Tag Archives: Cam Guthrie

Part One: A candid look at Cam Guthrie’s re-election platform

By Gerry Barker

September 17, 2018

Well, four years of the Guthrie Administration have gone by and are you better off today than October 2014?

The good news is that if you operate a business, are a public employee and have a good job, things are a little better, particularly if you own a home.

But we live in uncertain times. The North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is on the edge of foundering. This has a direct effect on Guelph where there are more than 6,000 employees at Linamar plants alone, not including the small feeders plants to Linamar. They may see their jobs evaporate if the U.S. imposes tariffs on cars and auto parts built in Ontario and shipped south daily.

Let’s be fair. This potential economic threat is not in Cam Guthrie’s wheelhouse. It does become a problem when Guelph citizens employed in the private sector including the auto industry, retail and service operations lose their jobs and cannot pay their bills if NAFTA falls apart.

If this does occur, it will be a national disaster, the likes of which we have never seen since the Great Depression.

Guelph Citizens who escape this potential economic fallout are public employees including those working for the city, estimated to be 2,800, plus the University of Guelph and Conestoga College, staffs of the provincial and federal government living in Guelph.

I remain hopeful that NAFTA will survive although there will be changes that will affect some Canadians especially in the agriculture sector of our economy.

The Guthrie Plan for a Better Guelph

There is the obvious stuff to placate the progressive members of the new council. Stuff like affordable housing and communities, promoting the urban forest and canopy of trees, dumping single use plastics in city buildings, supporting the thousands of labour union members, and increasing and maintaining social services. Keep in mind that 80 per cent of the city staff are active members of unions and associations.

The mayor comes off as a law and order guy who wants to spend $750,000 every year hiring new officers. His mantra is safety, safety for everyone. As a member of the Guelph Police Services board, Mr. Guthrie is up close and personal with the growth of crime in the city. His solution is to spend more money adding more cops.

But there are serious drug problems on the downtown streets that have not been corrected in the past 15 years. Panhandlers, drunks, drug dealers and homeless people plague the streets downtown, particularly at night and weekends. For eight months of the year it is exacerbated by the weekend influx of University students and out-of-town rowdies.

It’s a volatile soup of booze, drugs, violence, and sex mixed with immaturity and irresponsibility.

Hiring more police is not the only answer, Mr. Mayor. As the next mayor, you need to set up a task force to investigate how other university cities handle the problem such as Kingston, Toronto, Waterloo, London, Windsor and Ottawa. Also the investigation should include Winnipeg, Calgary and Victoria.

The task force should be talking to Mayors and Police chiefs. It should also plan and complete its investigation material and report back to council within four months. This only addresses the control and enforcement issues. The social issues are ongoing endemic problems that need support from the provincial and federal governments.

Those folks employed on the front lines of this situation should not only be part of the Mayor’s Task Force to make the city safe for everyone, but supported by city council.

In my opinion, this remains a lingering boil on the underbelly of our city. It is time to lance it.

In his platform, he mayor does not address the high cost of living in Guelph. In four years, property taxes in the city have increased by an estimated 15 per cent, including increases in assessment and inflation.

It remains a conundrum when during his election campaign he promised to keep the property tax rate at the same level as the Consumer Price Index and get rid of the Guelph Factor. Not sure what that meant but believe he was referring to the cost and difficulty of doing business with and in Guelph.

Noting that has occurred, when I hear a story about a certain city employee who is responsible for protecting wild species, who I’m told, has veto power to deny development proposals. In this case, it was bullfrogs residing in a small wetland on a property applying for and receiving a variance to proceed.

So, the Guelph Factor remains alive. The Mayor’s proposal is to continue with the staff review processes that have been ongoing in the city.

For what it’s worth Mr. Mayor, you will become the mayor of the Century if you can lead your new council to reduce the operational overhead of our city.

Your support of the South End $63 million Recreation Centre and the main library project, also known as the $350 million Baker Street redevelopment plan, remain pixie dust in the business of the city.

The rhetoric is great, political but financially fanciful.

But then, when you are on the cusp of retuning as Mayor, you are entitled, and known, to change your mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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City Council tax grab creates a CATastrophy!

By Gerry Barker

January 22, 2018

We take you now to the weekly meeting of the city Bylaw Enforcement officers. The Chief BLEO tells the assembled officer that council has passed a cat licence bylaw in which owners are required to pay an annual fee of $25 per cat

“Dogs are licensed,” the Chief, said, “why not cats?”

A voice in the back row said: “What’s next? We tax Goldfish, Gerbils, Hamsters and pet Anacondas and their lunch, Pigs? But what about taxing Lizards, Roosters and Monkeys?

“Smithers, we’ll have none of that talk. For that smart comment, you will join the new pussy patrol.”

A giggle developed in the room as the officers tried not to laugh out loud.

An officer asked if any members of council owned a cat. “Good Heavens,” bellowed the Chief BLEO. “Our job is to enforce the laws of the city even if it means knocking on every door to detect a household mouser.”

A collective sigh ensued as one officer said: ‘There goes the neighbourhood.”

The Chief went on to explain that a secret CAT-Fink would be set up to develop tips on who and where there are household felines. CAT-tipsters would be rewarded with a free b of cat litter. “You know, that stuff is useful in winter when you’re stuck and the tires are just spinning,” the Chief BLEO said.

“You have to spot the tell-tale cat track in the snow to hunt these unlicensed cats down and nail the owners, “ the Chief added.

“So men, get out there and find those cats and tell the owners they must license them.”

With that the Chief started for the door when an officer spoke up: “Ah, Chief, don’t you think we should start first by licensing bicyclists using city streets? They don’t pay to use the roads and bike lanes. Besides they are easier to catch.”

A second officer spoke up: “My grandpa owns a cat she just had six kittens. Does this mean he is entitled to a cat discount or does he have to pay for seven cats?”

“If the owner has more than one cat, they have to pay the $25 each year for every cat that’s alive,” the Chief BLEO reploed..

“I guess we should also check the obituaries for any cat departures and the vets in town for tipping us off on the owners of the cats, right, chief?”

The other side of the story

I witnessed a secret enclave of Guelph liberated cats (allowed to go outside to meet friends and relieve themselves).

Our neighbourhood cat, Tuxedo, spoke of the need to hide when the bylaw officer is in the neighbourhood. This would also include hiding any evidence of a cat in the house plus cat food, litter boxes and catnip balls.

“This is now man against cats, said the Tuxster. Remember we can run faster, hide in better places and laugh at this dumb bylaw,” said Tuxedo to the cat convention located in an undisclosed location.

Of course, Tuxedo belongs to the neighbourhood so proving which resident is responsible will be the trial of the Century. Besides in our neighbourhood we rarely see any city employees. We pay for waste removal, snow plowing, infrastructure maintenance, even flushing out the fire hydrants and maintaining the water and sewage pipes plus the lane and road repairs.

After many years, we have become independent of the city but must pay for all the services we don’t receive. We pay $235 a month condo fee for all self-financed services include grass cutting and trimming. Our taxes cost about $685 a month.

And now council is taxing us for owning a cat?

Is this what Mayor Guthrie was referring to when he promised, during his 2014 election campaign, a Better Guelph?

City Council decided, let’s tax the cats and watch the fur fly. Sounds like a plan.

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Guess who the Progressive Conservative candidate in Guelph will be next June?

By Gerry Barker

August 14, 2017

Guelphspeaks has learned that the Guelph Provincial Progressive Conservative Association has been bypassed and informed that PC headquarters in Toronto has made a selection.

There is nothing illegal in this although one would naively expect that the choice of a candidate should rest with the local association. This is the second time the PC PooBaas have overridden the selection of a candidate. Anthony MacDonald was parachuted in to represent the Guelph PC’s in the last provincial election. We all know how that turned out.

My sources tell me that the PC Association has been hard at work vetting candidates and preparing to hold a nomination meeting. Then, there was the sudden withdrawal of trucking executive Tom Mooney, as a candidate, in protest of PC headquarters finagling with the process. Mr. Mooney stated that there was too much of this going on across the province where PC candidates were being chosen.

I asked one of my sources if the local PC Association cannot run a nomination meeting to select the best candidate, why is there an association? “It’s exists to raise money,” was the response.

So who is the anointed candidate to represent Guelph in the Ontario Legislature?

My sources say it is our Mayor, Cam Guthrie.

There is no doubt that Mr. Guthrie is well known in the city. He won the 2014 civic election by more than 5,000 votes, defeating a three-term mayor. However he was unable to persuade the majority of his council that property taxes had to be held to the Consumer Price Index rate as he promised his supporters. In March 2015, his first budget resulted in a property tax rate that was eventually 3.96 per cent after adjustments.

But he did put the brakes on the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc.’s (GMHI) multi-million experiment. This failed to create a made-in Guelph self-sufficient in power generation and co-generation thermal underground water heating and cooling system.

In May 2016, Pankaj Sardana, then Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer for GMHI reported the Community Energy Initiative (CEI) projects in the Downtown area and the Hanlon Business Park, were financial disasters. What we didn’t know at that time was the extent of the losses by GMHI and Guelph Hydro that loaned some $94 million to GMHI in the form of two debentures.

Mr. Sardana said the two District Energy Nodes (pumps) and co-generation project should never have been started in the first place.

The former mayor, Karen Farbridge, who acted as chair of the GMHI Board of Directors for four years until her defeat in 2014, founded the CEI and GMHI. It is noted that Ann Pappert, the Chief Administrative Officer of the city, also served as CEO of GMHI for four years.

Ms. Pappert co-signed the devastating GMHI report to council and left the city ten days later, May 26, 2016. She received $237,500, plus a taxable benefit of some $6,300, a full year’s pay for five months work.

Mr. Guthrie was a supporter of Ms. Pappert and he attacked a citizen who wrote a scathing report of Ms. Pappert’s performance as CAO. He threatened the resident with legal action but never advanced his threat. In my case, he wrote a number of emails to his supporters not to believe me and pay no attention when I reported that council was reviewing Ms. Pappert’s contract.

Mr. Guthrie was no fan of guelphspeaks.ca

Then along came that December 10 closed-session meeting of council that approved $98,224 increases for four senior executives. CAO Ann Pappert, Deputy Chief Administrative Officers Al Horsman, Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson. Only Mr. Thomson remains and is now CAO of the city. Those four increases ranged from 14.7 to 19 per cent. There was no evidence of justification for these increases that were concealed until March 2016.

Guelphspeaks revealed, in late March 2016, just how much those four executives received as reported in the 2016 Sunshine list published by the province of every public employee earning more than $100,000.

Mr. Guthrie, as mayor, presided over that closed meeting. Attempts to have the minutes revealed have been denied. The public has no knowledge of which councillors approved or objected to the increases. The bottom line is why was it done in secret knowing full well that it would eventually be made public?

Was the Guthrie council so confident that people would soon forget the deception?

Now the result is a lawsuit initiated by a member of the executive group who was dismissed last February.

That procedure has not been brought to trial. If and when it does, the discovery process could involve testimony by those members of council and staff participating in that closed meeting. The delayed discovery of which, led to the lawsuit.

By choosing Mr. Guthrie to be the PC candidate, the PC party should be prepared for fallout of the Mayor’s support in the next ten months.

The question is: When does provincial candidate Guthrie resign as Mayor of Guelph? The civic election is not until October, five months after the provincial election June 7, 2018.

Which leaves us with two major party candidates having performance issues that will result in a tumultuous campaign and an opportunity for the NDP to win the election.

I shiver in anticipation.

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Why did the Guthrie administration shut the water off when the house was on fire?

By Gerry Barker

February 27, 2017

Late last week, I finally received a response from the Closed Session Investigator, employed by the city, after almost four months of “investigation.” On November 2, 2016, I requested that the minutes of the closed session council meeting of December 10, 2015 be released to the public.

The reason? That was the meeting in which the public learned four months later, that the top three senior managers of the city had been awarded a total of $98,202 in increases for 2015.

That decision was hidden from the citizens until March 31, 2016 when the provincial Sunshine List of all public employees earning more than $100,000 a year was published.

And there it was. Chief Administrative officer, Ann Pappert, got $37K, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Derrick Thomson, $33K and DCAO Mark Amorosi, $26K

The city administration currently led by Mayor Cam Guthrie and CAO Derrick Thomson has never publicly acknowledged even paying the increases let alone the rationale.

The conclusion by the special closed session investigator Amberley Gravel, stated: ”That the council did not breach the provisions of the Municipal Act where it went into closed (sic) for consideration of the non union compensation adjustment on December 10 part of the council budget meeting of Dec 9 and 10 2015.”

This five-page report detailed how the Amberley Gravel investigator arrived at this conclusion.

First, the open public discussion of council to approve the 2016 city budget was spread over two days. I know because I covered it both days. During those deliberations, council sandwiched, in a closed session, to approve the non-union compensation isncreases of the three top managers. The details of which were not revealed.

The reason for the closed session as stated in the Municipal Act was s.239(2) (d) was “with respect to labour relations or employee negotiatio

Denying the right to know what we are paying our staff

Do you think this explanation gives council the right to deny the public to know what stakeholders are paying their professional staff?

How long had these labour negotiations with the three senior staffers, occur before that Dec. 10 meeting? In my opinion council, before that meeting, had an excellent grasp of what the three managers were going to receive. All they had to do was vote to approve it and they did it behind closed doors which the Amberley Gravel reports interprets as quite legal under the Municipal Act.

There was no one to protest or comment as for four months the people were unaware. Our society demands that public boards apply the rule of law and ensure checks and balances. City council abandoned this responsibility and acted to cover it up. To me this was moral turpitude and cowardice.

The report states: “At 8:45 p.m. December 10, Council reached the matter identified as the 2016 Non Union Compensation adjustment recommendation. This is identified as item #8 of the 2016 Tax Supported 4 (sic).”

Okay let’s offer an explanation of this Amberley Gravel statement.

They are referring to the 2016 budget. I contend, and the provincial Sunshine List concurs, that those increases were awarded for 2015, not 2016. If Amberley Gravel can’t keep it straight, how do they expect the citizens to understand … or maybe they don’t.

The top three managers’ increases were for 2015. In my opinion, this only exacerbates the sloppy financial management that has plagued the citizens.

Here’s why. In March 2015, council approved the 2015 budget. It is certain that non-union compensation for 2015 would have been included in that budget. Why did it take a special closed session meeting Dec. 10 to approve the $98,202 staff increases? Would this not generate a negative variance of the 2015 Budget when the 2015 Financial Information Report (FIR) is filed to the province?

As an aside, the 2015 FIR was not completed until August 2016 chiefly because the financial staff was missing two key employees, General Manager and Treasurer Janice Sheehy, who resigned in March 2016 and Tara Baker, a financial analyst who went on maternity leave mid year.

Now, two of the recipients of this Dec 10 event are gone, leaving just CAO Thomson as the third employee who received the increase in 2015. And neither he, nor any member of council who approving the award, has said a word about this exorbitant public expense that has been covered up for the last 14 months.

Was it just coincidence or a cover-up?

Even stranger, there was another closed session of council, just four days later, December 14, 2015, to approve the Indemnification Bylaw. Thus it authorizes repayment of legal costs incurred by any staff member, or elected official if they are charged with a legal procedure onitiated by any citizen or corporation.

There is one legal case currently in play in which a former city official has sued a citizen for alleged defamation. This case is a reversal of the intent of the Indemnification Bylaw.

Even more important, was it just coincidence that after the recipients received a boatload of money council, in its wisdom, decided to make sure that no one complained and sued the city or its officials?

On November 2, 2016, I requested an investigation by the city’s closed session investigator who was on a retainer with the city since 2008, the request was denied. As far as I can find out, this is only the fifth such request that has been investigated since 2008. None of them were granted or in favour of the complainant.

This investigator is a part-time employee of the city who represents the staff and elected officials but not the public interests.

I should point out that an investigation implies that all affected parties are interviewed. I never heard from the Investigator, Amberley- Gravel, located in London.

Why are citizens paying for this “independent” service that apparently always sides with the administration? Particularly when more than half of the 445 Ontario Municipalities use the services of the Independent Ontario Ombudsman’s office for such closed session investigations.

This is another tactic used by the administrations headed by the former mayor, Karen Farbridge, to suppress public opinion and participation in the business of the people’s government.

In the past nine years, the record is full of examples of the misuse of closed public sessions of council to conceal, thwart or de-politicize important events and decision involving spending the public’s money.

So the cover-up remains. Mayor Guthrie and his council could have prevented this abuse of the public purse and right to know. I know there is a minority of council who probably did not go along with this decision to grant large increases to three staffers.

But because of the implied threat of being investigated by the Integrity Commission for speaking out about the details of closed session meetings, they are politically hogtied. That’s how the former mayor kept the troops in line.

While the majority of council sits back and believes they are immune from criticism and confrontation when the public objects, they will discover the wrath of the public come the next election in 2018.

I think about this a lot. Our city is being run by a collection of weaklings on council and a depleted senior staff. That is a double whammy against the citizens. Nine years of abuse of the public trust has done n irreparable damage to the citizen stakeholders.

This is why the cost of operations in Guelph are 50 per cent higher that comparably-sized cities. That’s why our taxes are among the highest in the province. That’s why our user and service fees are higher than other municipalities of similar size.

Administrative weakness at the top

Today, there is little strength at the top of city management. By the latest count the city has lost 12 senior managers since Mayor Guthrie was elected. The city has no Chief Financial Officer, no City Solicitor, is minus two DCAO’s and a bloated city staff that needs rationalization.

It’s ironic that in the 2016 budget discussion, there was an attempt to conduct a total staff rationalization to strengthen the administration. The majority of council pooh-poohed the plan saying it would cost too much and the current senior staff had made all the staff realignments to reduce costs that were possible. It was defeated.

In the preparation of the 2917 budget, council approved hiring 13 additional employees costing more than $1million annually.

Yet, February 15, 2017, this same council voted to spend $500,000 to conduct a search of options available to sell, merge or just leave Guelph Hydro alone. The irony of this decision is to hire some nameless outside consultant to solve their problem in the next four months is like shutting off the water when the house is on fire.

For those members of council who are planning to seek re-election, here is some advice: Vote to conduct an independent audit of the city’s finances; conduct a public hearing to review all bylaws, particularly those passed by the three administrations.

Open all city meetings. If a legitimate closed session is necessary, publicize the reason and conclusion of the discussions and recommendations conducted in private.

Memo to council: Please stop treating your constituents as dummies who are manipulated and coerced. Remember whom you work for.

Just think about that

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Is Mark Amorosi, the man for all reasons?

By Gerry Barker

November 7, 2016

The most powerful civil servant in the Guelph administration is Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Mark Amorosi.

His field of management control covers the spectrum of staff responsibility. According to the city staff organization chart, Mr. Amorosi is chief of Finances, Human Resources, Corporate Communications and Customer Services, Court Services, Information Technology, Project Management Office, and the City Clerk’s department. Senior managers in those key departments report to Amorosi.

Mr. Amorosi, an eight-year veteran of the administration has climbed steadily in the ranks. He was hired to head the small (at the time) Human Resources (HR) department that included control over, union and management association negotiations; hiring and firing, staff benefits, personnel performance reviews, and examining personnel markets in competitive jurisdictions.

In short, all personnel matters filter through his field of responsibility. The staff in 2008 was growing rapidly as the new council under Mayor Farbridge was fulfilling its agenda of changing the city. The size of the city staff in 2008 was about 1,400. However for discussion purposes, Mr. Amorosi’s HR department did not report the details of the police, fire and EMS staffs who are also city public employees.

Currently the 2015 city staff count is 1,944, all of whom are members of the Ontario Municipal Employee Retirement System (OMERS). It does not include those employees who are members of the managerial association or other organized units within the staff. All city staff is contributing to their respective retirement organizations and their defined pensions. This means the municipality is bound to paying retirees the indexed benefit for their lifetime of the employee as well as surviving spouse.

Did I mention that the average age of retirement of OMERS members is 55? For actuarial purposes, the life expectancy of a 55 year old is an additional 25 years. It is a huge and growing liability to Ontario’s 445 municipalities. Guelph has two future retirement liabilities on it balance sheet totaling $31 million and growing by $3 million a year. That is not cash on the books but an entry to track the future liabilities of staff retirement, both unionized and managerial. Currently there are two cash reserves dedicated to support the liabilities. The OMERS liability of $14,519,000 has a reserve fund of $1,799,000. The liability of the managerial staff is $16,850,000 with a reserve fund of $1,147,000.

The cash coverage of those future liabilities is just 9.3 per cent.

Again it’s pushing the ball down the line with expectation of the next 50 years, for example, the council will have to have the financial underpinning to guarantee the promised benefits for its retired employees who could number in the thousands. It is even scarier that OMERS is underfunded by $7 billion. If salaries of public workers keep escalating it will only make matters worse.

Mr. Amorosi has been in charge of HR since was hired and within two years took on Legal Services in his Executive Director managerial portfolio. On the surface, at the time, this looked like a good fit because HR needed legal support due to the numerous contract negotiations and staff movement. On his watch, the city staff has grown beyond the growth of population.

Currently, CAO Derrick Thomson is in charge of legal services and the city solicitor’s office.

Mr. Amorosi’s next major move up the senior management ladder came in November 2014 following the civic election. Within a very short period of time, CAO Ann Pappert announced a major shift in responsibilities before Mayor Elect Cam Guthrie took over December 1, 2014. It is not known if Ms. Pappert briefed the mayor of the senior staff reorganization or not.

Executive Director Janet Laird resigning, and Executive Director, Derek McCaughan, leaving the city staff for unknown reasons caused this change.

This action was the birth of the title, “DCAO.” There were three DCAO’s plus Ms. Pappert remaining: Mark Amorosi, Derrick Thomson and Chief Financial Officer Al Horsman. Ms. Pappert left the city in May this year to take a job with the Ontario government. Mr. Horsman left in August 2015 to take the job of CAO of Sault Ste Marie.

As it has turned out, Mr. Horsman was the city’s last CFO. Under Amorosi’s watch, he has gone through two General Managers of Fincance and appointed a third as CFO, General Manager of Finance and Treasurer. That individual is currently on maternity leave until next year. Horsman’s job was handed to Mark Amorosi who has been operating the Finance department for the past 24 months. He has played a major role in two city budgets and now is involved with the 2017 budget with CAO Derrick Thomson.

This is where Mr. Amorosi chooses to ignore a thorough analysis performed by Guelph resident Pat Fung; his credentials include being a Chartered Accountant and a Certified Public Accountant. Designations not possessed by Mr. Amorosi.

Mr. Fung presented his financial analysis of the city’s finances to members of council August 18 and again two weeks ago at a meeting of council. During his five-minute presentation he asked a direct question of Mr. Amorosi and the Mayor intervened saying he cannot question the staff “in this way.”

The Fung report documentation for his analysis was based on the city’s own published financial statements over four years and a report in 2014 to the city by BMA management consultants of Hamilton.

Not only did Mr. Fung demonstrate how Guelph’s operating costs were higher than Ontario cities of similar size but also were 50 percent higher than either Kitchener or Cambridge.

The figures clearly show a four-year pattern of wasteful spending with major negative variances, (excessive spending over budget) at year end. This resulted in a depletion of reserves every year that CAO Ann Pappert was in charge.

Before the 2014 civic election, Ms. Pappert when revealing the settlement with Urbacon Buildings Group costing $8.96 million, announced that $5.7 million was used to pay the lawsuit costs. Ms. Pappert said the three reserves used would be repaid with annual replenishment of $900,000 a year from operating budgets.

Then Mr. Amorosi, now head of finances, was involved in the 2015 budget in which Coun. Karl Wettstein moved to reduce the payback to $500,000 a year and the majority of council agreed. After reviewing the 2015 Financial Information Report, I could find no reference to any money being used to replenish those specific reserves.

Then along came the Dec 10 closed-session Council meeting that awarded three senior managers, Mark Amorosi among them, increases ranging from 14 to 19 per cent for 2015. The public did not learn of these excessive increases until they were revealed when the Provincial Sunshine List was published in March 2016.

The Guelph council or the three recipients have never admitted or commented on the salary increases or the reasons for awarding them.

When you translate this egregious deliberate cover-up to the way the city is being managed, the Fung Analysis becomes more pertinent, particularly his recommendations to reduce operating and capital spending costs.

I have contended for some time that this is the way three terms of councils, supported by city staff, have misled the citizens who are taxed excessively and forced to pay high user fees for a wide range of “services” ranging from storm water maintenance to waste collection.

Mr. Amorosi heads Court Services as part of his management control portfolio. The 2015 annual official Financial Information Report reveals that amount of fines levied in the provincial offenses court located in the old City Hall for 2015 was $14,337,000. But $8,022,000 of that amount is considered uncollectable or 55.9 per cent of those fined got away without paying.

Hmmm. If Mr. Amorosi was in private business and was responsible for company revenues, how long would he last when he reported a 55.9 per cent failure to collect court-awarded revenue?

Ask yourself, does this demonstrate the rationale that led to his 2015 salary increase of $26,868?

 

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Salary Gate; The plot sickens

By Gerry Barker

October 21, 2016

When former Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert, left the top city staff job last May, she walked away, after more than five years employed by the city with a gold plated pension. Her final months gave her 70 per cent of her estimated last five years at a salary rate exceeding $200,000 per year.

When she was promoted to the CAO’s job in 2011, she was making the same as retiring CAO Hans Loewig, $199,000 a year. By 2014, she was making $219,000. Then came the big bump up in pay that gave her a new salary of $257,591 for 2015 and part of 2016.

She wasn’t alone. Two of her three subordinates also received hefty increases ranging from 14 to 19 per cent.

The trouble was that the public was not aware or informed of council’s approval that December 10th in closed session.

Why would Mayor Guthrie and council go along with this? Why would the Mayor not inform the residents of Guelph of this major decision? Will we ever know the rationale of this approval or why these increases were warranted?

These three top managers of the city staff, numbering more than 2,000 employees, were awarded these increases totaling $98,000 in a closed meeting held either before or after the second day of the open public meeting to create the 2016 budget.

These increases were not made public until March 2016 when the provincial Sunshine List let the cat out of the bag.

When this occurred, Pappert was leaving; Thomson had turned in his resignation to work elsewhere and Al Horsman left for a better job in August 2015 to become CAO for Sault Ste Marie. Only Mark Amorosi, head of HR, Legal Services and Finance remained.

In fairness, Mr. Horsman was not a party to this as he was removed as Chief Financial Officer in November 2014 to take over Waste Management and Environmental Services. He was not a city employee when the council approved the 2015 senior management increases in camera last December 10.

Was there fear of recrimination or loss of reputation among this group who hid their substantial salary increases behind an ill-advised code of silence?

When I asked city Clerk Stephen O’Brien for the minutes of the closed session held December 10, I was informed closed session meetings are “not part of the public record” and are not available.

The hidden benefit

While you may think those increases were out of line without substantial performance evaluations to back them up, there was another hidden benefit that no one, especially the recipients, want to talk about.

In my opinion, Ann Pappert walked away from this city as a millionaire . For more than five years her base gross salary exceeded more than $1,073,979. That did not include annual taxable benefits or the $20,000 “moving allowance” she received as incentive to move to Guelph or the taxable benefits she received over those 56.5 months as CAO.

The real benefits story lies in her pension. Following more than five years employed by the City of Guelph, her pension is 70 per cent of the average of her previous five years plus 4.5 months in 2016. Upon retirment, that gives her a lifetime pension of $150,300 a year, indexed, plus paid health and dental coverage, any accumulated unused sick leave or vacation time and a severance allowance that was part of her employment contract. Details of these management contracts are not made public. Often called the golden handshake, these termination costs can range from a few months to multiple years of the employee’s former salaries. Throw in unused sick leave credits and or vacation and it adds up.

If Ms. Pappert had resigned in 2015 before her five-year anniversary of being CAO, and without that huge 2015 increase, her pension would have dropped to an estimated $144,120 per year. Ms. Pappert is a relatively young woman and has years to live on a very comfortable income for the rest of her life when she starts drawing it.

But that’s the tip of the iceberg. Excluding Mr. Horsman who did not avail himself of the Salary-Gate exercise, the two remaining participants will also see their pension benefits take a giant leap forward. While Mr. Thomson was employed by the city for a very short time, he is now CAO. He joined the staff in 2013 with a salary of $172,000 and is now making north of $220,000 as CAO. That’s an estimated $48,000 salary increase in not quite three years. Of course his job responsibilities increased substantially. Mr. Amorosi is still chugging along with a salary of $209,000 as the man in charge of Human Resources. City Finances and Legal Services.

The bottom line is Ms. Pappert is not the only winner in Salary-Gate. Both Mr. Thomson and Mr. Amorosi will also benefit, not only receiving 2015’s large salary increases but also growing enhanced pensions while still employed.

But here’s the underlying problem that citizens face regarding these awards to senior managers.

The growing retirement liabilities facing Guelph

The city’s annual audited financial report states that there are two staff retirement liabilities on its books: One is $14,519,000 connected to 1,944 city employees who are members of the Ontario Municipal Employee Retirement System (OMERS). This liability grew by $2,087,000 between 2014 and 2015. The total city reserve fund to cover this liability is $1,799,000. OMERS is currently underfunded by $7 billion. This means that the citizens of Guelph must guarantee payment of those defined pensions for the life of the retired employees.

Here’s more. There is another staff retirement liability on the city books is $16,850,000 covering other non-OMERS employees. It is backed up by a reserve fund of $1,147,000.

These two liabilities total $31,369,000 for 2015 and aregrowing. Adding younger workers exacerbates the rising costs because people are living longer. Also, awarding excessive remuneration to all levels of city staff pushes the liabiltiies beyond the projected rate of inflation. Last year the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was 1.1 per cent.

In the case of the OMERS employees the liability increased by 15.5 per cent from 2014 to 2015. Projecting that growth rate forward for 10 years and the OMERS employee group liability is estimated to exceed $36 million.

This is clearly not sustainable given the current operational Fund and Capital Fund growth pattern of the last 10 years. The present administration appears unable or unwilling to take the necessary steps to correct this growing cost problem.

There is a solution on the table

Guelph citizen Pat Fung, CPA, CA, prepared a thorough analysis of the audited city financial statements as published by the corporation that was ridiculed and ignored by senior city staff, Mayor Guthrie and a majority of council. The Guelph Merciry Tribune also refused to us the Fing report and denied placement of a full-page ad onnthe grounds it was not documented, too political and was inflamatory.

Fortunately, many people in the city have read and understand the Fung analysis and his recommendations to halt the bleeding caused by mismanagement. How many Urbacons, GMHI’s and secret meetings have to occur before council wakes up and takes action?

Salary-Gate is the epitome of three member of senior management self-serving their own interests and not that of the public. What kind of message does this send to all employees and the citizens?

The fact remains to this day, there has been no explanation of why the increases were awarded, or why it was withheld from the public for four months? It has already resulted in total destruction of the public trust.

If we allow this betrayal of trust and confidence then it’s a sure thing that in five years that Retirement Liability will grow to more than $5 million.

An unrelated footnote: According to the city Financial Report, the total fines made in the Provincial Offences Court in the old city hall for 2015, was $14,337,000. Of that, $8,022,000 has been considered to be uncollectable. That means that 55.9 per cent got away without paying.

What does this say about our justice system administered by the City of Guelph?

 

 

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Anatomy of deception, there are more questions than answers

By Gerry Barker

October 10, 2016

The operation of the city changed dramatically in early November 2014, when senior staff reorganized before the newly elected Mayor took office, December 1, 2014.

It is unclear to this day, who authorized this major realignment of tasks and responsibilities. The defeated mayor was still technically Mayor of the City of Guelph until the end of November. Was the new mayor, Cam Guthrie, informed of the senior management changes? Did he approve on behalf of the newly elected council?

The following is a series of questions to which citizens have thr right to answers from the administration.

In the November 2014 realignment, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert, stated that the changes were discussed and approved by the outgoing council before the civic election October 27. Was there any input from the new mayor and his council?

Is it true that the CAO has the exclusive authority of hiring and firing of all city staff?

Why did the reorganization plan remove Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Al Horsman, who was reassigned as Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO), of waste management and environmental services?

Yet another head of city finances

Was DCAO Mark Amorosi, of Corporate Services, assigned to be in charge of city finances plus head of Human Resources in November 2014? That’s a yes.

When asked about this $37,591, 17.11 per cent increase for CAO Pappert taking her 2015 salary to $257,248, DCAO Mark Amorosi, said the reason was the CAO did not receive any increase in 2014. In fact, according to the provincial Sunshine List for 2014, she did receive an increase of $5,052. Did Mr. Amorosi not understand the CAO did receive an increase in 2014?

Did all four members of senior management, CAO Ann Pappert, DCAO’s Mark Amorosi, Derrick Thomson and Al Horsman, receive salary increases in 2014?

Were these salary increases part of the 2014 budget and when and which council approved them?

In the November lame duck period, did the outgoing Farbridge administration approve the 2014 senior staff increases before leaving office?

In his new position, was Mr. Amorosi also in charge of the Human Resources department policies including staff performance reviews, research of salary levels, recommending salary and or benefit increases for consideration of the CAO and council?

That being the case, does this new responsibility include members of the non-union management association, of which Mr. Amorosi is a member? Did he recommend salary and benefit increases based on his performance reviews and salary increases including his own?

Due to the change of city council membership following the October 2014 civic election, the 2015 budget was not approved until late March 2015.

Were the 2015 senior staff increases included in that budget?

Delayed action salary increases for the four senior staff managers

If not, why were the 2015 senior staff increases totaling $137,894 approved during a closed session of city council December 10, 2015?

That being the case, do the minutes of that closed meeting show which members of council voted to approve the four staff increases, for the 2015 budget year?

In view of Mr. Horsman leaving the city in August, there is a small adjustment in the 2015 Sunshine List because he did not draw his salary after August. Newly appointed DCAO Scott Stewart filled his position in November.

Did the CAO, and DCAO’s draw their increase during 2015 anticipating approval by council?

As DCAO, head of Finance, was Mr. Amorosi directly involved in how much, how and when the senior staff increases would be awarded?

Wearing his HR hat, did Mr. Amorosi present his recommendation for his fellow senior managers’ increases to the CAO? Did the CAO know about the salary increases prior to the closed council meeting December 10?

If council did not approve the increases until December 2015, did this not represent a major negative variance to the 2015 budget?

Why did the council and senior staff not inform the public of the 2015 senior staff increases?

Now, what about the senior staff increases for 2016?

Council approved the 2016 budget last December 10. Were there additional increases for senior staff included in that budget?

When will council inform the public of 2016 senior staff increases?

Mr. Amorosi has been in charge of city finances for the past 23 months. Why has he appointed to date, three General Managers and Treasurers in the finance department, two of whom are no longer with the city, Katrina Power and Janice Sheehy? Despite conducting a broad search by a professional headhunting company, why did Mr. Amorosi choose a junior financial analyst in the Finance Department to become the next GM of finance, Treasurer and CFO?

As of a month ago, why has the Finance department not completed the 2015 Financial Information Report? It was due to be submitted to the Province by June.

Why did CAO Ann Pappert resign last May? Why did Derrick Thomson resign to take another job with the Town of Caledon? Why did he return to the city as senior management to replace Ann Pappert and at what salary?

Did Mayor Guthrie vote to increase the senior staff salaries for 2015?

Why did Mayor Guthrie go out of his way to praise the senior management “team” despite evidence presented to council by Guelph resident Pat Fung, CPA, CA? He detailed serious financial problems in the city, (go to www.guelphspeaks.ca to obtain a copy of Mr. Fung’s expert analysis).

Why did Mayor Guthrie admonish the public by stating “I find it a bit disturbed that people would come in here and challenge our staff in this way.” Does the Mayor believe the staff is so competent that it is above criticism?

Why did the Mayor make these comments when all members of council received a copy of Mr. Fung’s financial analysis last August 18? Who was he protecting?

These questions requiring answers will play a role in the developing the 2017 budget and beyond. Between the next 18 to 24 months, CAO Derrick Thomson’s new administrative plan becomes the new city business plan, I think. It means we are stuck with a flaky, non-specific and a no-goal plan, complete with meaningless pie charts that will take us to the next civic election.

It is now obvious that this senior administration and leftist-dominated council deliberately refuse to acknowledge the serious financial mistakes of the past. It means extending the system of closed meetings, closed minds and continuing irresponsible management.

We are captives of a secretive, uninformed and politicized management who don’t care what we think about their performance.

The sad part is our Mayor is going out of his way to praise staff incompetence employing secrecy and irresponsibility that is the trademark of the present administration.

We are all aware of the consequences following almost ten years of an administration gone wildand the truth is even more elusive.

 

 

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