Editor ill, needs time to recover Friends, neighbours, supporters and viewers. It is the winter of our discontent. It has been a rocky, almost three weeks since my last column. Two weeks in the Guelph General Hospital with a serious lung infection plus influenza, has left me weak and wired up to oxygen with a 50-foot tether. Not only do I have COPD, an irreversible lung disease, but I have low vision. I am currently waiting to be assessed by the University of Waterloo Low Vision clinic to improve my vision. Barbra and I are coping with a huge chance of circumstances. However, the improvement in the health situation will take some time. Don’t worry, there is no shortage of material! I wil keep you posted as we reach warp speed in the wordsmithing department Best to all, Gerry and Barbara Barker
By Gerry Barker
February 5, 2020
Here are 41 facts that the three-year city financed lawsuit against a private citizen proves nothing but a wanton waste of public money. It also reveals important pieces of evidence of a conspiracy by senior officials no longer employed and a compliant city council approving the financing the legal costs of one employee who was fired. He was the one who launched a defamation lawsuit against blogger Gerry Barker in November 20116.
These facts support how the abuse of political power exercised by the City of Guelph administration that has blown the doors off the public’s right to know its business. Accountability, transparency and open government are ignored most of the time.
It’s a secret society, self-absorbed and devoid of fair comment and freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights.
But judge for yourself. Read the facts and discover how people we elected have wasted your tax dollars on a mindless denial of our rights in an inverted action of revenge.
The Royal City no longer translates into Camelot
FACT 1 – For the record, my wife and I are residents of the City of Guelph.
FACT 2 – In 2016, I wrote 10 blog posts as outlined Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Mark Amorosi’s statement of claim that he sued me for defamation. The posts were critical of his role in secretly concealing a total of $98,202 salary increases shared by three senior executives, including Mr. Amorosi.
FACT 3 – These increases were awarded December 10, 2015 in a closed-session of city council.
FACT 4 – It has never been revealed whether these increases were paid retroactively for 2015 or were received throughout the year before the approval.
FACT 5 -I was served in August 2016 with a demand to apologize to Mark Amorosi for publishing posts on guelphspeaks.ca, critical of the city administration for concealing senior staff salary increases for 2015 to 2019.
FACT 6 – The Toronto lawyer representing Mr. Amorosi, Mark MacKinnon, wrote the demand for an apology. The terms included that he would write it. He demanded that it had to be posted at the top of the guelphspeaks blog for 30 days. This demand was rejected.
FACT 6 – Mr. MacKinnon also stated to my counsel that if I refused, he would recommend legal action.
FACT 8 – On November 15, 2016, Mr. Amorosi announced on the front page of the Mercury Tribune newspaper that he was suing Barker for $500,000 based on defamation as a result of the alleged critical posts on his blog. Amorosi stated in the article that the City of Guelph was paying his legal expenses.
FACT 9 – In January 2017, Mr. Barker requested a copy of the minutes of the Dec. 10 closed-session meeting of council, and it was denied in April with no explanation.
FACT 10 – On February 9, 2017, Mr. Amorosi was fired as published in the Mercury Tribune newspaper. He did not physically leave city employment until February 20.
FACT 11- The day before his dismissal, city Solicitor Donna Jaques resigned to take a job with the Northland Railroad.
FACT 12 – Three major media outlets described Amorosi’s departure as being “fired.” The Mercury Tribune that also described the departure as being fired joined them.
FACT 13 – In a sworn statement Mr. Amorosi testified that “he agreed to leave” when confronted with an inadvertent release from the Information Technology department. It forwarded some 50,000 confidential emails to a third party representing a fired employee, Chief Building Inspector, Bruce Poole. Mr. Poole sued the city for $1 million for wrongful dismissal. Mr. Amorosi was in charge of that IT department and it formed the basis of his dismissal.
FACT 14 – the Poole lawsuit was settled following the return of the missing files. Terms were never disclosed.
FACT 15 – In September 2015, Ms. Pappert requested that she receive payment of her unused sick day and vacation benefits from the Human Resources department. That department was under Mr. Amorosi’s responsibilities and three months before the salary increases to the senior managers was approved Dec. 10 in closed-session.
FACT 16 – On March 31, 2016, the 2015 provincial Sunshine List was published. The public learned of the three senior managers shared salary increases of $98,202. The province publishes the List composed of all public employees in the province earning more than $100,000 a year, not including taxable benefits.
FACT 17 – For unknown reasons, the city publishes its own “Sunshine List” each December but does not include the salaries of the senior managers.
FACT 18 – Of the three recipients, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert, who received an increase of $37,000 taking her 2015 salary to $257,000, a 16.8 per cent increase? Much of that increase was a retroactive performance bonus of $27,000.
FACT 19 – This information about Ms.Pappert’s 2015 compensation was revealed in August 2016.
FACT 20- Ms. Pappert’s compensation as Chief Executive Officer of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. for four years has never been revealed.
FACT 21 – DCAO’s Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson shared the balance. Amorosi’s 2015 salary increased 14 per cent to $209, 000.
FACT 22 – Derrick Thomson received an increase of 19 per cent taking his 2015 salary to more than $207,000.
FACT 23 – The three senior managers cost the city in 2015, $673,000 plus some $22,000 in taxable benefits. That figure does not include the $181,000 paid to DCAO Al Horsman who worked for eight months and took a job as CAO of Sault Ste. Marie.
FACT 24 – CAO Ann Pappert resigned in April 2016. DCAO Thomson resigned in January 2016 but was rehired in May to replace Ms. Pappert who left her job May 26, 2016.
FACT 25- Colleen Clack replaced Thomson as chief of Public Services. At the time her salary was $142,000. She was later promoted to DCAO.
FACT 26 – When the 2016 Sunshine List was published in March 2017, former employee Ms. Pappert was paid $263,000 for five months work in 2016.
FACT 27 – The new CAO announced details of his three-year contract, which included a salary of $230,000 plus $11,000 taxable benefit for using his personal car for city business.
FACT 28 – In March 2019, Derrick Thomson “parted ways with the city” for reasons unknown today. When the 2018 Sunshine list was published, Mr. Thomson’s salary was $335,000. In just two and a half years on the job, Mr. Thomson earned $100,000 more than his stated 2016 three-year salary of $230,000.
FACT 29 – Mayor Cam Guthrie explained that Mr. Thomson was given a $67,000 performance bonus for his work on giving away Guelph Hydro to Alectra Utilities. Guelph Hydro stated in its 2016 financial report that the city-owned power distribution utility had a total value of $228 million.
FACT 30- when city council approved the Hydro merger, there was $18.5 million of cash sitting on Hydro’s books to be returned to the city’s general revenues. There has been no reporting or accounting of what happened to the money, owned by the citizens.
FACT 31 – Mr. Amorosi testified under oath that city council did not approve staff salaries but it was the responsibility of the CAO. If it’s true, under the CAO Bylaw, it was CAO Thomson who approved his 2018 salary and performance bonus. If it is not true, them did Mr. Amorosi commit perjury?
FACT 32 – I requested a statement from the city in 2018 of the amount of public money that had been spent on Mr. Amorosi’s lawsuit and it was denied because the case was before the courts.
FACT 33 – From a reliable source, I learned there was another closed-session meeting of council in May 2018 to discuss the status of the Amorosi lawsuit and the legal costs to May 2018. It was reported the city paid Amorosi’s legal costs of $30,000. Without reservation, knowing what my legal costs are to date, it will be much more than that figure and counting. This is another example of the city denying and obfuscating the details that aren’t serving the public interest.
FACT 34 – The city has never explained why it is continuing this attack on one of its citizens. One who dared to criticize an issue that according to the city’s own code of conduct, that excludes open government policies, allowing accountability and transparency of the public’s business?
FACT 35 – It has cost Amorosi nothing in three years to perpetuate the city’s complicity in continuing to finance his lawsuit that is without merit.
FACT 36 – To date it has cost me $86,000 to defend myself. It’s not over yet.
FACT 37– The city administration has never cooperated or acknowledged details of that December 10, 2015 closed-session meeting of council. It approved the three senior staff increases. In that same month, in another closed-session, council approved a bylaw indemnifying any employee or elected officials by paying their legal costs if facing a legal proceeding against them.
FACT 38 – I did not sue Mr. Amorosi, he sued me, or I didn’t fire him or, in his submission made to the judge in 2019 that he was unable to get a job because of what I had written about him in 2016.
FACT 39 – Two independent individuals searched Mr. Amorosi’s name on the Internet. There was only one of my posts on the site but references to his dismissal from the city dominated the site.
FACT 40 – Since August 2016, the same lawyer has represented Mr. Amitosis.
FACT 41 – CAO Ann Pappert who left the city in May 2016 recommended the indemnification bylaw in December 2015.
These are facts. They represent a major attack by a city council on a private citizen for unfounded reasons.
The cost to the citizens of Guelph including me, the defendant, is being covered-up by the administration.
I have never been found guilty of defaming Mark Amoroso.
After more than three years of costly litigation the end is nowhere in sight. So far, the lawyers are ahead, 180 to 0 for the city and its citizens who are paying the legal costs.
It can only end when the citizens demand it. This legal procedure was started by the city administration that financed all the legal costs of the Amorosi lawsuit.
It’s up to the administration to end this
Our taxes, fees and services are way out of line with comparable communities. It has been like that for the past 13 years. That’s the main reason that our costs of living in Guelph keep increasing every year. Just remember the promise made by Cam Guthrie in 2014 that he would keep the property tax annual increase equal to the rate of inflation.
That promise went out the window with his first budget for 2015 when the final rate was 3.96 per cent. The Consumer Price Index for 2014 stated the inflation rate for Canada was 1.1 per cent.
So if you are satisfied with the way your city is being managed, with respect, you should start researching how this city has arbitrarily increased its operating cost and capital spending to build needed projects, such as a new central library, the South End Community Centre to name just two.
Two project that leap out and are under way or recently completed, the new Maintenance Campus for Guelph Transit and the Parkade on Wilson Street next door to City Hall. Both these projects on the surface seem important but strikingly inclusive of staff needs.
There has been too much waste of resources, mismanagement, not to mention the millions lost including Urbacon, GMHI, environmental services, downtown, dodgy deferred taxes and development breaks to developers, to name a few emptying the city till.
If you believe that the city and we can do better then let your councillors know and demand a clean up of the administration brand of policies. Press staff and council to lower operating costs. Get rid of the deals and stop the shallow spinning of action. When the city says, that within ten years it will have spent $1,7 billion on capital funded projects, lets have some specifics including estimated costs, dates to completion and the sources of revenue to pay the bills.
This administration is overdue for a diet. Waiting three years to change the cast of characters can’t come soon enough.
I now turn this data over to the court of public opinion.
The City of Guelph has spent an estimated $100,000 financing a dismissed employee who is being used as a surrogate to sue a private citizen who criticized the administration.
By Gerry Barker
February 3, 2020
Note: The salary figures used in this report are rounded down for ease of reading. Actual figures are available from the Province of Ontario Sunshine List website or the City of Guelph Finance department.
Today is the first of two parts about how our city council was complicit in attacking a resident for criticizing the administration for concealing, in closed-sessions the payments made to the three top executives. There is no argument that the data was concealed according to the city’s own published “Sunshine List, published in December each reporting year on its,website
We now know that the City’s Sunshine List since 2015 has never revealed the salary data of its top senior managers
They did it because they calculated that most citizens would never access their provincial Sunshine List published annually and containing the three management salary data.
That’s why, until a week ago, that guelphspeaks.ca revealed the $1,392,333 paid to two of those Dec.10, 2026 recipients. One was CAO AnnePappert who resigned May 26, 2016. The other was Derrick Thomson, who left the city in January 2016 and was rehired as CAO in June 2016 to replace Ms. Pappert.
Why Mr.Thomson who had left the city? Were there no candidates in Ontario who were qualified to apply fore a $259,000 job?
Why was Ms. Pappert in such a rush to get out of her job that paid her $263,000 for months work in 2016?
Thomson and the city agreed to “part ways” in February 2019. He was given a one-year contract extention of his $335,000, 2018 income, from the city as CAO.
So, why did he give that up? A year later, he was appointed CAO of a tiny municipality (pop. 9,000).
Now here’s the back-story
From 2015 to February 2017, the third recipient was Mark Amorosi. He sued Barker in November 2016 and was dismissed in February 9, 2017. At the time, his colleague, CAO Derrick Thomson told the public that Amorosi’s dismissal had nothing to do with the lawsuit charging Barker with defamation for telling the truth. In fact, it had a lot to do with the performance of those three senior managers.
This placed the city in an awkward situation. There was no place to hide for Thomson after making that undertaking on behalf of Amorosi who left the city without recourse. Later in a submission to Superior Court Justice, Cynthia Peterson, he stated that he “agreed to leave.”
Even the motion judge stated that three major media outlets described his departure as being “fired.”
This lawsuit has now entered its fourth year. The estimated cost of Amorosi’s lawsuit to the citizen’s is $100,000.
Barker’s legal cost are $88,000 to date. In four years his property taxes cost $30,000. It is impossible to guess what every taxpayer is contributing to this scandal. Until this dispute is cleared, we’re all in it together.
Oh! my there’s more
The city’s dilemma is that this has become a major political problem. It involves using a surrogate, a former employee, who, for four years made Barker pay for his criticism of the administration.
But here’s the rub. Not only is Barker paying to defend himself but also so are the taxpayers including Barker. This is all about political ego, deep pockets using public money and denying the rights of the public trust.
And it’s not going away.
I don’t know who supported this in 2015. However, in sworn testimony, Amorosi stated that CAO Ann Pappert, not city council, vetted and approved all city employee salaries including the senior managers. This claim was made under the special CAO Bylaw covering responsibilities. It appears to be a conflict of interest. Absent are the checks and balances,
It was an overt way to get rid of Barker, except nobody on council figured out the political fallout, and possible intervention in the form of a provincial inquiry.
There is a solution. The City of Guelph, the authors of this misguided support of a lawsuit by a former employee, refund Barker’s legal fees. Barker will take down the alleged offending 2016 posts that initiated this lawsuit.
Each day that goes by only makes a bad decision four years ago, worsen.
This is the story about a citizen. It is a David versus a corporate Goliath episode about the abuse of power by a city administration against a citizen who blew the whistle on a secret council meeting.
It was no ordinary meeting December 10, 2015. It secretly awarded $98,202 salary increases, bonuses and benefits to the three top managers of the City of Guelph’s administration. The final settlement will be confidential.
It gets better. Follow the record of how municipal financial power is used for four years, attempting to muzzle a citizen who was critical of a number of closed-session meetings by the city administration. A former employee launched defamation lawsuit alleging critical postings published in the blog gurslphspesks.ca. Amorosi announced the city was paying his legal bills.
Here’s a quick summary of what happened. On November 15, 2016, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi, sued Gerry Barker for $500,s000 in damages. He claimed defamation resulting from 10 critical blog posts and stated the city was paying his legal expenses. Barker had reported in March 2016, the three top managers received increases totaling $98,202. February 9, 2017, Mark Amoroso was fired.
That was three years ago. The case has never been settled. It has cost Barker YTD $88,000 to defend himself and his postings are fair comment. The city refuses to reveal the cost of supporting Amorosi that is estimated to be more than $100,000 of public money.
It is interesting the Judge Peterson stated that Barkers language was “measured” and did not vilify Amorosi personally.
On Wednesday, February 5, 2020, the second report on this major breach of the public trust will be revealed.
Since November 15, 2016, Gerry Barker has never been found guilty of defaming Mark Amorosi.
By Gerry Barker
January 27, 2020
Here is the truth about how city’s Sunshine List published the 2019 staff earning $100,000-plus per year.
In just four years, the Guthrie administration has run roughshod over the public trust and, more important, the public’s pocketbook.
This is about the ballooning size of city staff and the money being paid over a four-year period.
Council are sworn to protect the public interest, provide the necessary checks and balances in acting as the board of directors of a $600 million corporation.
The council giveaway of Guelph Hydro was outrageous of which the benefit to the 55,000 Hydro customers who have yet to receive any explanation or benefit.
Did you know there were two Sunshine Lists publishing the salaries of every employee who earned more than $100,000 per year?
Neither did I until I stumbled on a page deep in the city website.
The city Sunshine List since 2015 revealed all those employees earning more than $100,000. It does not publish the names and data of those managers earning more that $200,000. Don’t forget there are other manager in the 200 grand club whose ID does not appear on the city’s Sunshine List.
The city Sunshine List is published at the end of the calendar year. They “beat” the 2019 provincial Sunshine List that is published in late March.
The provincial List provides the name, occupation, and taxable benefits of every public employee in the province, including those in management.
These figures are generated by the city financial department and forwarded to the provincial Sunshine List department for publication. That list contains the qualifying employees in the 445 Ontario municipalities including Guelph
This is lying by omission in plain sight. What other explanation could there be?
Is it insurance against public outrage? Possibly. Is it to paint over and cover-up the mistakes, wasted resources on pet project spending?
All those protesting the senior manager’s salaries should be shown the City’s Sunshine List that leaves a hazy fog over the truth?
What about those performance bonuses to Pappert and Thomson?
It is becoming apparent that City Council disregards many citizens.
The leadership makes decisions without regard of the unintended consequences.
In March this year, the provincial Sunshine List reports the 2019 salaries, occupations and taxable benefits of ALL public employees in Ontario including the City of Guelph.
The cover-up trail
Let’s check the city’s Sunshine List from 2015 to 2019.
In 2015, the city’s Sunshine List stated there were 158 employees earning $19,170,856. Managers were not on that list.
Conclusion: Can we believe those figures with the managers earning more than $200.000 were not included?
Moving on to 2019. The city’s Sunshine List stated there were 359 employees earning more than $100,000. The cost to citizens is$40,855,826.
The new reform Mayor, elected in 2014, a self-described “numbers guy.” How are his math working for you?
These figures show the doubling of numbers of staffers found on the city website. We have twice elected a Mayor and council that in four years have created more debt and growing exponentially the cost of living of the people who pay the civic bills?
In four years the property tax rate, averaged 3.5 per cent. It has increased property taxes by 17.5 per cent. The figure does not include the effect of increased assessment. Typically adjusted upward each April, bumps up your property tax rate that year.
Throw in the latest operating tax dodge called special levies on property, separate storm water maintenance, annual increases of supplying potable water and dealing with wastewater. Those items are excluded from the city’s operating budget.
It’s the weird system of managing figures and figuring management.
Mr. Mayor, what ever happened to your 2014 election promise to keep the Guelph property tax rate at the level of the Consumer Price index?
Here’s why. The city Sunshine List between 2015 to 2019, did not publish the salaries and benefits to senior managers, Pappert, Thomson and Amorisi.
How serious is this malignant oversight manipulated under the radar by council approving the salary increases?
For 26 months, one of the top managers was Depity Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi. From 2015 to February 2017, he was the man in charge of Finance and Human Resources. He reported to CAO Ann Pappert.
Just for the record, CAO Ann Pappert received, in 17 months, from January 2015 until May, 26, 2016. $520,000.
That’s an average of $30, 588 per month.
Do you know of anyone in your neighbourhood in Guelph who makes that kind of money a month?
As it turned out, she was not alone
In 2018, CAO Derrick Thomson, received $335,000. He left in February 2019. His departure was described by the city as a “parting of the ways.”
Today, the news is that he has just accepted a job, as CAO of Minto, a town in Wellington County, population 9,000. The previous Minto CAO was earning $160,456.
Accepting that job only rekindles speculation about his leaving Guelph. Why did he leave a $335,000 job with a one-year contract extension, to take one that paid half of what he was making as Guelph CAO?
Mr. Thomson was paid $782,333 for 32 months, from June 2016 to Febriary 2019. He also received $33,000 in taxable benefits.
Ann Pappert moves on
After leaving the city in May 2016, former CAO Ann Pappert landed a job in October 2016 as a provincial Assistant Deputy Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. She left that position in January 2017 and the trail of employment is not followed.As As it turned out, it was a banner year for Ms. Pappert who not only received $267,000 from mthe City of Guelph but an unknown salary for her four months work in Queen’s Park.
Now we come to Guthrie’s largess with senior staff manager, Mark Amorosi. He was the third recipient in that secret December10 meeting. The provincial Sunshine List confirmed the salary increases to, Pappert, Amorosi and Thomson totaling $98,202P
No one acknowledged the increases until the 2015 Sunshine List was published March 31, 2016. Pappert, Thomson and Amorosi never commented or admitted receiving the money.
For specifically critical of Mark Amorosi’s role as DCAO of Finance and Human Resources, later in the fall, I was sued for defamation claiming $500,000 in damages.
Just over two months later, Amorosi was fired for failing to oversee a data dump of 50,000 personal emails to a Kitchener lawyer representing a former Guelph Chief Building Inspector who sued the city for wrongful dismissal.
His case was quickly settled by the city.
Here we are in the fourth year of the lawsuit.
Last August, the motion judge dismissed our motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The case is now before the Ontario Court of Appeal.
I have no idea when our case will be heard,
I estimate the citizens of Guelph have already paid the lawyer representing Amorosi an estimated $100,000. This is our money. My legal costs are $80,000 and no end in sight.
The city administration refuses to reveal the cost of the personal lawsuit in Ambrosi’s name.
If you believe this laysuit isis unfair and a waste of public money, here’s what to do?
Email; your councillors and tell them yo stop using their fiscal power against a law abiding citizen whi still believes in the Canadian Constitution allowing freedom of expression.
Please send me a copy at:
By Gerry Barker
January 20, 2020
In 2006, the McGuinty Liberal government, to placate the municipalities’ lobby machine to extend the three-year term of council elections to four years.
In 2006, Guelph elected its first council for four years led by former Mayor, Karen Farbridge. Only two councillors survived the onslaught of the leftist-based Farbridge council supported by the national NDP organization.
What followed was a total domination of the city, its responsibility to the citizens and soaring property tax increases exceeding 3 per cent every year for eight years plus increasing user fees, including water.
So, where did the city collect and spend the money starting in 2007?
The city functions by using an operating budget and a capital spending budget for major projects.
The first was approving spending $12,7000 to convert the abandoned convent building owned by the Diocese of Hamilton. The church wanted to demolish the convent to create more parking for parishioners.
Instead, the city persuaded the church to lease the building to save it as an historic pre-Confederation building. Newly elected councillor Leanne Piper, former chair of the Guelph Heritage group proposed the project to turn it into a Civic Museum.
A noble project in which a minority of the public participated
Four years later the city announced the project cost was $16.5 million.
That does not include the operating costs such as staff, utilities, maintenance, insurance and depreciation.
That was only the beginning of a council that failed to uphold their sworn duty to protect the public trust.
Through all this, the central library replacement, announced by the former mayor in her first three-year term in office was a new downtown library was a priority for council.
Twenty years later we are still waiting.
Here’s a list of some of the projects that were passed by council, without public discussion or involving the citizen stakeholders and their right to accountability and transparency.
* In 2013, council hired a consultant to prepare and plan incorporating accountability, transparency and open government. The bill for that project was $500,000.
* The Organic Waste Processing Facility, that was over built costing $34 million and the builder is still operating the plant. The operation has been a costly, mismanaged project of which the citizens were kept in the dark.
* Spending $15 million for a automated waste collection system using special trucks, each costing $150,000 to do the job, followed that. The troubled\ was the maintenance of the vehicles soured. In addition, several of the new residential developments could not accommodate the vehicles. They were forced to hire contractors to pick up the trash.
* Next came the legal battle to reduce its contribution to the Guelph, Wellington, and Duffrin Public health organization voting to build a new headquarters in Guelph cost $17 million The Mayor sued because Guelph had contributed $10 milliohn to the project, approved by the board of directors.
She lost the lawsuit. The legal bill was reported to cost the city $10,000.
Let’s pause for a minute
In 2006 the city staff number of employees was 1.400. Today, we employ 2,300 full-time and part-time employees. For the record, the cost of city staff consumes 80 per cent of all property taxes. So this is an example of an employee merry-go-round.
The two effects of this unprecedented expansion of staff is one of the exponential growth annual increase in the number of staff and two, the increase in remuneration to the entire staff. Do you believe that a city staffer employed in 2006 witnessed his salary and benefits declining? That’s an unrealistic assumption.
Of course not because of inflation that boosts costs annually.
How about your salary and benefits, pension and elderly benefits increases?
My friends, this is the biggest problem of incompetence by the staff and the elected officials.
They have become one and the same. The trade unions that dominate the city staff work hand in glove with the elected city convoy. Councillors become dependent on the staff in the decision making process.
Should I remind that the majority of city council have acquiesced to the staff for the past 14 years
Let’s move on to expose more of council mismanagement
In n2014, Superior Court Justice Donald Mackenzie, found the city guilty of wrongful dismissal of Urbacon Buildings Group Inc., the general contactors of the old and new City Hall project on Carden Street.
That was settled by the city and cost an additionaL $23 million over the otiginal $42 million contract. That was a 53 per cent increase over six years
Imagine this. You and your spouse are sitting around the kitchen table and sign a contract to remodel the kitchen for $XX. Then you change your mind and add other feature additions. The contractor say wait a minute that’s not what we agreed to.
Regardless, that’s what your city did to you.
Now it gets interesting.
With the defeat of Mayor Farbridge in 2014, and a number of her council, there was something else going on. Newly elected Mayor Guthrie discovered a financial disaster involving Guelph Municipal Holding Inc.
This was a special project the former mayor put together
While mayor, she made herself chair of GMHI board of directors, and then transferred the city-owned Guelph Hydro to GMHI. She also selected city CAO, Ann Pappert, as the CEO of GMHI.
None of this was reported in the midia includingn the only weekly newspaper in the ity. In fact, almost all of the meetings by the GMHI board were conducted in closed-session.
As part of my defence against the city financed defamation lawsuit, I revealed the increases or the three top managers authorized by a closed-session council meeting, Dec. 10, 2015
These details were only revealed four months later when the provincial Sunshine List was published March 31, 2016.
Now, under the Guthrie administration, there are more closed-sessions by council.
In the fall of 2017, council appoints a special committee to investigate the options of selling, merging or keeping it. The result was, the selling option was off the table. And a merger with Alectra Utilities was recommended by the committee apointed by city council..
Late that year, the accounting firm KPMG announced results of a GMHI consolidated audit that showed the shareholders liability of $66 million. What followed was a highly contrived public relations campaign costing citizens $2.5 million resulting in council approving the merger.
To this day, it remain the greatest blunder of financial management in the city’s history. Council gave Guelph Hydro away for peanuts and promises.
What can citizens do to protect their civic assets and the rights to object?
Against this closed-session juggernaut of municipal power there is almost no opportunity to participate, seek accountability or reject the action of the elected officials and staff.
Today, our only option comes every four years during the civic election. The next one is in 2022.
Here how the deck is stacked against you
The city uses closed-sessions to conduct its business.
They use a hired integrity commissioner to keep council members in line and not reveal discussions of closed-session meetings. They are on retainer plus time involving an investigation of a breach of the council Code of Conduct.
An outfit called Amberlee Gravel, who is the special investigators of closed-session council or board meetings when a citizen complains, polices citizen complaints. They are also on an annual retainer plus time investigating.
Since being appointed in 2008, there have been four complaints or requests. All were denied. My request for the minutes of the December 10, 2015 closed-session meeting took four months to decide whether to release the information. Denied.
Remember the power of running the city rests only with city council.
The Ontario Ombudsman’s office refuses to intervene to assist citizens if their city employs an outside special investigator.
In my opinion, there is a conflict of interest that prevents a citizen’s requests apparently by the city’s special closed-session investigatort and the Ombudsman’s office
It’s a municipal Catch 22
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, in my experience, is to put it mildly, highly politically partnered with its legislative bosses and ineffective.
Citizens in Guelph have no recourse to have honest, unfettered, non-political hearings of grievances.
How serious is this?
Your city administration is using your money to support a private lawsuit initiated in 2016, against me by a former employee who was fired, according to four major media outlets. His sworn testimony before the court was that he “agreed” to leave.
Was he a team player? Planned on retiring anyway?
I can tell you that he did not receive any additional compensatio after February 20, 2017.
This is a prime example of abuse of power against a citizen who was critical of the secrecy involved in large increases to three top staff managers.
This lawsuit now in its fourth year is not just about Gerry Barker, it’s about all citizens who dare to be critical of public administration that are considered by the city to be improper or incorrect.
I believe citizens must appeal to the provincial government to allow a mechanism to recall any councillor or employee who is complicit in not performing their duties or operate outside their oath of office and its responsibilities.
By Gerry Barker
January 13, 2020
This is a story of a Vancouver-based company that has experienced a bottom and bust past developing a third source of power that is emission-free. It is capable of powering locomotives, container ships, heavy trucks, buses, forklifts and large recreation vehicles.
This break-through technology saw Ballard Power Corporation shares, in the last decade soar to $200 a share only to crumble to penny stock levels.
Ballard Power went from darling to peasant in a few years. Collapse of auto companies and a global recession did the company in but not dead.
Today the company shares have made a modest recovery by forming alliances with a major Chinese engine manufacture, Weichjai, to partner converting fossil-fueled heavy vehicles to use the Ballard hydrogen fuel cell technology.
How does it work?
Hydrogen fuel cells combine elemental hydrogen with oxygen in the air, capturing the energy for conversion to electric, according to Ballard Power.
In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, the company worked with a number of major vehicle manufacturers including Honda, Daimler-Chrysler, Ford, Mazda, Nissan and Volkswagen.
Right now, around the world, Ballard and its partners are concentrating on heavy vehicle power that is emission free. The only discharge is water.
There are now thousands of such vehicles using the Ballard Power hydrogen fuel cell technology.
This has the potential of moving heavy vehicles safely and contributing to the reduction of carbon by fossil-fueled commercial vehicles.
What has this to do with Guelph?
There are two reasons that affect citizens.
The presence of Linamar Corporation and its place as a leading manufacturer of auto parts is essential to our community’s economy. They face new challenges to adapt to the growing use of electricity to power car, light trucks, SUV’s and vans.
Did I mention the slow death of sedans with the growth of SUV’s of all shapes and sizes?
Remember the old expression, the trend is your friend?
The new opportunity is supplying large vehicle companies with parts such as engines needed for hydrogen fuel cell heavy vehicles.
This is rapidly taking place. The Chinese engine manufacture Weichai has already partnered with Ballard. As well the U.S. engine builder, Cummins, has signed an order with Ballard Power.
The limitation of electric-powered personal vehicles is the range based on the capacity of the batteries and the limited power available in light vehicles.
Tesla Motors produced some 200,000 EV’s last year and finally made a profit. Tesla produces luxury EV’s that have costs above fossil-fueled vehicles despite government subsidies to purchasers.
One may question why the government is subsidizing EV purchases when private enterprise seems to be pricing emission-free vehicles in greater numbers now.
The second concern for Guelph is about the heavy city and transport trucks using our streets daily. They are going away and cannot convert to electric power sourced from the grid. Also, the cost of switching can be daunting.
In my opinion, Guelph Transit should be the starting point by gradually replacing its fossil-fueled buses, fleet with hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles.
The same applies to the heavy equipment used by the city.
And hydrogen fuel cell power was developed in Canada, eh?
By Gerry Barker
January 6, 2020
Let’s start with the first anniversary of the giveaway of Guelph Hydro that became effective just about a year ago. But questions remain.
What ever happened to that $18.5 million that we were told was part of the cash of Guelph Hydro and was to be distributed to the city’s general revenues?
Why are the hydro poles on Speedvale Avenue being relocated?
What is the cost of this work being performed by Alectra Utilities, the successor to Guelph Hydro?
Why was there a spike in hydro rates last August?
How many Guelph Hydro employees left their jobs as a result of the take-over by Alectra?
Why have there been a number of power outages since the takeover?
What benefits did the city receive as a result of the takeover?
It cost the administration some $2.6 million to sell the proposal to the citizens using fake town halls and slanted communiqués that lacked any pertinent details of the transaction.
Why did city council hold closed-session meeting regarding the impending giveaway?
Why has there been no documentation of the details of this so-called “merger” of a city-owned distribution system valued at $226 million in 2016 by Guelph Hydro?
Why was the CAO Derrick Thomson financially rewarded using public fund?
Co-Chair of the Strategic Options Committee Mr. Thomson received a $67,000 performance bonus in 2018 and resigned in February 2019.
Jane Armstrong, chair of the Guelph Hydro board of directors, was also co-chair with Thomson on the SOC that recommended the merger with Alectra with no details.
Her reward was being appointed to the Alectra Utilities board of directors for five years as city council’s choice to represent Guelph. Her salary was $25,000 per year plus expenses. After a tear there has been no information about the promised dividend from Alectra that was included in the deal. In fact, there has been no communication about this to the citizens.
This giveaway was an example of how public information is dispensed. It is a policy of this administration to conceal, misrepresent and control the details of business to which is in the public interest.
Other examples of ignoring the public trust
The Guelph Innovative Development project has been simmering beneath the surface of the public interest. In 2012 the city staff was assigned to create a new green inspired community on the reformatory property owned by the province.
Last year, the province hired a real estate company to sell the 1.072-acre property in a modified auction. Last spring the real estate company announced the property was on the market and the results of the auction were to be announced in July.
“Silenco!” As they say in the Sistine Chapel.
All that money spent on planning a new “green” development by the city staff appears to be history. The piece of property the city coveted bordered on York and Victoria,
That was one of a number of mistakes made by the Farbridge administration. Just don’t ask why the city started the overbuilt Organic Waste Facility; Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc; bike lanes that start and stop on major roads; Lane reductions on major streets; increasing traffic congestion; City hall construction that was over-spent; the assessment ratio between residential and commercial/industrial remained at 84 per cent versus 16 per cent. That has been unchanged for 13 years.
That last one has the greatest impact on residential properties. Regardless of the increased population and the increases in revenue to the city, much needed new industrial development has been bungled.
And the citizens who pay user fees, special property tax levies, increased assessments and taxes annually pay the bills every year.
We are surrounded by municipalities that have successfully increased the commercial/industrail ratio. These include Milton, Kitchener, and Cambridge.
Did I mention the city staff refusing to pick up used needles on city property? Or
The $25 million parking garage next to city hall that chiefly benefits city staff?
What’s the story spun by the mayor during his re-election campaign about the $350 million Baker Street redevelopment with a private partner and a new central library?
How has the Mayor’s task force dealing with the homeless and drug addicts, unemployed youth and those street people suffering from metal illness? This is not just a Guelph problem but also one that exists in most urban communities across the country.
It begs the question, why can’t all levels of government collectively deal with this growing problem?
There will always be an underclass but there are many today smitten with illness, loss of job, disabilities that should be offered a leg up with counseling and a guarantee of an annual income. Those qualifying should receive support.
There are pilot programs of this kind of support in the U.S. While I commend Mayor Guthrie’s task force initiative, this is a national problem that needs to be addressed.
Growing up during the Great Depression, I recall the hardships encountered by my parents. My dad lost his GM dealership and passed away in 1941. My mother worked in a factory during World War 2. We always had food on the table but no car or permanent home until after the war.
But that’s another story about my widowed mother who never gave up.
I realize that the problem can never fully be resolved but in our country blessed with resources, human, on top and under our vast lands, there can be a better way to enhance the lives of all our fellow citizens.
When you think about it, we all benefit from helping those less fortunate frequently through no fault of their own.
By Gerry Barker
December 30, 2019
So, my wife keeps saying to me, “so what?” We are Canadians, eh? We can’t vote there and we can’t change it. Do I sense a little negativity here?
Digging beneath the Trump tweets how he has been treated unfairly, the Senate Majority leader announced that he is working with the legal staff in the White House advocating that he is a Trump toady who is clinging to power.
Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, wants to know the Senate ground rule before sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, says there are no rules and quips that Pelosi wants to run the Senate.
The real story is Trump is the only Republican candidate for the 2020 Presidential election. Sure, there are other declared candidates for the job but the canny Mitch McConnell knows his caucus is solid to defeat the impeachment articles due to be sent to the Senate for trial.
This is a classic Texas standoff between the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Majority Senate leader McConnell.
So, one man is holding the country hostage. He will become the undertaker of the death of democracy in America.
Three years of chaos
It has taken the Trump administration three years to negotiate NAFTA saying the North American Free Trade Agreement was the worse deal the U.S. made and he was going to scrap it.
This was a classic dilemma, who needs friends when you need enemies?
The facts about NAFTA: Canada was the U.S. major trading partner. More Canadian goods and services were sold to the U.S. than China. The President twisted the negotiation stance saying Canada, for years, was ripping off the US by buying less from the U.S. thereby creating a phony trade deficit.
The truth is that the U.S. administration enjoyed a trade surplus with Canada under the NAFTA 20-year-trade agreement.
To bolster his support with his base of followers, Trump invokes steel and aluminum tariffs on Canadian suppliers. What he failed to consider was the impact of the tariffs on the NAFTA auto trade pact, an important part of the NAFTA deal made 20-years ago. It took more than a year to remove the tariffs when U.S auto manufactures and supporting parts supply companies would be damaged by the tariffs.
The Canadian government told the Trump NAFTA negotiators that the tariff had to be removed when a new agreement was reached.
USMCA is the new hit for the Village People
Along came the USMCA, the replacement of NAFTA. In Argentina, the three leaders shook hands on agreeing to the USMCA, That photo-op failed to have the governments of all three partners approve the deal.
The delay has been the result if a number of factors, not the least was the Democrats in 2018 wining the majority in the House of Representatives when Nancy Pelosi became the new Speaker of the House and third in line if the President and Vice President are unable to perform their responsibilities.
This inserted a new element in the USMCA trade agreement. Coupled with that was the number of House resolutions including gun control, prescription drug costs, Universal healthcare, relations with allies and a long list of resolution that were stone-stalled in the Senate by the leader, Mitch McConnell, who sets the agenda for members of the Senate to debate and approve or disapprove the House resolutions.
McConnel did not put the House resolutions on the floor of the Senate for debate.
Many of the House resolutions were already enjoyed in Canada, including controlling lower cost prescriptions, universal health care for all 37 million Canadians, a constitution guaranteeing personal rights for all citizens. Meaningful support of climate control and rediction of fossil fuel emissions are important to Canadians.
Vive la difference!
On the down side was the emasculation of the auto assembly operations. For all his promise to repatriate-manufacturing jobs to the U.S. Trump, in three years in office has seen the number of manufacturing jobs diminish.
The auto giants in America were adapting to innovative assembly operations using robots and just-in-time parts delivery to meet production demands.
The Donald Trump wrecking crew
But the Trump trade policies didn’t stop there. U.S. farmers selling their products to China lost contracts due to the Trump administration’s applying tariffs to Chinese imports.
This impacted Canadian producers pf soybeans and pork sold to China resulted in terminated contracts in retaliation of the arrest of a Chinese official in Vancouver. She was the Chief Financial Officer of one of the world’s largest tel-com and cyber-associated equipment. This woman was allowed to live in a multi-million dollar mansion in Vancouver but had to wear an ankle bracelet 24/7.
The Canadian government arrested her at the request of the Trump administration on charges of breaking U.S laws concerning complicated accounting laws. That was a year ago. In response, Canada demanded the release of two Canadians held in a Chinese prison on charges of esponage.
These events are the direct result of the destruction of trust and cooperation between our two countries.
There is little evidence of using diplomatic channels to resolve differences.
All we have witnessed is the destruction of alliances with our allies in which the President on the phone, told the Turkish President that he was pulling U.S, troops out of eastern Syria. Within days, Turkish militia entered Syria and attacked the Kurdish forces that were supported by the U.S. special forces who were training and operating the command and control system of the Kurdish forces.
That phone call betrayed a loyal and trusted ally who has eliminated the Isis radical Islamic forces from Eastern Syria. Some 14,000 Kurdish soldiers were killed in that three-year elimination of Isis.
Yet this is the President who has done everything, he set out to abolish the Affordable Care Act that is covering the health care costs of 20 million Americans.
He almost made it when the Senate voted to abolish the ACA but it was defeated by one vote, by Senator John McCain. He voted no and died about a year later.
Trump crowed that he would establish a heal care system that would be cheaper and cover more people than the ACA.
It never happened.
A Texas court strips parts of the ACA
Today, a recent Texas court ruled that the denial of pre-existent coverage by insurance companies was unconstitutional. It now moves to a higher court of appeal.
Understand that the President does not care about Canada. His re-election will destroy Democracy and human rights.
Finally, take the promise made by candidate Donald Trump to the out-of =work West Virginia coal miners that he would get the their jobs back and they would produce good clean coal,
How did that work for them?
A West Virginia Democrat, U.S. Senator, Joe Minchin, is quoted that he is not sure whether to cote for impeachment when the Senate trial begins.
Meanwhile, Trump is furiously tweeting insults and lies about his performance.
The potential is that Trump will be the first President to be re-elected on the volume of incoherent tweets.