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.