Denial continues, aided and abetted by the “independent” closed session investigator

By Gerry Barker

March 3, 2017

You have to be amused when the lonely weekly reportedly quoted a report by the so-called “independent” closed session Investigator, chastising the council for holding its meetings past midnight because it denied public participation

The Investigator, London –based Amberley-Gravel, took four months to come up with t its decision that council acted legally December 10, 2015 when, in closed session, it awarded $98,202 to three of the top executives. Two of the three are no longer employed by the city.

There is still one of three remaining, Derrick Thomson, who, like a Phoenix, has risen from his almost job with another municipality. In the wake of the 2016 provincial Sunshine List revealing in March 2016, the $98,202 2015 increases, he became the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). His current salary plus taxable benefit is $240,000.

He had the recent distinction of firing one of his colleagues, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO), Mark Amorosi, who received a $26,000 increase for his service in 2015 taking his salary to $216,000. The day after firing on February 8, The CAO praised him for his “valuable contributions to the City of Guelph.” Mr. Amorosi had been with the city since 2007. He never explained why Mr. Amorosi was fired. Also, there was no mention of the financial package he received upon leaving.

The CAO also went out of his way to say that Mr. Amorosi would have his legal expenses paid by the city despite being summarily dismissed. He referenced the lawsuit commenced by Mr. Amorosi against me with a claim of $500,000 for alleged defamation.

Would someone explain to me just how that works?

He was apparently fired because he failed to monitor the Information Technology department of which he was responsible. This was because of the 53,000 emails contained in an external drive was sent to former Chief Building Inspector, Bruce Poole’s, lawyer. It was part of an examination for discovery regarding the $1 million lawsuit brought by Mr. Poole for wrongful dismissal.

Now follow closely because events occurred at warp speed

Tony Saxon, columnist in the online Guelph Today, revealed on Friday morning February 3, that the deluge of emails contained all kinds of private information about a large number of people and not related to the Poole case.

This information came from Mr. Poole’s lawyer and Mr. Saxon reported parts of it.

The city went into high operating mode and demanded the lawyer return the drive. It notified the Privacy Commissioner of the error and promised anyone mentioned in the emails would be notified.

That did not occur until a few days later when the Poole case was settled by mediation with the results being confidential. The drive was returned.

Once again, secrecy surrounds the outcome of this chain of events that would display incompetence, sloppiness, abuse of the public trust and yet to be known are further legal expenses by potential aggrieved victims.

In the middle of this, Donna Jaques, the City Solicitor, left her job. The city was forced to hire outside legal counsel to manage the situation.

So the city has no Chief Financial Officer, no City Solicitor. A rookie DCAO, Colleen Clack, was drafted to take over the Corporate Services department that was run by Mr. Amorosi, plus her regular responsibilities as chief of city operations.

The senior management team of CAO Thomson, DCAO’s Scott Stewart and Ms. Clack is running the city that three years ago, had six executive directors running the show.

In fairness, the three top managers have their hands full and it could take months to bolster the top management team. There is talent around but the city’s reputation as being a tough place to work because of the political control and atmosphere makes the recruiting complicated. It’s not a case about the money but the work environment. Losing 12 senior managers in the last two years has not helped the city’s reputation.

I have no confidence that city council will change its reputation or direction. Mayor Guthrie, whom I voted for, has been unable to rein in the spending as he promised. Also he has not been able to convince council to conduct an independent audit along with a staff rationalization.

Mayor took action to disclose the GMHI disaster.

The evidence is there to see that mismanagement of the city continues to spiral down, due to millions lost because of a series of social engineering projects introduced by former Mayor Farbridge. To his credit, Mayor Guthrie did trigger exposure of the Guelph Municipal Holdings/Guelph Hydro financial disaster.

But then he supports the Strategic Options Committee that has no elected officials on it, by agreeing to spend $600,000 to complete it’s work.

Then, he voted to recommend the sale/merger of Guelph Hydro. That 8-5 vote by city council sounded like a rejection, but the comments of councillors negated it because many, including the Mayor, wanted more options.

For another $500,000, we may get a definitive answer: To sell or not to sell, that is the question.

There were five councillors who voted to sell/merge Guelph Hydro. They are the Mayor, Councillors Phil Allt, Mark McKinnon, Karl Wettstein and June Hofland.

By mid-year (whatever that means) the SOC is to report its findings.

Here are some predictions:

First, a lot will depend on how much pressure is brought by citizens on members of council to reject selling or merging the utility.

Next, is the timing of the SOC recommendations following a series of closed session meetings of council. It won’t be in August because council is at the beach. It might be in July when a lot of citizens are watching their lawns and gardens wither from water restrictions or they are on vacation. These could include the members of the SOC.

The only card the administration has is to convince the citizens that they have negotiated this great deal that will flood the coffers of the city with cash.

Wettstein and McKinnon will get their $65 million South End recreation centre.

The Mayor will have a good news story to get re-elected in 2018.

Phil Allt will ask for more options.

June Hofland, well, she will feel vindicated of her role as chair of finance.

Happy days are here again!

And our electricity and water bills will soar under new ownership of Hydro. Water bills go up every year regardless of a diminished use of the stuff. In the summer we can shower but cannot water the lawn when it needs it.

We can’t blame that on Nestle.

 

 

 

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6 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

6 responses to “Denial continues, aided and abetted by the “independent” closed session investigator

  1. Joe Black

    I thought Montreal/Quebec was the most corrupt.

  2. Glen

    Once again the taxpayers are being abused and left wondering when the next assault on their wallets will occur. The only package anybody terminated for cause in “the real world” would get would be a cardboard box to put their personal effects in as they were unceremoniously escorted from the premises. Will the taxpayers ever know if there was a sweetheart deal as a DCAO is shown the door? In the same vein, in the real world if an employee took it upon him/her self to sue a citizen, would anybody expect the employer ( a.k.a. City of Guelph) to foot the legal bill? Now that the Poole case has been settled via mediation, before the contents of the now infamous USB drive were read into a public court document, will citizens ever find out the cost of this legal action? Will whomever initiated the firing and signed off on it be held responsible for the costly fiasco? When will the total cost of the whole GMHI boondoggle be tallied up and presented to taxpayers by a long fingered proctologist? Wasn’t there some guy hired by the city on a 3 year contract to deal with transparency who should provide details of the preceding capers? If a person decides to multi-task by showering via running “starkers” thru the sprinkler on his/her front lawn due to watering restrictions & costs, will that qualify the city for a social engineering green award? So many unanswered questions, so much wasted money, so little transparency. Only in Guelph you say? Pity.

  3. Randy

    “Wasn’t there some guy hired by the city on a 3 year contract to deal with transparency who should provide details of the preceding capers? ”

    I believe you are referring to a person named Andy Best who was hired as “Open Government Program Manager”. However, his position appears to have recently changed to “Advisor, Service Design and Innovation” at the City of Guelph. I am not sure what duties this involves (although I do notice him being the contact person to provide feedback on guelph.ca’s trial menu system called “I want to”). I do not see anyone as having replaced him the former role, so am not sure if there is still a person to contact for matters related to “open government”.

    • Randy: My understanding is that Andy Best was hired on a contract basis in March 2015 as Open Government Program manager. That program was launched in 2013 by the former administration. Mr. Best was a key supporter of the former Mayor acting as online activities advisor. The city paid him $92,000 on a one year contract that has subsequently been renewed. I heard that he was transferred into Information Technology but was not aware of his duties or whether he is now a permanent employee.

  4. Fred

    1. How many firefighters do we have? How many of them will be earning $97,000 a year by this summer? How many fires did they put out in 2016?

    2. Why would the price of water increase when it’s coming out of the ground in the same normal pattern? Private companies are taking it out of the ground almost for free. Why can’t tax payers get it at the same rate?

    3. When Wynne lowers the cost of electricity, will it be reflected on my bill?
    Or will the city grab the difference to fund one of its utopian projects?

  5. Fred

    “How the Protection of Public Participation Act Helps Ontarians

    The Protection of Public Participation Act, 2015 helps protect the rights of Ontario residents to speak out on public issues without the fear of being faced with a strategic lawsuit by allowing the courts to use a fast-track process to identify and dismiss strategic lawsuits quickly.”

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