Tag Archives: Bryan Larkin

The trip wire that plunged Guelph’s finances into disarray

By Gerry Barker

Posted January 9, 2016

We go back to August 2014 when, two months before the October civic election, then Mayor Karen Far bridge persuaded her council to spend $34 million on renovating downtown police headquarters.

The mayor and Coun. Leanne Piper, appointed to the Guelph Police Services Board (GPSB), were part of that board’s decision to accept a report by management consultants KPMG that identified the costs of the project.

Leading up to this decision, was consultation with then Police Chief Brian Larkin. He was the main advocate to raise the previous $13 million estimate accepted by council in January, to the KPMG estimate of $34 million.

During much of this process, Larkin was negotiating with the Waterloo Police Services Board to become chief. He announced he was leaving in early summer. As the GPSB is not empowered to finance the $34 million, it was the job of Farbridge and Piper to convince their colleagues to spend the money.

At the same time the mayor was facing settlement with Urbacon Buildings Group over the illegal firing of the new city hall general contractor. In September the city announced it had settled the lawsuit by paying Urbacon $8.96 million, at the time, Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert said the settlement would not impact property taxes.

For Farbridge, it was expedient to get these two issues behind her as she was in a tough battle with Coun. Cam Guthrie, who was running for mayor. In mid September the Forum polling firm released the results of a poll that showed Guthrie was ahead of the mayor by 15 per cent.

By this time, the mayor’s campaign went into panic mode, as there was widespread criticism of the mayor’s leadership.

But there’s more to this story.

Two decisions approved by the Farbridge administration amounted to $42.960,000. The real costs of the Urbacon lawsuit rounded out to $67 million, or some $25 million over the original contract of $42 million.

Looking back at the police HQ project, the role of former chief Larkin who left August 31 being paid some $181,000 for eight months on the job, was amplified by his ringing endorsement of Mayor Farbridge. The Ontario Police Act forbids police officers to publically endorse municipal politicians.

On December 9, 2015, the deadline for bids on renovating the new police HQ was received. So far, the city has not revealed the winner of the contract or the cost of the bid.

The police acknowledged that it has taken almost a year to prepare the bid details and necessary changes to the original estimate. They estimated the work would be completed by mid-2018, another election year.

In its first year in office, the new council has levied some 6.95 per cent property tax increases for the years 2015 and 2016. In addition more than 4.15 per cent of operating expenses have been shifted to debt.

Then the report, generated by the staff, recommending a ten-year, two per cent property tax special levy to pay for needed infrastructure repairs and replacement, was quickly taken off the council table just before 2016 budget deliberations began.

A week later the Tribune reported the facts about the proposed special tax levy stating after ten years the total collected from taxpayers would be $285,000,000. Council shoveled the report to a city committee meeting in February for consideration in the 2017 budget.

What this means to the citizens is a shrinkage of services and property values. The city’s operations and capital spending are 52 per cent higher than either Kitchener or Cambridge. Ask yourself why?

When, during budget discussion, why did Coun. Leanne piper want to hire another arborist to join the staff of five already employed for looking after city owned trees? Or why do we need a municipal holding corporation that delivers a $1.5 million “dividend” annually to the city but loses $2.8 million a year?

Why did the city replace auditing firm Deloitte Touche and hired KPMG? (Reference police HQ renovation estimated by this firm that led to an increase of $21 million.)

As the saying goes: If it smells like a fish, it’s a fish.

 

 

 

 

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Your guelphspeaks Weekender

Posted August 28, 2015

Liz Sandals is the candy lady when it comes to union negotiations – City management purge surges – Christians and Soldiers 10, Seagram 0 – Important reminder – Chief Larkin’s Dilemma

 Ontario high school teachers are paid off … again

This past week, the two high school teacher’s unions were presented with a package from the province. The proposal, still to be ratified by the unions, includes a 2.5 per cent pay increase over two years of a three-year contract. And doubling the number of paid professional development and sick days.

Education Minister Liz Sandals called the proposals a “net zero” deal. Interpretation: A “net zero” agreement means that savings must be found elsewhere in the massive Ontario education budget to offset any increase in wages and benefits.

The last time the province, under then Premier Dalton McGuinty, negotiated with the teacher unions it legislated a pay freeze. Kathleen Wynne, McGuinty’s replacement, along with Education Minister, Liz Sandals, reopened the contracts giving back $469 million. It happened close to the provincial election.

Not exactly a “net zero” settlement.

The Premier refuses to describe the wage hikes in the current contract, an increase in compensation. Her detachment from financial reality is just another bump in the road to her legacy of driving Ontario into the ditch. The province is spending almost a billion dollars a month in interest alone and carrying a $8.5 billion dollar deficit.

As for Sandals, our “go along to get along” Education Minister, she has to sign off on this phoney “net zero” agreement. The full details of which are yet to be revealed.

The bottom line is that there are other unions involved in the school system. The school operating staff is represented by the Canadian Union of Pubic Employees. Its leadersip is far from a contract agreement. The result is that those teachers who have agreed to the new contract provisions may be left standing at the doors of their respective schools, September 8 without the custodial staff.

*            *            *            *

A senior manager is fired as the purge of city staff mounts

Chief city building officer, Bruce Poole, a 31-year veteran manager and head of the building department was fired Wednesday from his $137, 825 a year job. Mr. Poole had headed the building department for the past 20 years.

As usual, the city officials clammed up, not offering any explanation of why Poole was dismissed without notice. The city response was: “You’ll have to ask him”.

This means that he was terminated for cause. He was fired.

In private industry and corporations, this is common practice. The city’s General Manager of Human Resources, David Godwaldt, said the firing was completed, using the rules of termination of non-unionized employees established by the city in such cases.

But here’s where this half-baked explanation goes off the rails.

The City of Guelph is a publically funded corporation. It has a fiduciary responsibility to advise the shareholders, we the citizens, of the circumstances of the dismissal of a senior manager.

But this is nothing new. In 2007, the new city administration headed by former mayor Karen Farbridge, fired the city’s top senior managers: Chief Administrative Officer Larry Kotseff, and Chief Financial Officer, David Kennedy.

It took two years to discover the cost of those dismissals made without cause. In addition to their entitled accumulated benefits, Mr. Kotseff and Mr. Kennedy received a settlement of more than $500,000.

If it is established that Mr. Poole is guilty of an unknown action that impaired his ability to function, the legal costs to uphold the city’s actions could still be very expensive. But if the city fired Mr. Poole without proper cause, then the price we’ll have to pay will be substantial.

Either way, by shutting down any information will end up being a costly exercise and remains a case of woeful personnel management.

*            *            *            *

NDP candidate slams Christians and Soldiers, or was it all a joke?

Dear Andrew Seagram: In politics the rule of thumb is not to get anyone mad at you.

Well, you suggest that you want nothing to do with Christians who are “huge friends of Jesus or the mentally ill, and you must stay away from them”.

After that outburst, you can count on them staying away from supporting you election day in October.

Hey Andrew! Don’t rest on those targets on you bigotry bucket list. You are then quoted as describing our military as “suicide bombers.”

“Idolizing our soldiers as heroes is as dangerous as proselytizing a suicide bomber as a martyr”.

Last time I looked, this self-styled bigotry and historical ignorance was not included in Tom Mulcair’s NDP platform.

Even if you believe it was a joke, a bad one at that, and taken out of context, why would you deliberately insult potential NDP voters in Guelph and across the country?

Keep up the good work.

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Important Reminder

The deadline for submissions to the September 10th Municipal Elections Compliance Audit Committee must be submitted by this Friday, September 4. The committee will receive Mr. William Molson’s report regarding his audit of the election expenses of ward six candidate, Glen Tolhurst.

This hearing is the result of a complaint by Susan Watson that Mr. Tolhurst received a $400 donation to his campaign from GrassRoots Guelph that she described as being illegal.

The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers at city hall.

Despite being an awkward time for many people, it is the culmination of an investigation that may have negative long-term effects on the rights of citizens to organize and collectively express their opinions. A threat that could impair future municipal elections causing unwarranted litigation.

Guelphspeaks.ca will publish the GrassRoots Guelph written submission later this week.

*            *            *            *

Is Waterloo Police Chief Bryan Larkin involved in a pickle?

This week, Chief Larkin was asked on Kitchener’s CTV station about a former female officer who had resigned from the force when faced with unknown allegations, then recently rehired as a special officer.

The chief declined to detail the former allegations as they were apparently made under the Ontario Police Act. The KW Police Services Board accepted the officer’s resignation.

Now it is revealed the lady is back on the force and the chief is unwilling to explain, except to say that the matter is being reviewed in view of the public response.

The whole question of the behavior of police officers in Ontario needs a dramatic overhaul by the province. The fact that the Ontario Police Act states that any police officer under investigation for breaking the rules, is put on administrative leave at full pay and allowances until, the matter is adjudicated by the courts or police service boards in the 444 muncipalities across the province.

There are many instances where police officers are charged under the Police Act or in criminal courts whose cases are not heard for months and, in some cases, years. This is a hardship on municipalities who must pay for police services, whether the officer is working or not.

Yet, the provincial government continues to ignore the need to change the out-dated Police Act that allows this feather-bedding action to be an unwarranted charge on the taxpayers .

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