By Gerry Barker
November 28, 2016
Whether he knows it or not, Mayor Cam Guthrie is in an almost identical political pickle as Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
The Premier charges donors to pay for access to her ministers at classy soirees.
Cam Guthrie allows the Guelph Chamber of Commerce to charge citizens $50 to attend a breakfast meeting in which he will deliver his “State of the City” address next January. You can save $5 if you buy your ticket now. Talk about a captive audience.
Sounds like it’s a twist on the Wynne pay for access fund-raising tactic that has forced her to change the rules of corporate donations to political parties.
Last week, a misty-eyed premier admitted to some 850 Liberals, gathered in Ottawa, that she had made mistakes about hydroelectric power and its high cost to citizens.
Mistakes? Really, Madame Premier, get a grip on reality and skip the crocodile tears.
But let’s get back to our own reality show
This is budget season. The city administration has been bending over backwards to inform the citizens of the details of what I call “budget prep.” The city website is loaded with information that leaves out all the hoary details of the cost of running the city. Depending on the average citizen’s ability on a computer to wade through the labyrinth of detail that, in most cases, artfully only tells part of the story. Only the part that they want you to see, that is.
It’s a carefully designed plan for the administration to claim that it is running an open and transparent government.
The operation, that falls under the management of DCAO Mark Amorosi, who wears so many hats as head of Corporate Services that gives him complete control of the message.
Here’s how: Mr. Amorosi is chief of Finance, Human Recourses, the City Clerk’s Office, Corporate Communications and Services, Information Technology, Project Management and Court Services.
It’s safe to say that Mr. Amorosi has a lot to say about the 2017 budget, his third since taking over the city Finance department in November 2014. That’s a lot of power vested in one senior manager.
Tomorrow night, November 29, at the West End Community Centre just off the Elmira Road, Mayor Cam Guthrie will hold a Town Hall meeting to answer questions about the 2017 city budget: It starts at 7 p.m.
Getting the handle on the truth and facts
If anyone should know what’s going on in the run-up of approving the 2017 budget on December 7, it’s Mr. Guthrie.
As a public service, guelphspeaks.ca offers the following questions for the Mayor’s response.
* You promised in the 2014 election campaign to keep property tax increases to the rate of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In your first budget, your council approved an increase of 3.96 per cent while the CPI for 2014 was 1.99 per cent. What happened?
* On the final day of approving the 2016 budget, December 10, 2015, you convened a closed-session of council to approve 2015 pay increases to three top managers of more than $98,000. Do you believe this decision failed the test of open and transparent government?
* Why did you believe it was necessary to convene a closed session to approve the 2015 top management increases when the fiscal year was almost over?
* Were these increases included in the 2015 budget, approved by council March 25, 2015?
* Did you vote to pay those increases?
* Whose interests do you serve? That of the people, whom you represent, or the public staff that received those large increases?
* When did you know that Chief Administrative Officer, (CAO) Ann Pappert, was leaving the city?
* When did you know what the three senior managers were proposing in that December 10 closed-session meeting?
* Do you believe that the public has the right to know details of staff compensation?
* The Provincial government policy is to reveal the names, compensation and job title for every public servant in Ontario earning more than $100,000, why do you not believe it applies to Guelph?
* Why did you agree to not reveal the council closed-session decision, knowing full well that details would be published in the March 2016 Sunshine List?
* Were any of the three senior managers receiving those increases involved in conducting performance and market reviews to determine who gets how much and why?
* Why did you threaten legal action against citizen Rena Akerman who distributed a documented list of the failed performance of CAO Pappert over four years?
Why did you comment that you were disturbed that that staff was being questioned in ”this way?”
Why do you consistently ignore the public and defend the senior staff?
This would not happen in a private corporation
In a private corporation, if top managers tried to line their pockets such as this, without supporting their action with facts and figures, they would be out of a job. The problem in Guelph is that oversight of top management is almost non-existent.
Typically, the council should be responsible for protecting the public interests because they are the elected representatives of the people.
That December 10, 2015 closed-session meeting of council revealed the weakness of our elected officials to stand up to such blatant misuse of power by the paid senior managers.
Today, the stark reality of a paucity use of power by our Mayor only perpetuates as long as he holds office. He is not alone as the council majority continues to control the city’s public business with obstructive interference or no remorse.
Consider this: If the three top administration managers can persuade a gutless council to approve $98,000 worth of pay increases in secret session, why can we expect anything to change?
The cities of Brampton and Ottawa have figured it out by gutting paid management staff to improve efficiencies that will work for the electorate and not the hired help.
One final fact: The Guelph staff is proposing a staff increase of 13 for 2017. Of that number, seven are earning more than $100,000 a year. The total 2017 cost for the 13 is $1,304,850.
Since the 2014 election there have been some 45 new employees added to the staff.
These hires contribute to the excessive operating overhead that has been created in the past ten years without any serious staff rationalization.