona. Loewig or the administration never acknowledged or denied this.
Who must approve staff expense account claims? Is it currently Mr. Amorosi as head of Finance? Or is it a surrogate in Finance? How do senior managers process their expense claims if they are responsible for maintaining fiduciary responsibility?
This takes us back to a letter I wrote April 2, 2012 to Mr. Amorosi:
Mr. Mark Amorosi
Executive director of Human Resources and Legal Services
The City of Guelph
1 Carden Street
Guelph, Ontario N1H 3A1
April 2, 2012
I am a taxpaying resident of the City of Guelph and a retired professional journalist.
It has been brought to my attention that you informed a citizen that the city would no longer respond to requests for information from any personal “blog” website.
You further stated that the city interacts with legitimate media outlets that follow the Ethics Guidelines of the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ).
Without defining “legitimate outlets,” the city has denied the rights of individuals and organizations that, under the Charter of Rights and the Ontario Municipal Act, have a rightful access to public information.
Nor is it established what a personal “blog” website is.
As a non-journalist, before using the CAJ as your excuse for not revealing public information, I suggest you read the Ethics document published (online) by the CAJ. Two elements are pertinent to the city’s decision to ban access.
Definitions: “News organizations – including newspapers, websites, magazines, radio and television – provide forums for the free interchange of information and opinion. As such we (CAJ) seek to include views from all segments of the populations.”
“Personal online activity, including emails and social networking should generally be regarded as public and not private.”
Under the circumstances outlined by you, one may believe that the city is muzzling sources of nominally public news that is not always friendly to the administration.
Accordingly, I am requesting that the travel expense reports for all members of council and senior staff since January 1, 2011, be made available to the public. Specifically, I request that my blog – guelphspeaks.ca – receive this information. It can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
With respect, given the circumstances, I suggest that in the public interest it would be useful to reverse this decision and allow residents full disclosure.
I would be interested if the city is an associate member of the CAJ and therefore subject to its bylaws and more specifically, its Ethics document. If it is not a member, then perhaps that Association may be interested in how the organization is being used to stifle legitimate news and comment by the City of Guelph.
Thank you for your cooperation.
Mr. Amorosi was good to his word and never replied to my request. It revealed that the city was not going to respond to requests for public information including expense accounts.
It was the early start of a pattern to restrict public information involving decisions, high cost public projects, executive payments and Human Resoures issues by the Farbridge administration.
Is Mr. Amorosi right to deny public information to the citizens, even when a respectful request is made?
Perhaps he has good reason.