Tag Archives: Bruce Poole

City pays $1,125 fine for failing to take out a building permit for one of its own projects

By Gerry Barker

Posted March 24, 2016

Is this the tip of the iceberg? Recently, Bruce Poole, the former Chief Building Inspector with 20 years service, sued the city for wrongful dismissal. He is claiming $1 million in compensation. This matter is now before the courts.

Why was the veteran Poole fired? Because he approached the senior staff management and said there were some 55 building projects being performed by the city that did not have building permits as required by the Provincial Building Codes Act (BCA).

Poole said he was fired after he warned senior management staff that he would blow the whistle on this breach of BCA protocol. It is alleged that he would institute an action to fine the city for failing to adhere to the Building Codes Act.

Poole was initially offered to step aside and receive his regular pay. He refused. Then the city said he had to take the deal. He refused again and was fired.

This brings up the case of Margaret Neubaur, the Chief Financial Officer of the city for three years. With advance warning, she was unceremoniously marched out of the building in May 2011, by former Chief Administrative Officer, Hans Loewig, and Executive Director of Human Resources, Mark Amorosi. Those two refused to allow Ms, Neubaur to collect her belongings. It was a classic intimidation by the two senior managers. We do not know whether she sued for wrongful dismissal or received compensation for the action. The public was never told why she was fired.

Here’s another example. In 2007, the Farbridge administration fired Chief Administrative Officer, Larry Kotseff, and Chief Financial Officer, David Kennedy, in one fell swoop. It took two years to obtain the settlement details of more than $500,000 through the Freedom of Information Act.

This action gutted the heart of senior management and it has never recovered.

This whole Bruce Poole affair could have been avoided if the senior management had obeyed the rules. Instead, they took it out on their chief building inspector who warned them of the situation.

This is yet another example of incompetence by senior management. And, where was the council in all this? This brings up the excessive use of closed session by council. Under the Municipal Act, a council can go into closed session when the subject is a discussion of a member of the staff that involves personal matters..

In fact, this is yet another example of screening issues behind closed doors. That impacts the public. Rarely are these issues discussed in open council. . Councillors are held to a Farbridge vintage rule that prevents them from discussing what went on in a specific closed session. Often these meetings, held in private before a regular council meeting, turns out to be donnybrooks far from the public’s gaze.

The city now faces not only settling another wrongful dismissal lawsuit but also paying additional fines to the province for all those city projects not having building permits.

And these are the same staff management people who allegedly managed the city’s Urbacon lawsuit defence, that cost $8.96 million to settle, and are now responsible for the Poole firing.

Now we know the city has already paid a fine for not having a building permit for renovations to the West Recreation Centre. Does the new Chief Building Inspector pursues any additional flagrant abuse of the powers given to the senior staff of this administration?

We will never know the answer to this until the conclusion of the civil action brought by Bruce Poole, a man only trying to do his job.

This trial will probably conclude in two years, just in time for the 2018 civic election. Is this not a repeat of the Urbacon decision that cost the city $8.96 million? Later the city admitted the new City Hall contract overrun was $23 million.

Our current dysfunctional city council, with its pro-Farbridge majority, will founder in its attempt to coerce the staff to settle the Poole claim.

The trouble is, because of senior management ineptitude in 2015, they have no leverage. To assault the intelligence of citizens admitting to paying the province a fine of $1,125 for breaching the Ontario Building Codes Act, is beneath contempt. It is no secret that Mr. Poole states there were 55 breaches in city-operated building projects without obtaining a building permit.

The next question is who was getting paid off?

The camera swings onto those contractors hired by the city to perform the work. Why was there no control over these projects?

If Mr. Poole’s assertions are proven in court, and that does not appear to be in doubt, citizens must ask: How did this occur and who benefitted?

Also, the system of management from top to bottom should be subject to professional review to determine what happened and why?

On the surface, Bruce Poole appeared to be a fall guy who allegedly lost control of his department with zero support from senior management. If it reaches trial, the defence will spin that theory.

But reality dictates that the man in charge became so frustrated that he went to the top management and said he had to fine his own city for failing to issue building permits for the city’s own building projects.

You be the judge, is Bruce Poole the victim for doing his job or an inconvenience to the senior staff?

For what it’s worth, my money is on Poole

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Is Guelph a city in crisis in which a vacuum of leadership exists?

By Gerry Barker

Editor

Posted February 29, 2016

Recently, guelphspeaks.ca reported details of the city administration’s bungling managing the public’s money. We now learn that the General Manager of Finance, Janice Sheehy has resigned. Also, former veteran Chief Building Inspector, Bruce Poole, is suing the city for $1 million for wrongful dismissal and according to the statement of claim, defamation of character.

Going through the files, we discovered a report by Mayor Cam Guthrie commenting on the final cost overrun figures from building the new city hall. The report by the Chief Administrative Officer(CAO), Ann Pappert, revealed it cost the city $23 million more than the contract price of $42 million. Most people refer to it as the Urbacon affair.

“It’s now time to turn our focus to the things that made our city great and new ideas that make it better,” Mayor Guthrie stated.

In an editorial in the Guelph Mercury, the mayor is quoted: “I sincerely hope that this audit will take a heavy burden off our collective backs and help us focus on great things happening in our city now and the great things that are about to happen in our future.” The Mercury editorial questioned the Mayor’s assertion that the Urbacon affair be shifted to the back burner.

In a word, platitudes and promises have not settled the people’s concerns about the financial management of the city.

A case in point was the recent revelation in the Guelph Tribune.

During a recent meeting, Coun. Christine Billings asked the staff to confirm that the Capital Renewal Reserve Fund was short $5.24 million because the money was used to settle the Urbacon Buildings Group Inc.’s breach of contract lawsuit. City General Manager and Treasurer Janice Sheehy conceded: “Yes, we did fund that particular issue from the reserve.” Was that admission the cause of Ms. Sheehy’s resignation after less than a year on the job?

As reported in guelphspeaks.ca some months ago, there were three reserve funds that were raided to pay the $8.96 million Urbacon settlement and legal costs.

The CAO reported that the settlement would not affect property taxes and the three reserves would be replenished at a rate of $900,000 annually for five years. Well, that soon went off the rails when Coun. Karl Wettstein, during the March 2015 budget talks, moved successfully to reduce the amount in the 2015 budget to $500,000. He then flipped the problem over to the staff, knowing full well that the $8 million Capital Renewal Reserve had been reduced to just $3.7 million.

Wettstein knew the Guelph Hydro $30 million note was called by the city and knew where the money was spent. He also knew that the administration used $5.24 million of the reserve to settle with Urbacon.

This is an example of the mindless lack of fiduciary responsibility that has gotten Guelph into the current financial crisis. And Wettstein is not alone. His colleagues in the Gang of Seven, all supporters of the defeated former mayor, have become so dependent on the professional staff that is causing the city’s troubles.

With a slim 7-6 majority on council, they have obstructed attempts to reform operations. They are so confident of their power, that despite two of their members away on vacation, they walked out of a regular council meeting January 25, because they did not have the majority.

The man the voters counted on to bring change in the way the city was being managed, speaks of the wonders of the future of the city. His lack of moral fibre to take leadership and root out the rot, destroying our city from within, is becoming increasingly apparent to many people including those who supported him in the election.

This city badly needs a mayor who will lead, not a cheerleader.

He is leading a totally dysfunctional council, in which even those councillors trying to make changes are becoming demoralized over the lack of progress with an obstructionist seven-person majority.

The first step is appointing a committee of citizens to review all those quirky bylaws set up by the previous administration to maintain control of the agenda and rules of operations. They must have the power to dump any governance bylaw that causes obstructionism and unecessary control.

These proceedural bylaws are major stumbling blocks to reform of governance. They are the epitome of self-serving control of all city business by the previous mayor and her hand picked senior administrative managers.

The sheer affrontery of former Mayor Farbridge to spend hundred of thousands of dollars to set up a Transparent and Open Government Action Plan, is laughable in its pretext for righteous governance.

The irony is, that citizens are stilo paying for this “action plan” currently being managed by Andy Best, a paid supporter of the former mayor and appointed by the Guthrie administration.

By a 7-6 majority vote, council approved spending another $267,000 in the 2016 budget for continuing the open government action plan.

And you wonder why we have a financial crisis.

Please Note: Viewers can access previous posts in guelphspeaks.ca archives. There are 749 posts written since 2011 covering, for the most part, the city of Guelph’s administration. Editor Gerry Barker may be reached at gerrybarker76@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A lawsuit and resignation points to failure by senior management

By Gerry Barker

Editor

Posted February, 27, 2016

The combination of a $1 million wrongful dismissal lawsuit and the abrupt resignation of the city’s general Manager of Finance and treasurer indicates the city’s financial management is in disarray.

Janice Sheehy, who was appointed to the financial management position March 2015, is leaving March 24 to become the Region of Peel’s commissioner of human services.

Ms. Sheehy was hired from Halton Region where she was employed in a non- financial management position. In Guelph, she reported to Deputy Chief Administratiion Officer Mark Amorosi. In the past nine years, she was the sixth person to manage the city finances.

This indicates that power among the senior staff, centres around three people: Ann Pappert, Chief Adinistrative Officer, DCAO, Mark Amorosi and City Clerk, Stephen O’Brien. All three were appointed by the previous administration, headed by former mayor Karen Farbridge.

In November 2014, right after the civic election, Pappert announced a senior staff re-organization. Senior Director, Janet Laird, retired; Operations Director, Derek McCaughan, was eased out to be replaced by Derrick Thomson, another Farbridge appointee; and Chief Financial Officer, Al Horsman was shifted to DCAO of environmental services, planning and engineering, the former Laird job.

Financial management was shifted to DCAO, Mark Amorosi, who said the city would hire a treasurer and general manager of finance. Enter Ms. Sheehy and what followed was a series of mis-statements, confusing reports of the city’s financial position and the revelation that the city’s reserve funds were under-financed.

There is evidence that the reserves were raided by the administration to pay the court costs and the $8.96 million lawsuit settlement, won by Urbacon Buildings Group,Inc. A consultant hired by the city to review finances and operations reported that the reserves were a “red flag of caution” due to underfunding.

The casting of the 2016 city budget turned out to be a marathon fiasco with a council that took two days to finally approve a budget. It continued the pattern of high spending on staff and pet projects of the majority Gang of Seven, who are bent on perpetuating the policies of the former administration.

Since the former mayor was defeated, council has passed two budgets, 2015 and 2016, with a total property tax increase of 6.95 per cent. Mayor Cam Guthrie was elected, promising property tax increases to not exceed the Consumer Price Index that was 1.9 per cent in 2014 according to Statistics Canada.

Former Chief Building Inspector sues the city

Moving on to the wrongful dismissal lawsuit brought by former Chief Building Inspector, Bruce Poole, it is apparent that, once again, the city senior staff made a decision that will probably cost the city a lot of money.

In his statement of claim filed February 11, Mr. Poole outlines he was subjected to: “Harsh, vindictive, reprehesible and malicious conduct by senior officials leading up to his termination.”

July 10, 2014: Poole emailed the entire city executive team that there were approximately 50 city projects with open building permits and, “ongoing issues with construction being carried out without the required building permits.”

Daring to challenge the city administration for failing to enforce its own bylaws, Poole was: “First demoted, then offered a voluntary paid leave, then put on non-voluntary paid leave, and then fired in an attempt to prevent him from carrying out his duties under law.”

Translation? It was a failed, clumsy attempt to shut him up. It is important to understand that both CAO Pappert and then executive director, Mark Amorosi, whose responsibility included human resources, had to be responsible for Poole’s termination. The buck stops at the top.

In addition the former mayor had to be aware of the circumstances of Poole, firing after serving as Chief Building Inspector (CBI) for 20 years. The city’s CBI is a provincially mandated position.

Last November, CAO Ann Pappert denied the city was ever in violation of either its own bylaws or provincial building codes.

In his statement of claim, Poole mentions the CAO alleging: “Pappert has been providing the public with false and misleading statements,” regarding the status of some 50 city projects that failed to obtain buidling permits. The claim states: “Pappert was implying that Bruce was incompetent and wrong in his position and thereby defaming Bruce.”

It is now more apparent that there is evidence of management rot at the top. Despite this, Mayor Guthrie, for his own reasons, refused to stand up and take the necessary steps to excise the malaise at the top echelon of his administration.

Without leadership of the mayor, Guelph will continue to lurch along with mangled finances, excessive spending that has contributed to the huge difference between Guelph’s operating and capital costs, that are 50 per cent higher than either Kitchener and Cambridge

The city is in dire need of a new city manager and a chief financial officer.

Perhaps new senior executive leadership could have prevented Bruce Poole’s $1 million lawsuit

Bruce Poole was fired because he did his job and the Farbridge infected management didn’t like it.

Janice Sheehy quit and got another job because she recognized the dreadful condition of city finances and refused to be part of it.

So Mr. Mayor, when are you going to act and stop this decent into gross mismanagement of the city’s business and turn things around?

 

 

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