It’s half time for Mayor Cam Guthrie and his administration and it’s not looking good

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.

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20 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

20 responses to “It’s half time for Mayor Cam Guthrie and his administration and it’s not looking good

  1. Joe Black

    Two more years Cam and bye bye.

  2. John McCuaig

    I believe this council needs to go back to school to learn some basics like math for 1 example. Although I have tried to get some explanation on our wastewater charges, and not complaining of our increased charges but the fact that they are giving away our services, has been totally a waste of a year due to the fact that they don’t care. For 10.00 M3 of water I paid a total of $26.26 for wastewater to equal $2.626 M3 while Rockwood gets their wastewater processed for $1.23 M3. And yet by council’s math Rockwood pays more for wastewater services?

  3. Guido

    Gerry, it appears that this meeting is dealing with the 2017 budget. It is unlikely that he will answer any question that does not deal with the budget.
    Maybe he should hold a press conference? Has it ever happened in Guelph !!!

  4. Barry

    A pretty slick response (his keeper) to Guido considering the fine state of affairs you just got yourself into. I guess like Kenny Rogers said in his song “you gotta know when to fold them” as in certain comments.

    • guelphspeaks reader

      Barry, are you now backing a “certain DCAO” whose “keepers”, and now also his “protectors” are the ratepayers of Guelph?
      I sure didn’t vote for that.
      According to the article in Guelph Today, part of the damages endured by the DCAO are: “Barker made no attempt to confirm facts,”
      If it wasn’t so pathetic, this would be funny. But it is, and it’s not.
      I support the right of the media, and the public, to investigate and disseminate what is happening at City Hall. Don’t you?

  5. Barry

    No I’m not backing the Keeper as Gerry called him for obvious legal reasons, but enough was enough with the constant bashing of an individual. Gerry made his point many times (and now may wish he hadn’t) but articles like Pat Fung’s are factual I hope and deserve answers but not the continued harassment of an individual or those that left employment in our City. Where the Keeper he lives is mute in my opinion. Just look at traffic on Woodlawn Road entering Guelph each morning between 7-9am and they don’t live here but I’m sure they work here. Putting pressure on an Administration for answers is great, but with facts that require answers not demeaning a person’s character constantly. I began to get distracted by always having Gerry’ so called Keeper front and center in all his articles instead of providing more proven facts like Pat’s two articles. And Yes I worry about City hall and it’s continued annual expansion and potential waste of tax payer dollars. The Mayor is only one vote out of 13. Maybe we will all have a chance to address this next time we vote in two years. so to end this waste of my time, my suggestion is concentrate on the facts only and not degrading peoples characters.

  6. Barry

    Gerry you are correct as we all have our opinion and it’s great you voted for Cam as I did.but my issue was finding your blogs being clouded constantly by your distain for the Keeper as you call him. I think you made your point the first time you expressed it but I think you lose your audience by repeating them constantly. Facts presented such as Pat Fung’s, are helpful in all of us deciding whom to elect next election unless we get some answers. I guess you missed what I thought were some legitimate concerns that I expressed above.

    • Barry: Thanks for the comment. Your opinion is important. People who read my posts are increasing in number. As I have explained, I have been writing about the City 0f Guelph’s administration for ten years. As a resident and consumer of services, I have witnessed wasteful spending and awful mismanagement of the public money that has resulted in the City having one of the highest property tax rates and user fees in Ontario. As a taxpayer, I take exception to this.

  7. guelphspeaks reader

    The annual auditor-general’s report out today describes the typical list of government misspending and manipulating of laws to spend millions upon millions in public money portraying itself as wonderful and effective. This report will be news for exactly one day. We recently heard similar stories about Toronto, where incredible amounts of Viagra are being bought for city employees, and the numbers of employees on long term disability is skyrocketing. Why don’t cities like Guelph get to hear about audits of their city employees and operations? Why are citizens who attempt to bring numbers forward called “disturbing” and threatened with lawsuits funded by the public, who are already paying for numerous court actions involving city employees, and also paying millions to lawsuits lost by the city. How many lawsuits? Well, we don’t know, do we? Would we like to know? I’m guessing a yes to that from most citizens. Shouldn’t there be a public list of lawsuits currently engaged in and paid for by the City?
    Would citizens like to know more about how and why the tendering process was changed for DE/CEI/GMHI contracts? Who got the contracts, and what was received for that money? Probably! But we don’t have an auditor-general in Guelph. We do have an internal auditor, though, and back when J Shuttleworth was covering city hall, she wrote about how the audit list approved by the committee, chaired by K Wettstein, was then changed by management. Check it out:
    http://www.guelphmercury.com/news-story/5547068-guelph-mayor-cautions-city-staff-for-over-riding-councillor-decisions/
    Those who claim that management and staff are just doing council’s bidding, and thus innocent victims of public criticism are apparently off the mark. And in cases where politicians were presumably running the show, like GMHI, they refuse accountability. What citizen can launch a lawsuit over the travesty of that, and the lost millions and millions that went with it, while infrastructure went unattended? Considering the actual facts of what happened are being kept secret, what would a lawsuit even be based on? Is there not something wrong with this scenario? At least one citizen has the courage to write about it, with numbers.
    When people involved in jobs and positions that should be open to public scrutiny turn away from providing accountability, hire their own “communications departments” (that are larger and better paid than actual media) claim innocence and play the victim card, yet are undamaged enough to still cash their paycheque, it speaks volumes.

    • Louis

      Yea but it just shows how criticism of the city pretty much leads to the management doing this I call it an attack on freedom of speech ,

      The CAO wins the city shows that anyone critical of the city can get sued. And it doesn’t care about freedom of speech as long as they have money they can bully people

      Gerry wins, then we know the city will probably get in a lot of trouble.

      Either way it’s lose lose for the city.

  8. Louis

    http://www.cyberlibel.com/?p=1089

    I suggest people read up on this

    Under the fundamental freedoms heading is a paragraph that mentions this.

    citizens should be able to make defamatory statements about government without the threat of civil action. They argue that if citizens believe that a particular government is corrupt or immoral (statements which could be defamatory of an individual), they should be able to say so even if they are ultimately wrong. They submit that, as an essential element of a healthy democracy, citizens have a right to be wrong when they criticize government, and regardless of what defences are ultimately available, the prospect of having to incur legal expenses to defend an action for defamation will have a chilling effect on government criticism.

    So basically the DCAO doesn’t have a case,

  9. Tony

    From the same link as louis under the conclusion heading at the bottom.

    1. Ontario municipalities probably cannot sue for libel.
    2. The law is less certain in other jurisdictions across Canada, particularly in British Columbia.
    3. Individual councillors or municipal employees can sue for libel and it may even be permissible for the local government to fund the lawsuit if it fits within the parameters of an indemnification policy (i.e. the defamatory comments were made with respect to the municipal employee’s performance of his public duties).
    However, if the individual councillor or staff member is not expressly named, the legal issue will be whether they are capable of being referred to by the article. In addition, this issue must be determined in the circumstances of each individual case

  10. guelphspeaks reader

    Ontario passed the “Protection of Public Participation Act” in 2015.
    https://news.ontario.ca/mag/en/2015/10/protection-of-public-participation-act.html
    Lots of legal articles about this online, regarding the overall dim view of SLAPP lawsuits.

    • Louis

      Aren’t SLAPP suits more for let’s say commercial, industrial and residential development? I know a few years back the city was thinking of using it on some people occupying Hanlon Creek

  11. Ian

    I will be very upset if the City is financing this claim.

  12. Barry

    Ian you can bank on it since it is concerning a City employee doing his job and being challenged over how he is doing it. Why do you think they hired a Toronto lawyer!!

    • Louis

      Because they need a good lawyer and the feel for defamation suits for a case like this the judge may wantall the books on the city opened

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