Monthly Archives: September 2019

Questions about a flawed city Strategic Plan to be implemented between 2019 and 2023

By Gerry Barker

September 30, 2019

Opinion

This past week, city council approved its new Strategic Plan for the next four years.

It’s my guess, learned from past experience, that this is another warm over of similar promises and failed action plans made by city administrations since 2007.

It reminds me of an old pop song in which the words and music keep repeating in my ear, “Zippedy Do Daw, what a wonderful thing.”

This proclamation is a dreadful collection of goals and directives but totally does not consider the details of running this city and how council and staff manage our corporate administration.

I am betting that this document will not be read and absorbed by most citizens.

Absorption is the key word here.

Let’s examine the details of the road map of progress as Mayor Guthrie put it.

Setting Clear Directions

“The plan has been developed through the comprehensive consultation process with staff and council and, incorporated input from more than 10,000 community members obtained through the development of Guelph’s Community Plan.”

Who were these community members? How were they selected? When was the list compiled? How was the data analyzed? Did city council approve and rely on the information of this poll? Did members of couical examine the poll results or was it prepared as a summary by staff?

In view of this, were all 131,000 citizens offered the opportunity to express their views on the future of their community?

How does the community sample account for the 22.000 University of Guelph students who arrive every September and leave, for the most part in April?

Not only the University students temporarily living in Guelph, there is absolutely no accounting of the impact on the permanent residents. They worry about the growing stress of providing vital public services such as police, EMS, the Guelph General Hospital and Guelph Transit.

The Guelph Police Services Board (GPSB) is in the process of asking for an increase of 31 additional officers. That’s an added estimated cost of $2.325 million to the police budget. That’s $17.74 for each of the 131000 citizens. Even adjusted to do the math for all taxpayers, it’s still a bargain to support the police.

The GPSB is composed of five members, two appointed by the province, plusthe Mayor Guthrie and Councillor Christine Billings and one appointed by city city council.

While the makeup of the GPSB has changed over the years, there has been an ongoing problem that has not been increased annual. Officers meet the demands of a growing population resulting in increased overtime costs, burnout and attrition.

Chair of the Downtown Guelph Business Association, Marty Williams, put it bluntly: “We need more boots on the ground.”

There is no denying, that to meet the needs of a growing population by the next Statscan census, Guelph’s population could be more than 142,000. Couple this with the drug problem in the city particularly in the downtown area, and there is no action plan to address these needs.

Here are the Strategic Plan’s priorities

* Powering our future by growing our economy.

Question: How? Economic development has been a disaster with the percentage ratio of residential assessment and industrial-commercial remaining stuck at 84-16 in 13 years. The average ratio in Ontario municipalities is 60-40

* Sustain our future by sustaining our environment.

Question: Does that includes the loss of $66 million by Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc between 2011 and 2015?

* Navigating our future through a connected transportation network.

Question: Does that include removing two lanes of vehicle roadways to accommodate bicycle lanes? See environment above.

* Working together for our future by modernizing our government.

Question: Does this mean reducing the city council’s closed-sessions, thereby operating an open government, with accountability and transparency?

* Building our future as a welcoming and complete community.

Question: Does this mean that property taxes will be lower based on reducing overhead costs of operations that are greater than most peer municipalities? Until recently, Guelph has not attracted businesses that bring good job opportunities and assessment.

This Strategic Plan is nothing but platitudes and little real substance.

Think about it. No mention of the three major capital projects, Downtown Library, South End Recreation Complex and the Wilson Street Parkade to provide parking for the most part, for public employees next door to their place of work.

Just those three projects, two to be built and one under construction, total in today’s dollars is $152 million. Council has already increased the city debt by $77 million with much of it going to the Parkade and police HQ renovations.

It’s not what the Strategic Plan promises but how and when these high value capotal projects will be completed.

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Along came a spider who sat down beside her and said, “what a nice new Library you may have”

By Gerry Barker

September 26, 2019

Opinion

This is one of the great myths of our lives. In 2004 during Mayor Farbridge’s first term in office, council debated whether to replace the downtown Library with a new one. The Library had outgrown its capacity to serve a growing population.

It sparked the growth of satellite branches and a bookmobile.

The Library lobby continued to campaign annually asking council to approve building a new facility to meet the needs of the present and future. The first proposal was to build a 93,000 square foot main branch Library downtown on the Baker Street Parking lot.

At the time, it was obvious that council was engaged in building a new city hall and renovating the old hall into a provincial offences court. This major project turned out to be a six-year financial disaster completes with a major wrongful dismissal lawsuit by the general contractor and a $65 million dollar bill.

The Library project went to the bottom of the capital-spending budget.

That was followed with the $66 million loss of shareholder’s investment in the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc district energy project. This was launched in 2011, during the same time frame of the city hall lawsuits. There were five different interests suing, including each other. Urbacon Buildings Group Inc. suing the city for $19.2 million brought the main one. The city counter-sued for $5 million.

It was a three-ring circus of flying legal briefs and claims.

It was the dark period of the city administration amid the Library project, which bubbled beneath council’s primary interests.

The new Mayor, Cam Guthrie, announced that a private public partnership was being assembled to renovate the Baker Street site that staff primarily would cost the city $300 million. The plan called for a combination of commercial and residential complex. Included in the Mayor’s statement was that the proposed 88,000 square foot downtown Library would be the anchor on the site.

The timing was perfect as the Mayor decided to run for re-election and spoke highly of the Library project. He was re-elected.

Earlier this year, it was announced that the Baker Street proposal was being scaled back due to costs and would not include the Library.

Council shows restraint in capping 2019 capital budget

This past January 17, city council approved a 2019 capital spending budget of $87,370,100. Almost half of that budget was slated for wastewater and two new wells to accommodate future development.

Of the nine projects in the staff recommendation, absent was the new downtown Library. You remember, the one Mayor Guthrie announced in 2018 before the civic election.

Here we are in September, and the same members of council agree to add $44 million in debt to partially fund a new downtown Library to an estimated cost of $67 million. The reports say that the begging bowl is out to get a $36.6 million grant for the Library from the federal government depending on which party wins the October 21 election.

Is this a promise to be broken?

This form of financial brinksmanship is an enduring fixation by the majority bloc of city council that has stalled funding library for the past 13 years by diverting funds for other projects.

It remains today to be a malignant history of exceeding budgets, using reserves to balance the books, wasting public funds in sketchy decisions and planning, conducting public business in closed-sessions with no public participation. Ignoring its own protocols for open government, accountability and transparency.

This was not another Guthrie example of selling the sizzle, not the steak. He was one of four councillors who voted against the proposal. The mayor had his reasons but if he was not aware of the details of the project, or perhaps he was. There seems to be a lack of fiduciary judgment by the nine councillors who voted to spend $67 million on a project that was not part of the 2019 capital budget.

Regardless, Monday, September 16, council approved spending $67 million to build a new 88,000 square foot downtown Library. Coun. Dominique O’Rourke initially objected, stating that without all the information pertaining to the proposal, “It wasn’t going to happen.”

Later she relented and voted to spend the money.

To assist those members of council who voted for the Library, here are some of the missing details to support the project that will cost more than twice that of the new renovated police headquarters.

* Has a site for the new Library been chosen, where and the cost?

* What is the acreage of the site to accommodate adequate parking?

* What’s the estimated time of construction and the start-up date?

* When does the special Library levy to taxpayers kick in?

* In 23 years what is the total cost to property owners paying the Library levy?

* Is this levy fixed or will it increase as property taxes increase over 23 years?

* Is the financing in place and approved to justify the $67 million in capital approved?

* Has a business plan been prepared that separates the construction costs from the equipment required?

* Is the present library going to be sold with proceeds going to new Library costs?

* Has an architect been commissioned to design the new Library and monitor construction?

* Has a Request for Proposal been prepared to establish construction costs?

* What does this decision do to completing the $63 million South End Recreation complex?

* How can council approve funding the Library when it is not in the current capital spending budget?

* If this is council’s intention, where will it find the $67 million it has now approved and added to the 2019 capital spnding budget?

*         *         *         *

The only possible explanation is the costs will be spread over five or six years during the time frame of completing the project. If this is the case, why didn’t council tell the public of this method that is logical and potentially manageable?

Quite frankly, this is another crapshoot by an administration that by now should have learned better handling public money.

If any of these questions have not been reviewed by staff and reported to council, how can a motion to spend $67 million succeed by a 9-4 majority without the answers?

I believe we need a new main branch Library to meet the needs of our growing city?

However, the people need a specific plan and the costs. The staff report says that $44 million is being added to the city debt.

The remaining details are not confirmed including a request to the federal government for a $36,6 million grant. The outcome of that grant request is unknown today because there is no federal government because Parliament has been prorogued until after the election.

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Never in living memory has a high school play by a future Prime Minister seem so much ado about nothing

By Gerry Barker

September 23, 2019

Opinion

I remember when I was five, of a photo taken by my mother of my father giving me a sip of his beer while I was wearing his fedora while we were vacationing at Boskong Lake in the Kawarthas.

It’s a good thing I didn’t become prime minister for defying the blue stocking alcoholic laws on Ontario in the dirty 30’s. Regardless of what decade you came into this world, almost everyone can recall dumb, stupid stuff they did growing up.

While growing up in a sheltered manner as the oldest son of Canada’s Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, Justin had the run of 24 Sussex and Kingsmere.

He learned his political craft at the knee of the PM. But like many families of the sexy sixties, there was conflict and the loss of his brother, Michel, under a Rocky mountain avalanche.

So here’s the bottom line.

He is accused of insulting minority groups by playing Aladdin in a high school play where he was teaching, 18 years ago.

I don’t know about you but I can’t remember what colour of a suit I owned and we had no shoe polish or tanned make-up in our lives.

We have a brilliant black son-in-law and our granddaughter who has just entered university where her e interest is science.

So why is the PM being attacked for his role in playing a person of colour. It was not a statement of rebuking people of colour. It was a high school play where he was a teacher. There are other photos floating around to drive up the anger level of people of colour.

Who are the racists here?

The irony rests in the four years as PM, his government has introduced legislation and policies to strengthen multiculturalism and opportunities for non-white citizens. These include the indigenous people, refugees and students seeking post secondary educations with many from non- white countries.

Point of interest: Canada allowed more refugees into the country than the United States. It should come as no surprise given the tragic and brutal treatment of refugees attempting to enter the U.S. The Trump administration’s actions included separating families and caging children and offering only limited opportunities for refugees to state their case.

The President’s solution is to build a 2,600-mile wall along the southern border of the U.S. to stop the flood of immigrants of colour to enter the country.

Now who are the racist?

Having said all that, Justin Trudeau made some mistakes including the SCLavelin scandal in which he bungled, as evidence surfaced that showed he was protecting the company from prosecution for a number of alleged criminal offenses.

That’s Trump’s mulligan to take another shot after a bad one. The blackface acting charges are more lethal than the SCLavelin scandal. He is facing an election in less than 30 days and despite abject apologies for his love of the theatre, and how it appears offensive and racist today.

It has stuck on him like the puck on Mitch Marner’s stick.

I predict there will be a backlash by many voters who see it as a penny-ante operation by the opposition parties’ calculated mischief.

It is mindful of the angry waiter who spit in the soup because the customer complained about the appetizer.

Time to get out of the sandbox kids.

It’s time to start talking about policy and why all parties should be concentrating on why they should be Prime Minister and the ruling party.

Let’s check out the polls and other election data to date.

The Liberals and Conservatives are in a dead heat at around 34 per cent. The NDP leads the Green Party that is on the brink of winning a record number of Liberal and NDP seats. The fringe parties follow the pack.

The latest reputable poll, post black face), puts the Conservative at 35 per cent and the Liberals at 30 per cent.

In Guelph, I predict that Steve Dyck, the Green party candidate, will win. The Liberals and Tories will battle it out for second and place. The NDP will run fourth and many of its supporters will support Mr. Dyck.

So Guelph voters remain in the Green Party ranks since electing Mike Schreiner to the Ontario Legislature last year.

Will Justin Trudeau survive? I predict he will win but not with a majority of seats. Let the deal making begin, as the Liberals will need help from the opposition to govern.

Minority government is not new. Often it proves to be very productive as ideas and action produce results the people will appreciate.

 

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The back-story: How a critic of the city administration became the victim in a defamation lawsuit

via The back-story: How a critic of the city administration became the victim in a defamation lawsuit

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September 17, 2019 · 9:06 pm

The back-story: How a critic of the city administration became the victim in a defamation lawsuit

By Gerry Barker

September 18, 2019

Opinion

Today is my 89th birthday.

My wife, Barbara Barker, and I have lived in Guelph since March 2003. We have paid our taxes and service fees on time and been responsible and peaceful citizens.

However, today is special. I have filed, with the guidance of counsel, an appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeals. It is based on Superior Court Justice Cynthia Peterson’s denial of my motion to dismiss the defamation lawsuit launched in 2016, by former Deputy Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi.

The following is the real story why taxpayers, including my wife and I, are paying the legal expenses of a former employee. It has been a 33-month legal journey to which no citizen should ever be subjected.

I will leave it to citizens to judge what really happened to cause this hugely expensive and frivolous lawsuit and why.

In the beginning we moved to a new home in Guelph 16 years ago

I became interested in municipal politics when I was invited to assist former Mayor Kate Quarrie in her re-election bid in 2006. I remember that just before the election, Kate welcomed people coming to the new Wal-Mart store on Woodlawn. It was the end of a long and costly legal battle to prevent the store from opening.

The opposition came from a consortium of trade unions that over 11 years, campaigned and financed the effort to stop Wal-Mart from opening stores in Canada, not just Guelph. In my view, the unions were close to restricting trade in claiming that Wal-Mart was a low paying operation for employees.

Just prior to the 2006 civic election, I approached the Guelph Mercury to write a column on the editorial page every three weeks called “Between the Lines.” It developed into a commentary that was critical of the city administration and operations. I was fired in 2011. The management of the paper did not like my new online blog. For that matter, neither did the Mayor or her administration.

Today, over a period of almost five years, I have written many columns for the Mercury and more that 1,000 posts on my blog, guelphspeaks.ca.

The City loses lawsuit against Urbacon Buildings Group Inc.

In 2014, I commented frequently on the case of Urbacon Buildings Group Inc. versus the City of Guelph. Simply, the city fired Urbacon September 18, 2008 ordering the company off the new city hall project. The building was 95 per cent completed. Still to be completed was the renovations to the old city hall into a provincial offenses court.

It was easy to remember that firing because it was my birthday.

Urbacon sued the city for $19.2 million. The city countersued for $5 million. The trial started in Superior Court January 2013 in Brampton.

As a result, the city lost the lawsuit in March 2014 brought by Urbacon. CAO Ann Pappert announced following the civic election in October, that the new city hall project cost $23 million more than the original contract of $42 million. The whole affair took more than six years to settle.

Mayor Karen Farbridge and some of her supporting councillors were either defeated or retired.

It was a shock to numbers of supporters that their leader was defeated.

This set the stage for revenge, and finger-pointing as to why it happened.

2015 became the year of administrative chaos

Two events occurred that affected taxpayers. First, there was the finalizing of the 2015 budget in which council approved a property tax increase of 3.96 per cent. This was done by a majority of councillors despite the new Mayor’s pledge to keep property tax increases to that of the Consumer Price Index. It was 1.11 per cent in 2014.

The second event was the launching of an investigation of a Ward 6 candidate who reported receiving $400 from the citizen’s activist group GrassRoots Guelph. Susan Watson, an NDP supporter and friend of the former Mayor, brought the action. The city committee hired an independent Toronto lawyer to investigate whether the GRG donation was legal or not. My wife and I were ordered to appear before him. His decision was conclusive and ruled the donation was legal.

The decision cost the city an estimated $11,000 and the initiator of the charge aimed at GrassRoots Guelph, Ms. Watson, was not held responsible.

Newly elected Mayor, Cam Guthrie, was forced to deal with a major problem that had not surfaced during the 2014 election. He also inherited a majority of council who were supporters of the Farbridge leadership and agenda.

Taking over as chair of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI), he discovered that under the former mayor’s GMHI leadership of four years, there was evidence that it had lost millions. During the course of secret progress, GMHI also absorbed Guelph Hydro and its subsidiary, Envida Community Energy Inc.

For four years, two people were in complete control of the city Corporation, GMHI and Guelph Hydro Electric Services; the control corporation of all Guelph Hydro assets. Mayor Karen Farbridge and CAO Ann Pappert held all the lines of power. The downside was that most of the GMHI Board of Director’s meetings were conducted in closed-sessions.

There was no accountability, transparency or open government. Worse, nobody knew what was going on except for a clutch of chosen officials, including four members of city council, all Farbridge loyalists, who kept their mouths shut including, Councillors June Hofland, Karl Wettstein, Todd Dennis and Lise Burcher.

The irony was that many senior city staff was not aware of the GMHI situation. In July 2016, the city staff presented a devastating report detailing the true picture of the GMHI collapse and financial disaster.

GMHI was responsible for a variety of projects including installation of solar panels on public buildings, installing natural gas-driven pumps in the Sleeman Centre and Hanlon Business Park. The plan was to generate electricity and pump hot and cold water to five nearby buildings to the Sleeman Centre, from geo-thermal underground sources.

Later, GMHI purchased land from the city to build a natural gas, generating plant to help make Guelph self sufficient in power, currently sourced off the provincial grid.

The Guthrie administration held 42 closed-session council meetings in 2015 in the first year. What was discussed has never been revealed, nor has Ann Pappert’s participation.

Here’s what we do know

FACT: In August 2015, the General Manager of Human Resources said that Ms. Pappert requested payment of her unused sick day and vacation benefits. The GM, when asked by city Coun. Cathy Downer in August 2016 said that Pappert received a $27,000 retroactive performance bonus that was applied to her 2015 salary package. Ms. Pappert had left the city job May 26,2016.

FACT: We now know that Ann Pappert, Derrick Thomson, and Mark Amorosi divided $98,202 in 2015 with the bulk of it going to Ms. Pappert of some $37,000 over her 2014 salary. Not included in these figures are the taxable benefits that each received.

FACT: All these amounts were approved at a closed-session council meeting December 10, 2015. They were retroactive for 2015. DCAO Mark Amorosi confirmed this date. He later stated in a sworn affidavit, that council did not approve staff salary increases. Only the CAO performed that task. Who was the CAO December 10, 2015? It was Ann Pappert.

I attempted to obtain the minutes of that meeting and four months after making the request it was denied by the city’s special closed-session investigator. So much for accountability.

FACT: in late December, council, again in closed-session, approved a bylaw that indemnified all employees and elected officials by paying their legal expenses in their capacity as public employees or elected officials. To be clear, this bylaw, in my opinion, does not cover the case where the employee is paid to sue a citizen.

That being the case, that interpretation of the bylaw’s purpose was approved by the administration and used by Mr. Amorosi in his lawsuit against me. This precedent opens the door to become open season on anyone publicly criticizing the performance or disagreeing with public policies. Any employee or elected official could sue anyone with all legal expenses paid by the taxpayers.

FACT: Details of both these closed-session council meetings were not revealed to the public. The bylaw wording was available but no details of the discussions or a record of the votes cast.

Only a judicial inquiry into the GMHI failure and merger of Guelph Hydro with Alectra Utilities could reveal the answers. In my considered opinion, it is the only way to get at the truth of the mismanagement of the city’s business.

FACT: The three senior managers, in the 2015 provincial Sunshine List, published March 2016, were compared to the three salary levels in 2014 that revealed the $98,202 salary increases and taxable benefits.

FACT: CAO Ann Pappert resigned in April 2016 and vacated her job May 26, 2016.

FACT: Two devastating reports in May and July 2016 by GMHI and city staffs revealed the serious financial status of GMHI. It is noted that Ms. Pappert co-signed the May 16 report presented by Pankaj Sardana, her successor at GMHI as Chief Executive Officer with financial responsibilities.

The report was blunt in that it declared that GMHI was no longer a viable city-owned asset chiefly due to gross mismanagement and an unrealistic business plan. Just ten days later, Ms. Pappert gave notice of resignation.

FACT: In June 2016, Derrick Thomson was named Chief Administrative Officer of the city of Guelph. He announced he had agreed to a three-year contract earning $230,000 plus a taxable benefit of $11,300.

GMHI audit by KPMG shows a $66 million shareholder’s liability

Later, the accounting firm, KPMG audited the consolidated finances of GMHI and reported there was a $66 million shareholder’s liability. This was how the citizens of Guelph, through their council acting as shareholders, had financed GMHI for more than four years.

Both staff reports used the accounting term “impaired assets.” This meant that there was no possible way that GMHI could recover that $66 million because it operated at a loss and never repaid the principal or any interest advanced by the shareholders, that is city council. One curious wrinkle GMHI claimed was that it provided a dividend to the city for $1,500 annually.

Is it possible that the city was involved in a version of a Ponzi scheme, taking funds from one pocket and returning some of it back to another pocket?

Recapping the story so far

In 2010, following Ms. Farbridge’s re-election, GMHI, whose assets included ownership of the Guelph Junction Railroad right of way, became the corporation reflecting the mayor’s vision driven agenda.

This included creating changes in power sources, waste collection, delivering underground heating and cooling of water to five buildings, restricting vehicles to eliminate fossil-fueled emissions to help save the planet from destruction by humans.

One might say those ideas were admirable, ambitious but not affordable, as it turned out.

In fact, the cost was losing Guelph Hydro, an efficient, profitable and successful asset, to a private, third party organization for pennies on the dollar. The Guthrie administration stubbornly never explained why this asset was sold or the details of the so-called merger. While details of the deal were never disclosed, the deal closed in January, this year.

Simply put, this was a convoluted, secret operation controlled by the two top leaders of the city administration from 2011 to 2014. There were no checks or balances to oversee what was happening to GMHI, or Guelph Hydro. The city staff reacted as some of the details came out but it was too late.

A surprising pay out for services

FACT: Ms. Pappert, according to the March 2017 Sunshine List, was paid $263,000 for 2016 when she was employed for only five months.

FACT: In January 2016, prior to the publishing of his 2015 salary, Derrick Thomson resigned to take a job with the Town of Caledon.

FACT: In August 2016, I was served with a notice demanding an apology for comments made in guelphspeaks.ca, that was critical of Mark Amorosi’s role in the secret payout of $98,202 for Ms. Pappert, Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson. I declined, despite being threatened with a defamation lawsuit.

FACT: At the time of receiving the demand for an apology from Amorosi’s lawyer, I was not aware of the city’s indemnification bylaw of employees that was passed in closed-session in December 2015 and not made public.

Eventually, my counsel received a copy and it was clear that it applied only when an employee or elected representatives were faced with legal action as a result of their performance. Specifically, it did not cover any employee suing a citizen for defamation.

Comment: Accordingly, the citizens of Guelph are paying the legal bills of a former employee thereby supporting a lawsuit initiated by Amorosi against a citizen who has had to spend thousands of dollars to defend himself.

Is this the role of the city administration? To use public funds to support an employee who knew in advance his legal expenses would be paid by the city? Further, why are his legal bills being paid after being fired for cause? That occurred just two and one half months after filing his lawsuit.

Just wondering. Did the city pay former Chief Building Inspector Brice Poole’s legal expenses when he was forced to sue the city for wrongful dismissal? Guess that indemnification bylaw did not apply in that case.

Why do I get the feeling that the city did pay Mr. Poole a substantial settlement?

Begins a 32-month journey

FACT: On November 16, 2016. Mark Amorosi announced in a FrontPage story in the Mercury Tribune newspaper, that he was suing me for $500,000 for defamation and that the city of Guelph was paying his legal expenses.

The missing part was the city’s explanation why it was paying Amorosi’s legal costs.

FACT: Just 79 days later, Mr. Amorosi was fired for cause failing to oversee the leak of some 50,000 corporate and private emails to a Kitchener lawyer.

The lawyer represented Mr. Bruce Pool, whom the city fired because he questioned why some 50 city building projects did not apply for a building permit. He sued the city for $1 million for wrongful dismissal.

The Poole case was settled within three weeks once the errant emails were returned.

Wasn’t that in the public interest? Not so, a confidentiality agreement denied the results of the settlement.

Judgment Day Arrives

FACT: August 9, Justice Peterson, in her judgment denying the motion to dismiss the Amorosi claim, stated that the defamation evidence “outweighed” our argument that it was in the public interest.

FACT: The city is indemnifying an employee who didn’t like what was being written about his performance as Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) as head of Finance and Human Resources.

Are public employees now immune from criticism or commentary?

Regardless, Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Thomson, fired Amorosi, and then confirmed that the city would continue to pay his legal expenses regarding the lawsuit that he initiated, not the city.

FACT: Mr. Thomson was one of the three senior employees who divided the $98,202 in 2015. He left the city in March 2019 that was described as a “parting of the ways” by the city.

His unexplained departure followed the 2018 Sunshine List that showed his salary as $335,000. It was a $67,000 increase in one year. The List also revealed he received a taxable benefit of some $11,000.

Mayor Cam Guthrie described this bonus was in recognition of his work on the give away of Guelph Hydro to Alectra Utilities. But, Mr. Mayor, wasn’t that his job?

Now I’m asking anyone living in Guelph, who pays taxes and user fees to this city, if this lawsuit is fair, reflecting good management? Or was it revenge against a citizen blogger who questioned and commented on the administration for 13 years?

What possible precedent exists in Canada that makes such a guarantee to an employee dismissed immediately for cause? Amorosi’s sworn statement to the Judge was that he agreed to leave. If so, did CAO Thomson promise to keep paying his legal fees or other departure perks?

We’ll never know, as Thomson is no longer employed by the city.

Epilogue: in February 9, 2017, 85 days after launching the lawsuit, his former colleague, Derrick Thomson, fired Mark Amorosi. Ambrose’s sworn version of that day is that he agreed to leave.

Justice Peterson noted that three major news outlets, National Post, CBC Radio and Global News reported Amorosi was fired.

So, who benefited from this noble gesture? Why it’s Mark Amorosi.

What is this journey costing?

As of May 2018, in closed-session, council was advised the city had paid $30,000 toward Amorosi’s legal costs. That figure has increased as events occurred.

Today, it has cost me $71,000 to defend myself against a deep-pocketed corporation.

Together, the estimated costs today could total between $130,000 and $150,000.

Conclusion

This whole story is about the misuse of power, using public funds to destroy the reputation of a citizen who dared to criticize the elected officials who bungled their responsibilities. The enormity of the cost of this spiteful and dangerous attack is unprecedented in Ontario.

In my opinion, having been intimately involved in a lawsuit for almost three years, I am appalled that my adversary is being financed by the City of Guelph.

The city position is untenable. Despite claiming the lawsuit was a private matter between Amorosi and me, there is no doubt that the city administration supported this decision b because Mr. Amorosi stated in a newspaper article announcing the lawsuit that the city was paying for it.

The minutes of these closed-session meetings that council conducted are not available.

I don’t know who authorized the payments, even after he was fired. In his sworn testimony, Amorosi said that city council does not approve staff salary increases. If that is true, then who did agree to pay Amorosi’s legal expenses?

A senior member of the city administration had to be involved. According to Amorosi, the Chief Administrative Officer’s bylaw covering his responsibilities and rights to manage is permitted to approve or disapprove staff salaries.

The CAO appointed in June 2016 was Derrick Thomson, a colleague of Amorosi and former CAO Ann Pappert in sharing the $98,202 salary increases in 2015.

It should be noted that it wasn’t until March 2016, when the provincial Sunshine List published the 2015 salaries of every public employee in Ontario earning more than $100,000

All three of these senior managers made the list. When compared to the 2014 List, the increases were revealed.

I contend that this event was well known among members of city council, including Mayor Guthrie. The decision to support Mr. Amorosi was designed to shut me down.

I contend that these details were contained in my sworn affidavit requesting the lawsuit to be dismissed.

What do you think? I’d appreciate hearing from anyone regarding this situation.

I am the victim of this lawsuit, not Mr. Amorosi, (even though my taxes, and yours too, have been paying Amorosi’s legal expenses.)

There is a law in Ontario titled Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation or SLAPP. My motion to dismiss was based on the parameters of the SLAPP legislation.

The bottom line is we all lose. My only hope to recover our legal expenses is to have the Ontario Court of Appeals overturn Justice Peterson’s dismissal of my motion.

Stay tuned for more information

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Guelph General launches plans to expand three departments including the emergency room

By Gerry Barker

September 16, 2019

Opinion

NOTE: This Wednesday, guelphspeaks.ca will publish the story of how the city administration financially supported the lawsuit initiated by a former employee against long-time columnist and citizen, Gerry Barker, for defamation including the costs of the action to date.

When we moved to Guelph16 years ago the population of the city was some 112,000 residents. In the last Canadian national census four years ago, our population had grown to 131,000.

That does not include the 20,000 University of Guelph students who arrive in September and leave in April/May.

A few years back I spent three hours in the ER with a sinus-related condition but walked out. The staff was busy and triage decisions must be made to determine severity and complications. That is understandable.

With this week’s announcement of expansion there was a missing element that the need in emergency, with respect, is greater than the current plans to increase internal services.

Current estimates of population growth of the Greater Guelph Area (GGA) include the provincial government estimate of the city’s population will reach 150,000 by 2030. Further, the provincial planners estimate a population of 175,000 by 2050.

This growth is exacerbated by greater volume of daily transportation to Toronto by rail and buses.

Again this growth affects many services but our General Hospital will be hard pressed to maintain the high quality services and needs to this growing population, that not only includes the city but the surrounding municipalities that rely on Guelph General.

Here’s the major problem. Financing major expansion to meet the needs of tomorrow. I believe there is a huge tsunami of people descending on our community over the next 30 years.

In my opinion, this city cannot depend on senior government handouts to finance the growing needs of front-line care and control of health services.

I would hope that the hospital’s Board of Directors has considered the impact of this growth and how to deal with it. It is more than just a bricks and mortar solution, it requires our community to participate expanding our General Hospital.

This means a cohesive long-range plan in which the medical needs of the citizens now and in the future are met.

The past 13 years in Guelph city council has markedly changeds the growth strategies by emphasizing the Community Energy Innovation policies established in 2007. Many of these policies have drained the ability to support hospital expansion necessary to serve a growing population.

The Guelph General Hospital is a major vital public service component that depends on senior government financial support operating under the Ontario Hospital Insurance Plan, plus donations to function. The institution cannot charge user fees to patients. It cannot ask the residents; through taxation and dedicated fees to support hospital expansion. The city finances remain tied up, paying for the policies of former administrations,

The city administration does not have the power to raise revenues through a special hospital tax, lottery, or increasing new user fees without provincial approval.

Our community has resources to contribute toward the most important community project the GGA has experienced. The project will require leadership action and pride in achieving what the community has done to participate in a long-term renaissance of a hospital. And it was the community that pulled it off.

The Hospital Board of Directors should show the way with a plan to expand. I am a layman of the science of medicine although I have been on the receiving end of services and care over the years.

In my view there needs to be a goal established with a number attached and the reasons for rationalizing the acute needs in the next 30 years. Or will it take every person, every corporation, every planadjacent municipality, every school from K4 to commencement graduation, every business large or small, every bank or credit union, plus volunteers to execute the grand expansion plan.

I have been involved in raising money. It requires a plan, patience, determination and a good story to sell the goals of the project. Presentation to large-scale potential donors is vital. Professional presentation materials use video of facilities; models of the proposed extensions and retrofitting areas, well-written and colourful leave- behind brochures.

It would be like the United Way on steroids.

In terms of Basketball it would be a full court press.

But first, there must be a plan to meet the needs of the future.

Remember, first complete analysis, then developing a plan, finally how to finance it.

The entire community must be involved and engaged.

There is no time like the present to get it started.

 

 

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Apparently, to land a good job with the city it helps whom you know in the administration

By Gerry Barker

September 9, 2019

Opinion

The city announced last week that a former member of the Cam Guthrie re-election team has been hired to be manager of corporate communications and government relations.

Jodie Sales comes to Guelph from the Town of Milton where she has held a similar position for three and a half years.

On the surface it appears she is qualified for the job.

However, was the position advertised? Were other candidates applying for the position? Was Ms. Sales or other candidates interviewed for the posted position?

Tell us, was the job posted and where?

Before accusing me of nit picking, this is a job serving the public interests. It entails that there is opportunity for qualified citizens to apply. The city release did not mention the salary or benefits for the position.

Further, I am not criticizing Ms. Sales but the methods used by the administration to hire anyone for a staff position, especially one described as an “executive position.”

Perhaps in hiring employees over the years, the administration must focus on being careful to ensure that the recommended candidate will not be disruptive or offend other employees. Recommendations by a friend or relative of an employee should always be part of the hiring process.

Prior to being appointed to the management job, was Ms. Sales interviewed by senior management? Recruiting is 50 percent performance knowledge and 50 per cent having a gut feeling.

In this case, the perception is that she had the inside track on getting the job because of her work on the Mayor’s campaign.

Mayor Guthrie was asked if he had recommended her and denied he had any part in the process. Judging from that I would surmise that he was consulted but politically, he denied it.

Maybe he did not have to say anything. One thing we do know is that she did a bang-up job handling communities for the Guthrie campaign.

The most interesting part of this announcement is, what is the role of council, including the Mayor who is the only member elected across the whole city?

That email sent by the Mayor stated: “All city administration hiring is done through the CAO or other city management.”

Former DCAO Mark Amorosi who stated that council did not approve staff increases they are approved in the annual budgets. He confirmed this during a recent sworn testimony. That would indicate that council does approve salary increases because it must approve the annual city budget.

Those increases, according to the Mayor and Mr. Amorosi, are set in December for the upcoming calendar year. But the increases are not publicly released until 15 months later.

In formulating the 2015 city budget, did council have the right to approve or disapprove staff salary increases? If true, why didn’t council tell anyone? The salary increases were only reported annually each March in the provincial Sunshine List.

It lists every public employee in Ontario who earned more than $100,000 annually.

That data names the employee, the salary and taxable benefits. That list is the only record available to the public.

In recent years, the administration has published its own list prior to the Sunshine list. It is incomplete when compared to the previous provincial list to illustrate changes in salary or job responsibiliyies.

Case in Point; In 2015, the public did not learn about the three senior staff manager’s increases until Match 2016.

The 2015 budget was approved in January boosting property taxes by 3.96 per cent, including adjustments reported later.

I will be reporting more details of this and other tactics used by the administration to suppress information of concern and what is in the public interest.

I also recognize that our new CAO, Scott Stewart, is not responsible for these tactics that were created by a previous administration. Instead I am hopeful that all bylaws covering procedures and operational details be reviewed and open for the administration to open government, to accountability.

I personally wish Ms. Sales success and fulfillment in her new position.

The administration leadership has markedly changed in the past year and the opportunity exists to return our city into one of progress, financial responsibility, transparency and accountability.

A good first step is to reintroduce online voting in 2022.

 

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