By Gerry Barker
November 10, 2016
It is now evident that Guelph citizens are starting to catch on to why and how those huge salary increases were awarded to Ann Pappert, Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson last December 10, 2015 in closed session.
Coun. Cathy Downer asked Human Resources for an explanation of the former Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Ann Pappert’s 17.11 per cent increase in 2015.
The explanation is a study in obfuscation and corruptive practice. Most interesting, did Ms. Downer break council’s Code of Conduct by asking HR for details of Ms. Pappert’s 2015 increase? The Code of Conduct binds councillors not to reveal details of closed-session meetings or face investigation by the Integrity Commissioner.
First, here is how the City of Guelph power structure works:
Under the present bylaws, the CAO has absolute control over all members of the staff. Council can question the CAO but is prevented from questioning the performance of the staff reporting to the CAO without his or her consent. This would include the Deputy Chief Administrative Officers Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson.
Council does have the power to select the CAO and it is essential there exist a cozy relationship between the CAO and council. Otherwise why would council appoint someone with whom they could not get along? In this case,council chose Derrick Thomson to be CAO.
During the eight-year twin terms of the Farbridge administration, the former mayor selected just two CAO’s, Hans Loewig and Ann Pappert. This gave the former mayor absolute control over her two hand picked CAO’s.
This ended October 2014 when Cam Guthrie defeated the mayor.
Starting December 1, 2014, Mayor Guthrie inherited most of the senior staffers who had been appointed during the Farbridge years. These included CAO Ann Pappert, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Mark Amorosi, DCAO Derrick Thomson and former Chief Financial Officer Al Horsman who was demoted to DCAO of Waste Management and Environmental Services. He resigned and left the city in August 2015.
The job of overseeing Finances was handed to DCAO Mark Amorosi who already was in charge of Human Resources (HR).
The stage was now set for council to complete the 2015 budget. It pulled the blind down on public participation until the 2016 budget meetings held in November and December of last year. But it did not include details of the December 10, 2015 closed-session meeting when council awarded that hefty remuneration increases to three top staffers.
Fast forward to October 2016
Two budgets later, the bloom was coming off the rose of Ms. Pappert’s five-year career as the city’s CAO. Last March, when a citizen publically questioned the performance of Ms. Pappert for those five years, Mayor Guthrie threatened legal action against the citizen. Cooler heads prevailed and the threat disappeared.
Now this occurrence was key to what really happened during the Dec 10 closed session
Coun. Cathy Downer asked HR for an explanation of the 17.11 per cent raise for Ms. Pappert. She was told the CAO’s increase was only two per cent for 2015 or $229,639. That was an increase of $9,982.
But then HR reported they were advised that in 2015, the date not identified, council approved a two-year retroactive performance-based increase for Ms. Pappert with an effective date of October 17, 2013. That retro pay increase of $18,624 was included in the 2015 pay package for Ms. Pappert.
Now common sense would say that the performance payment would increase her 2015 base salary to $248,263 or an increase of $28,606. At this stage, that is a 13.20 one-year increase. But there is more, follow the bouncing ball for clarity.
According to HR, council also approved a vacation pay top-up of $18,589. But there is a need for explanation here including why the numbers do not add up, (248,263 + 18,589 = $266,852).
The city reported to the Province that Ms. Pappert’s 2015 salary as $257,248, that is $9,604 less than the $266,852.
How is it possible for citizens to follow this when it is covered up?
Let’s look at that vacation payout to Ms. Pappert. According to HR, the Non-Union and Management Compensation policy to that staff only permits a carry over of one week of vacation a year. At her rate of compensation for 2015, Ms. Pappert carried over the equivalent of 3.757 weeks in the 2015 pay period.
Ms Pappert’s base salary including that two-year retro increase adjustment became $248,263. But in 2014 she received an increase of $5,055.
Why did the present council decide to give Ms. Pappert such a generous performance increase backdated for two years on top of the 2014 increase of $5,055? Especially when the former CAO was under fire for performance issues related to her job?
Mr. Amorosi is on record stating the Ms. Pappert did not receive an increase in 2014 because she did not request one from the HR department. But that’s not what the Sunshine List says. Her 2014 salary was $219,657.
The Sunshine List can only report the salary information provided by the city. In this case, the city HR department is trying to justify exorbitant senior staff salary increases by claiming that retroactive payments and a vacation roll over charge of $18,589 are one-time events.
Sorry HR but performance payments once awarded are permanent and not one-time events. Performance recognizes the employee’s contribution to the job and increases the base pay. In this case it is academic because we now know Ms. Pappert was leaving.
What about the two other big salaries increases to Mr. Amorosi and Mr. Thomson?
Ms. Downer did not ask for an HR rationalization of why Amorosi and Thomson were also awarded large increases. Remember, CAO Pappert would have recommended those increases to council as Amorosi and Thomson reported to her.
The question remains: Who decided what Ann Pappert’s retroactive bonus would be? Was it Mark Amorosi’s responsibility to measure the performance of staff? If he played any role in setting the Pappert retro payments, he was in a conflict of interest because he reported to her.
Here’s what I think really happened December 10
It’s plain that Ann Pappert was planning her exit from Guelph. The clues are her acceptance of a vacation allowance totaling 3.75 weeks, not one week each year, as allowed under the Non-Union and Managerial compensation policy.
Confidentiality was vital to concealing the details of this monetary transfer of power. Pappert was on the hunt for a new job and she landed with the Ontario government as an Assistant Deputy Minister in the Tourism, Culture and Sport Ministry In October. At the start of 2016, she needed that four months, employed by the city, to keep the lid on her personal action plan until the Sunshine List hit the news in March.
Did Guelph MPP and Liberal Cabinet Minister, Liz Sandals, play a role helping Pappert land her new job?
Ms. Pappert resigned 56 days after publication of the Sunshine List in March. Derrick Thomson was appointed to replace her shortly afterwards. Mark Amorosi was still in charge of Finances and HR plus City Clerk’s office, corporate communications and customer service, court services, information technology, and the project management office.
Why on earth was there any reason to award Ms. Pappert that retroactive pay increase dated back to October 2013 when it was clear she was leaving? Easy, it was needed for her resume’.
If the previous council failed to award a performance increase to Ms. Pappert for more than a year prior to 2015, why did this council feel it was necessary?
Wasn’t it obvious why Ms. Pappert was allowed to roll over all that unused vacation time of $18,589 in direct conflict with the None-Union Management protocol? It is one that only allows one week per year? It appears she received part of it for the budget years 2013, 2014 and 2015 plus the four months and 26 days for 2016. How did HR document that in it submission to the Province?
Were these council decisions regarding the three senior staffers made December 10, 2015 in closed session?
Why was it imperative for council to approve backdated performance increases that were never reported in the 2014 or 2015 Sunshine Lists?
Did Ms. Pappert tell council she was leaving during that Dec. 10 closed meeting?
This whole Pappert bundling exercise is nothing but HR window dressing. It remains a cover up by city council with the assistance of the HR staff led by Mark Amorosi. Regardless of the HR staff explanation and outcome, Ms. Pappert’s salary for 2015 was $257,248 or $37, 591 over her 2014 Sunshine salary of $219,657. It is not two per cent but 17.11 per cent.
HR can slice and dice it whichever way they choose but Ms. Pappert’s 2015 pay package increase was 17.11 per cent. The same people who were in on it reported that total to the Provincial government December 31, 2015.
This is further proof that the former mayor’s controlling bylaws and secrecy continues to allow elected officials to conceal the public’s business.
It’s time for it to stop
Having said that, it is refreshing to see that CAO Derrick Thomson is opening up details of his compensation package and identifying three city operations to be examined this year in rationalization studies.
It’s one small step for clarity and one small step for Guelph. (Attribution: Astronaut Neil Armstrong landing on the moon).
The good news is that finally the truth of this closed session meeting is being revealed.
Other good news is that I have issued a complaint to the city’s hired Closed Session Investigator, requesting the minutes and voting of that Dec. 10 meeting of council that gave out these increases to three top managers. The detailed complaint, (it will be published later in guelphspeaks.ca) was delivered to City Clerk Stephen O’Brien on Monday, November 7. Stay turned, the outcome of this investigation will be reported in www.guelphspeaks.ca.