By Gerry Barker
February 19, 2019
I am encouraged that there is unrest among elements of the Populist left, as finally there is a realization of why council holds so many closed- sessions.
The latest critique of too many closed-sessions conducted by council came from Adam A. Donaldson, a blogger and columnist in the online news source, Guelph Today.
Adam’s political philosophy is wrapped around the causes of the left dominated city council members and a general left of centre political bent on matters of the public interest.
His Market Squared column this week asked the question why council shuts its doors to public participation? In 2015 and 2016, council held 84 closed-session meetings.
The focus is the sudden departure of Chief Administrative Officer Derrick Thomson, described in a city press release as a “parting of the ways.” Adam joins a lot of people in the city wondering what happened.
Guelphspeaks posed a series of speculative questions about the sudden departure of the CAO in the middle of preparing the City’s 2019 budgets. The GS post has experienced one of the greatest numbers of readers in recent memory.
The 49-minute closed-session council meeting decided to appoint the three Deputy Chief Administrative Officers, Scott Stewart, Colleen Clack and Trevor Lee as the troika of gate keepers of the public’s pursuit of its right to know.
I speak from experience when it comes to requesting the minutes of the Dec 10, 2015 closed-session meeting that awarded $98,202 in salary increases to three top senior city managers.
Six weeks following the launching of a lawsuit against me, November 16, 2016, I requested a copy of the minutes of that meeting. I knew the outcome but not the details including who recommended it to council and who supported it?
In April, four months later, Amberlea Gravel denied my request. They are the city-appointed special investigators of closed-session meetings.
That event occurred in April three months after the plaintiff in this lawsuit had been dismissed. The CAO, Derrick Thomson, ironically was the person who fired his once close colleague with the comment that the firing did not involve the city’s support of lawsuit. He also praised his colleague for his great contribution to the city.
Because this case is now before the courts, I cannot comment further.
But as of a week ago Friday, the three recipients of that $98.202, 2015 retroactive salary increase, are all gone.
Going back to the CAO committee of three DCAO’s, did it ever occur to members of council that its decision to foist Thomson’s job now onto three capable senior managers? Council awarded compensation for the extra duties until the end of July or until a candidate is selected.
Which of the three will attend city council meetings, both open and closed?
How are the CAO responsibilities subdivided? How is there continuity in managing? Where are the checks and balances of managing continuing operations?
This not only unfair to those senior managers but could have been avoided by appointing one of the three as acting CAO until a candidate has been chosen.
To demonstrate how these birdbrain decisions are made, consider the following report by Mr. Donaldson:
“I also looked at the City of Guelph’s own materials about the regulation of closed meetings. On the subject of reports, it says: “Whenever possible, written Closed Meeting reports are preferred over verbal reports as the former provides for a more detailed account of the confidential record.
This city council is bereft of its responsibilities to act on behalf of the public and their right to know about the city’s business.
Instead, they snuggle and hide behind a contrived closed-session protocol developed and fine-tuned over eight years by the former administration.
A case in point is the draconian Code of Conduct in which councillors, engaged in closed-sessions, cannot comment or reveal the details of those meetings. To do so will result in an investigation by the city-appointed Integrity Commissioner who is prosecutor, judge and jury of any alleged break of the Code of Conduct.
And to think we spent some $500,000 in 2013 to a Toronto consultant to develop a governance program employing Transparency, Open Government and Accountability.
On top of that, the new Guthrie council employed a supporter of the former mayor to a $93,000 per year contract to manage the new Transparency, Open Government, and Accountability program.
Wonder whatever happened to him and TOG&A?