By Gerry Barker
February 13, 1019
Who agreed to “part ways” with Thomson out the door and no explanation for a quick exit?
Near the end of last week the announcement was made that Chief Administrative Officer Derrick Thomson had “parted ways with the city.”
Who decided he had to leave so abruptly, Thomson or Council?
The public has the right to know why the Chief Administrative Officer of the city was summarily dropped.
Was it something he said? Did he pixxed-off certain members of council including the Mayor?
Was it so terrible that neither party wanted to reveal the details?
Or was it a personality conflict between certain members of council?
Did he misappropriate public funds?
Or was it because of health issues?
Or has he accepted another job, like he did in 2016?
So what does the Mayor do? He calls yet another closed-session meeting and, to illustrate why this council fails once again and bungles another serious senior staff development.
Witness the witless creation of a Troika assigning three Deputy Chief Administrative Officers to run the store for six months while the search seeking a new boss goes on.
Is this not a crisis where three senior staff is assigned to perform the duties of an absent CAO?
This is a dumb idea. Forcing a committee of three top managers to fill in for their former boss only exemplifies the lack of business management experience of most members of council.
There is no succession plan in place for senior management. To create this Troika is an example of the misfits of knowledge by city council.
Council, in secret session has created this awkward senior management structure by increasing their compensation for up to six months following the appointment of a new CFO of the city.
This commuter is not to disparage the ability of the three remaining DCAO’s who are capable and worthy candidates for the job.
I don’t envy the situation on which the council has put them.
In the middle of the 2019 Budget creation, why did this happen?
Since 2006, there has been four CAO’s heading the city staff: Larry Kotseff, Hans Loewig, Ann Pappert and Derrick Thomson. Of the four only one actually lived in Guelph. A year following Ms. Pappert’s appointment, council gave her $20,000 to move from Waterloo to Guelph.
Of course the city should conduct a search for a new CAO and select a candidate with an independent view and ready to clean house of the dominant partisan council.
We need a CAO who understands the role of staff is to serve the public interest and not to bury those rights behind closed doors.
The record shows that the city administration have wasted millions on building a new city hall; the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc financial loss of $63 million of shareholder value; the giveaway of Guelph Hydro; the bike lane network expansion; subsidizing Guelph Transit support of a variety of services to the University of Guelph, including low property taxes on the largest land owner in the city.
These are just a handful that has drained the Guelph Treasury for projects that often lacked a business plan. Most important has been the neglect of the city infrastructure, some of which is 200 years old.
Despite warnings from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and more recently from the city staff that has put a $450 million price tag on infrastructure renewal and replacement.
In its usual response, city staff recommended to council to place a special levy of 2 per cent for infrastructure work on property taxpayers.
Even that was bungled when council decided to split the levy with 1 per cent dedicated to “City Buildings.” Sponsored by Councillors Karl Wettstein and Mark MacKinnon, the money went to the proposed South End $63 million Recreation Centre.
It was learned that professional outside planners had spent some $3.5 million on preliminary site and design of the complex.
There has been no budget planning in the capital budget for this project. It is only one example of the voodoo financial management of council, most of whom don’t understand a balance sheet or a business plan or the correlation of each. But that’s what we have a staff for, right?
Mind you, I believe the city now has much stronger and experienced senior managers to maintain fiscal responsibity and management practices.
That’s why citizens should be concerned about Mr. Thomson’s sudden departure that has not been explained.
Once the money has been spent, we cannot get it back.
That’s why it will be most important to hire a CAO of experience, proven performance and that old standby, guts, to steer our city to create a balanced and affordable community for all citizens.
We wish council Godspeed in this search for a new CAO.