By Gerry Barker
July 9, 2018
In 2006, some 12 years ago, the Mayor elect, Karen Farbridge, campaigned on the slogan “She will put Guelph back on track.”
Well, eight years with Karen Farbridge and four years of Cam Guthrie, has created the train wreck that is the legacy of three election cycles being dominated by the successive council’s being stymied by the leftist majority In the case of the Guthrie administration the leftist majority driving up debt and escalating property taxes and user fees.
After monitoring and writing this for those 12 years it is not rocket science to know what has happened to successive administrations. Three councils all made promises they never kept. But the two Farbridge administrations set the the downward glide of excessive spending and mismanagement.
Remember the new downtown main library? A promise made by then Mayor Farbridger and not kept. Cam Guthrie made that same promise. We still have no new downtown library.
Remember the Urbacon disaster in which the Farbridge administration wasted more than $23 million to complete the new city hall complex that was originally contracted to cost $42 million?
It cost Farbridge and four of her councillors their jobs in 2014.
The doozy of bad deals occurred December 13, 2017 when by a 10-3 cote, council approved the merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra utilities in which there was no payment by Alectra for the estimated $300 million Guelph Hydro distribution system.
That agreement is now before the Ontario Energy Board and some citizens have been approved to intervene when the hearing is held.
Turning to Mayor Cam Guthrie’s performance, his penchant to hold closed-session meetings of council led to the infamous secret increases to four senior managers in December 2010. The cost came to $98,202 with Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, receiving more than $37,000 most of it was a $27,000 retroactive performance bonus.
Pappert resigned four months later but stuck around until May 26, 2016 then left. The provincial 2016 Sunshine List revealed she was paid $263,000 for five months work.
Couple that with the seven months performed in 2016 by her successor, Derrick Thomson, and the cost of paying the two CAO’s in 2016 was $397,166 not including taxable benefits. In Mr. Thomson’s case, his taxable benefit was an additional $11,000.
This all happened under the leadership of Mayor Guthrie. Aside from the Finance department and members of council, 99 per cent of citizens would never know how much that December 10, 2015 closed-session would impact the citizens. That is until guelphspeaks.ca revealed it.
Then a couple of weeks ago, Council by an 8-5 vote approved increasing the Mayor’s salary from $122,000 to 152,000. The 12 city councillors were also given an addition $5,000 increase.
These increases were made to maintain the take-home pay of all councillors because the Federal government has cancelled the one-third portion of their income that used to be tax-free.
Now here’s what happened.
The Remuneration Advisory Committee, appointed by council, recommended that 12 councillors should receive the increases but not the Mayor. Four days after that decision was published, council awarded the Mayor the increase in order to retain his take-home pay.
Then the Mayor voted to increase his new salary and that of the councillors.
The question, was this a conflict of interest? Five councillors who voted against the motion seemed to think it was. These council salary approvals are always a difficult decision. I happen to advocate that all elected position salary should be greater in order to attract qualified candidates but reflect the increasing workload as the city grows rapidly..
In the case of the Mayor he should have recused himself.
It reflects the deep-seated disregard of that business that is troubling and must change.
I don’t disagree with the increases to elected officials, just the way it was handled that leads to public mistrust. Something that’s not a good idea in an election year.
I do not agree with the method of choosing salary and benefit increases by senior management. Those salary and benefits of senior managers should be determined by an outside body to avoid further conflicts of interest.
Final example. When Mr. Thomson was appointed CAO in June 2016, he said his contract was for three years at a salary of $230,000 plus a taxable benefit of $11,000.
The 2017 Sunshine list revealed his salary was more than $260,000.