Tag Archives: Cam Guthrie

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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When personal greed and ambition supersedes responsibility

By Gerry Barker

September 19, 2016

There have been two events that have destroyed any semblance of public trust of senior administration staff and majority of council. And the Urbacon $23 million debacle is not one of them.

These events have bubbled to the surface since the 2014 civic election.

The first event is the 2015 secret salary increases awarded by council last December to four of the most senior city staff. The increases were approved by council in closed session and were not revealed until March of this year when publication of the Provincial Sunshine List of all public servants in Ontario earning more than $100,000 was revealed.

Because the salary increases were approved in closed-session, the question now is which councillors voted to allow the huge bumps in pay?

The Sunshine list contained more than 400 civic employees in Guelph earning in excess of $100,000 a year. The most interesting was the $37,591 increase awarded to former Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert for 2015.

When asked about this 17.11 per cent increase for the CAO, Mark Amorosi, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO), head of Corporate Services, said the reason was the CAO did not receive any increase in 2014. In fact, she did receive a modest increase of $5,052. So Mr. Amorosi lied and for good reason.

A case of double dipping

Amorosi actually paid himself two increases in 2015. The first was in November 2014 when the senior management was reorganized within three weeks of the civic election, creating the new position of DCAO. The new title increased his salary to $182,761 from $176,400 in 2013 to cover his new responsibility. This turned out to be exactly the same job he was performing before the civic election and senior staff reorganization.

Then came the December 9, 2015 closed-session meeting that gave Mr. Amorosi another $26,868 increase or 14.7 per cent. This brought his 2015 salary to $209,629.

As for CAO Derrick Thomson who joined the staff in 2014 as Executive Director of Operations, his intial salary was $173,720. In 2015, his salary as a DCAO, jumped by 19.48 per cent or an increase of $33,834 and a salary of $207,554

Talk about a meteoric rise. As the new CAO, Mr. Thomson’s new salary level will not be known until next March when the 2016 Sunshine List is published. In addition he received a taxable benefit of $6,472.

In our present economic circumstances, why does Amorosi, the man in charge of reviewing and approving staff salary increases, believe those increases are fair considering the competitive positions in other municipalities? . Is he out of touch will reality??

Did I mention that Mr. Amorosi is responsible for city Finances and Human Resources? Did he use his position to better his personal income? He also receives an additional $6,472 in taxable income apparently to cover his travel expenses because he lives in Hamilton.

We get a CFO who is on maternity leave until next year

A month ago, Amorosi announced that he appointed a junior financial analyst in the finance department as the city’s new Chief Financial Officer (CFO), General Manager of Finance and Treasurer.

Now I happen to know that Amorosi hired a headhunting firm to search for a CFO. I also know of one highly qualified candidate who was rejected by the headhunter.

Instead, we have Amorosi’s third attempt to control the city finances using subordinates to carry out his reckless management decisions. The first lady lasted about two months. The second lady left last March after a year on the job. The advertised position represents the third choice in the past 22 months.

Last month, Amorosi announced that Tara Baker won the CFO job but won’t report for duty until next year as she is on maternity leave. So much for spending money advertising and hiring a head hunting firm, when an allegedly suitable candidate was sitting right in the city finance department.

The fact is that the city has been without a CFO for 22 months as Amorosi has acted in that capacity. If and when Ms. Baker is able to return to work, that gap will increase to 27 months with Amorosi in charge of city finances.

Ann Pappert was the second senior officer of the city staff to resign in May. Deputy Chief Administration Officer Derrick Thomson resigned and that left just DCAO Mark Amorosi, remaining of the senior staff members hired by the former Farbridge administration.

Thomson was persuaded to return to the city as CAO replacing Pappert.

One of his first announcements was the nine-year capital spending plan has a shortfall of $170 million after only one year of operation.

Comforting words from the man in charge of finances

Amorosi quickly announced: “The city was in sound financial condition.” He lied.

If anyone should know about city finances it should be Mark Amorosi. He has control of the city finance department that has not had a General Manager of Finance and treasurer since last March when Janice Sheehy left to take a job in Peel. He also oversees Coun. June Hofland, the robot chairperson of the finance committee, for the past four years.

The Fung Report on city management paints a smeared picture of financial incompetence that has shoved Guelph’s operating expenses to a point of being 50 per cent greater than either Kitchener and Cambridge.

If you live here and own property, you know why our costs are so high. Check your annual tax bills and user fees including water and electricity. The city’s operating expenses have skyrocketed in the past seven years by 56.2 per cent compared to the Consumer Price Index of only 11 per cent.

The second costly event of examples of greed in high places, is the creation of the Community Energy Initiative. It was the brainchild of the former mayor who manipulated staff, city council and Guelph Hydro, to support her dream of establishing two District Energy Nodes. The pumps were located in the Sleeman Centre downtown and Hanlon Creek Business Park. The pumps are coupled to provide underground co-generation system supplying hot and cold water from each Node pump to nearby buildings and electricity to the provincial power grid.

At least that was the plan. Instead, we learned this year, specifically May 16, that the project was seriously flawed and unable to supply power to the grid as planned. The Chief Executive Officer of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GMHI), Pankaj Sardana, said the business plan failed to obtain sufficient customers to be viable.

In fact, Mr. Sardana said the project should never have been started in the first place.

But they went ahead anyway blocking public input

The underlying reason for this was that all the planning and development meetings were conducted in closed sessions by the former mayor, chair of GMHI. The chair suppressed the public’s view. The silence was exacerbated by four city councillors who were on the board of GMHI and did not break the code of conduct as developed when the mayor was in office. These include Councillors June Hofland and Karl Wettstein and two who have departed, Lise Burcher and Todd Dennis.

The councillor’s code of conduct prevents councillors from revealing decisions and comments of closed sessions. However GMHI was a stand-alone separate corporation but secrecy of its operations prevailed.

But the senior city staff had to know what was happening at GMHI because CAO Ann Pappert was the CEO of GMHI for four years. Then there was Envida Community Energy Corporation, operated by Guelph Hydro. It was responsible for installing the two District Energy nodes and several solar panels installed on public buildings.

A city staff report in July showed that Envida owed $11 milliohm to GMHI. There was also the matter of $68.5 million, on the city books as an asset. The problem is that it is impaired; meaning the cost of carrying this asset exceeds the revenue, if any, so it gradually becomes a debit.

This situation could go on for years unless the $68.5 million can be written off, worse case scenario, or pay the interest due to maintain it as an asset on the city books.

The Bloc of Seven on council in July voted to keep the Community Energy Initiative operating until the first quarter of 2017. They disregarded the warnings of the Deloitte consultants and the staff that to keep it going, will cost an additional $60 million unvestment of our money.

The public pot is now empty

Mr. Sardana has stated that GMHI or Envida haven’t any money to invest in this failed project that so far has cost taxpayers $37.1 million.

Did we really need to pay that money when the staff, in detail, reported the financial situation with GMHI and where the money went? It was classic Amorosi to order an independent consultant to review the situation. Deloitte admitted its fees will range from $130,000 to $160,000 to report their recommendations.

This situation is showing little sign of correction.

Indeed, the city is now advertising for candidates to join the Community Energy Initiative public advisory board. There are several categories in which persons may apply. There are only four positions available for citizens.

Again it’s a move to give the appearance of thoughtful public contribution to the success of an initiative.

Except in this case there is no foundation. It remains a sinkhole of public money based on a flawed project that the majority in our city didn’t ask for or need.

The terrible situation is that it will cost the city several million dollars just to exit the Community Energy Initiative because of the contracts that were signed with suppliers and customers without any oversight by GMHI and Envida.

This is another expensive remnant of the Karen Farbridge legacy.

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The more we dig, the deeper the hole and truth is stranger than fiction

By Gerry Barker

August 18, 2016

Post #803

The enduring grip of the former administration lingers on but the awakening of the silent majority is catching on. There is growing evidence to reject the direction that the Farbridge dominated Bloc of Seven on council is attempting to take us.

Three general managers, Peter Busatto, in charge of the Waterworks; Colleen Clack of Culture and Tourism and Peter Cartwright, of Economic Development, all took significant salary reductions in 2014 following large increases in 2013.

In the three years 2012 through to 2014, it appears there were serious errors in paying the staff, made by the finance department calculating annual salaries for the three managers in the random sample taken from ontariosunshinelist.com. All three in 2013 received substantial increases from 2012 to 2013. Then, in 2014, their salaries and taxable benefits were greatly reduced.

It is important to follow the numbers in these examples. They are taken from the ontariosunshinelist.com website. The source for the figures is the city of Guelph.

Why do we have water restrictions while sitting on two aquifers?

Peter Busatto, General Manager of Waterwork

2012 salary and taxable benefits – $122,509 plus $851

2013 salary and taxable benefits – $168,739 plus $1,081 – Increase was $46,239 (37.74 per cent)

2014 salary and taxable benefit – $134,585 plus $614 – Decrease was $34,154 (-20.24 per cent)

2015 salary and taxable benefit – $152,188 plus $699 – Increase $17,603 ((13.08 per cent)

Mr. Busatto was given an increase of $46,239 or 37.74 per cent in 2013. How did those responsible for his performance review ever determine that increase? Was he being rewarded for increased responsibilities? Isn’t it odd that the next year, 2014, his salary was reduced by $34,154 or 20.24 per cent? Then, last year Mr. Busatto’s salary increased by $17,603. This is best described as yo-yo management of the Machiavellian employment payment system used by an administration out of control.

Even stranger, why did these managers agree to take it on the chin for a year? If anything, they had a solid case for constructive dismissal. So, why didn’t they quit and move on. Who, in their right mind, would stand for an arbitrary pay cut particularly as senior managers? How many others on staff in management positions experienced the same thing?

It’s time for the administration to explain in detail, name by name, of those staff people who were affected by this salary reduction scheme in the very year there was a civic election. If an explanation is not forthcoming, then the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing should order an investigation to seek the truth of what happened. Is it any surprise why the lower ranked staff have such low morale?

We’ll never know who else was available

Colleen Clack, General Manager of Culture and Tourism

2012 salary and taxable benefit – $127,121 plus $2,529

2013 salary and taxable benefit – $149,422 plus $2,521 – Increase was $22,301 (17.5 per cent)

2014 salary and taxable benefit – $140,798 plus $1,900 – Decrease was $8,624 (-5.77) per cent

2015 salary and taxable benefit – $142,017 plus $1,599 – Increase was $1,219 (.86 per cent)

This year, Ms. Clack has had a meteoric rise in the senior management ranks as GM of Culture and Tourism. During her four years, she was in charge of the Sleeman Centre and RiverRun Theatre. She has reported annual operational losses for both city owned centres of $780,000 a year. Her most recent triumph was to be lead negotiator in completing a new ten-year agreement with the privately owned Guelph Storm Hockey Club The city agreed to lower its portion of the revenue. Then, Ms. Clack was promoted to DCAO of City Operations at an undisclosed salary.

How do you measure performance?

Peter Cartwright, General Manager of Economic development

2012 salary and taxable benefit – $144,381 plus $6,238

2013 salary and taxable benefit – $157.200 plus $6,180 – Increase was $12,825 (8.88 per cent)

2014 salary and taxable benefit – $150,977 plus $4,742 – Decrease was $6,329 (-3.98) per cent)

2015 salary and taxable benefit – $153,997 plus $3,467 – Increase $3,020 (2 per cent)

This is inexplicable. For his entire career with the City of Guelph, Mr. Cartwright has been responsible for Business and Economic Development. The problem is since 2006, the ratio of assessment between residential (84 percent) and commercial/industrial (16 per cent), has not changed. This is one example of why residential property taxes increase exponentially each year. The city is dependent on the annual assessment increases that affect the size of the annual tax increase. By now property owners have received their assessment projections for the next four years. It’s not good news.

This performance cannot be described as a success story in a key management position. So why did his salary grow by $12,825 in 2013 by an astounding 8.88 per cent?

Why were these three general managers named in the sample, all of whom are still working for the city, having their salary and taxable benefits reduced in 2014? How many other employees experienced these incredible salary reductions in which increases are awarded in one year and portions taken away the next year?

But read on, it gets better.

Now, Let’s look at how the 2014 staff salary reductions affected the top senior managers

Ann Pappert, Chief Administrative Officer

2012 salary and taxable benefit – $199,860 plus $6,539

2013 salary and taxable benefit – $214,605 plus $6,317 – Increase $14,745 (7.38 per cent)

2014 salary and taxable benefit – $219,657 plus $6,403 – Increase $5,052 (2.35 per cent)

2015 salary and taxable benefit – $ 257,248 plus $6,508 – Increase $37,591 (17.11 per cent)

Oh! There weren’t any reductions?

Ms. Pappert resigned in May after five years as CAO. In March this year, the Ontario Sunshine list published the salaries of every public employee earning $100,000 or more. Guelph citizens were shocked to learn of the excessive salary increases that the Guthrie council awarded in a closed meeting, December 9, 2015. It was three months later when the truth was known. The public was never told the circumstances of the increases, who voted for them or why not one councillor revealed the increases. Their excuse was they were prevented from revealing details of discussions conducted in closed sessions. Otherwise the Integrity Commission would investigate the “leak.” Whoa! Scary. What do you think? What’s more scary, being sanctioned for breaking the code of conduct or, fulfilling your responsibility of serving your electors?

It was a shameful deportment by 13 councillors who deliberately tried to keep it quiet. This betrayal of the public trust, that all members of councillors are sworn to uphold, will reverberate among citizens well into the 2018 civic election. Trust me, people won’t forget and the minutes of that meeting will be revealed. Those who voted for it will pay the price at the polls.

The result of Ms. Pappert’s leaving presented a serious senior management problem. DCAO Derrick Thomson was persuaded not to leave the city for a job in Caledon, was appointed to succeed Ms. Pappert. Thomson has been with the city only just over 2 years. Again this appointment was discussed in closed session. One has to wonder what planning went into the public confidence fallout that occurred, unsurprisingly. In three months did they not figure out what would happen if Ms. Pappert resigned?

There was no secret that she had lost the confidence of the citizens. Subsequently, according to the bylaws covering the powers of the CAO, Mr. Thomson appointed Ms. Clack, who formerly reported to him as GM of culture and Tourism becoming DCAO of Operations. It was a responsibility, that frankly, Ms. Clack had no experience as head of Culture and Tourism.

In the community there is uneasiness about the latest direction of the city administration. The recent attack by Coun. James Gordon on a citizen questioning the council’s performance is a harbinger of where we are headed for the next two years.

In my opinion, there are two staffs running our city, the haves and the have-nots. The examples stated here shows that the three senior managers helped themselves to substantial salary increases but left department leaders with decreases in 2014.

I regret that this city administration is broken. In addition, our finances are also so messed up and closing in on being broke. There is little attempt to stop the mindless spending that is leading to eventual disaster.

The man who helped himself

Mark Amorosi, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Corporate Services and Human Recourses

2012 salary and taxable benefit – $175,464 plus $6,396 –

2013 salary and taxable benefit – $176,400 plus $6,333 – Increase $936 (.53 per cent)

2014 salary and taxable benefit – $182,761 plus $6,238 – Increase $6,361 (3.61 per cent)

2015 salary and taxable benefit – $209,629 plus $6,432 – Increase $26,868 (14.7 per cent

In my opinion, Mark Amorosi’s performance has created the ugliest failure of financial management control since he took over the job of managing the city’s finances in November 2014. He has hired two General Managers of Finance and Treasurer and both have left. He advertised for a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and employed a headhunting firm to vet the applicants.

Then he announced that he appointed Tara Baker, a financial analyst in the Finance Department as CFO, General Manager of Finance and Treasurer. Ms. Baker is on maternity leave and will not report until next year. She has no experience as a CFO.

Unfortunately, Mr. Amorosi is in complete control of the staff through his Human Resources responsibility and the city finances. Between he, CAO Thomson, DCAO Scott Stewart and DCAO Colleen Clack, the job of preparing the 2017 budget will be a daunting prospect.

Already there is noise emanating from the Bloc of Seven that there must be a two per cent, ten- year special levy on property owners to pay for the years of neglect by the Farbridge administration to repair and maintain the city’s infrastructure. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), a provincial government sponsored organization with representatives from municipalities across the province, has estimated Guelph has a $225 million infrastructure deficit. Coun. Cathy Downer has been appointed to the 41-member board of AMO.

Hiring the man who wanted to leave

Derrick Thomson, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Corporate Services, Operations

2014 salary and taxable benefit – $173,720 plus $6,190

2015 salary and taxable benefit – $207,554 plus $6,472 – Increase $33,834 (19.48 per cent).

Mr. Thomson brings his experience as a CAO of the Town of West Lincoln joining the staff in 2013. His responsibilities are vastly different than those he may have experienced in his former job. He has inherited an administrative disaster the remnants of the previous administration. How he handles it will be his test because he knows what happened to his predecessor.

The completion of the 2017 budget will be the watershed of the direction this administration will go in the next two years.

It’s not going to be easy or pretty.

The previous post regarding Coun. James Gordon can be read in the GS archives.

 

 

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Coun. James Gordon’s cockeyed view of running a city

By Gerry Barker

Posted March11, 2016

In a letter to the editor, Ward 2 councillor James Gordon explains why paying taxes is a good thing, while complaining about high taxes is a bad thing.

Such silly statements as: “ I seldom hear people say, I moved to Guelph because I was looking for lower taxes,” begins the downhill slide of a thesis that is filled with false premises and unattributed evidence.

It’s like the wonderful world of Garp.

Let’s look at some more words of wisdom from the world according to Gordon. You remember Gordon; he was the mastermind of the first Farbridge victory in 2006. He was also the founder of the Guelph Civic League that played a major role in the three elections of the past 12 years.

“In fact, our taxes are totally in line with other cities our size in Ontario.” James, that’s your first Pinocchio moment. If what he says is true, how does he explain that Guelph’s operational and capital spending is 50 per cent higher than either Kitchener or Cambridge? Those are documented comparisons, extracted from the Financial Information Reports (FIR) that each municipality is obligated to send to the province annually.

Gordon, a man who obviously has his ear to the ground, when he’s in town that is, opines: “For most of us who are community-minded, we understand that to keep the quality of life we need to contribute as taxpayers and as good neighbours to maintain that high standard we are now known for.”

Again, another assumption on Gordon’s part that denigrates more than half the population of the city who do not agree with the aggressive spending policies of the former administration. Nor its surviving rump of seven of the present council determined to continue those policies.

The proof of this is in the election of mayor in 2014, when Cam Guthrie received more than 5,000 votes than the incumbent. Mayor Guthrie is the only member of council who was elected by all city voters, as opposed to those councillors who ran in the wards.

As a representative of Ward 2, James, and a council rookie, perhaps you should do some homework and understand the financial management of the city whose costs have soared out of control. Skip all the buzzwords of your beliefs about our city. When taxpayers are faced with a two per cent special tax levy for ten years, to pay for an aged infrastructure, it comes down to choices.

Does council approve more bicycle lanes; higher subsidization of a transit system designed to serve the population of the University of Guelph; more on a community energy policy that will cost millions to execute?

Why aren’t bicycle riders using the road regulated?

Speaking of bike lanes. Coun. Gordon supported the motion to spend $14 million to widen Speedvale Avenue to allow bicycle land between Woolwich and Manhattan Court. The response from citizens in the area was overwhelmingly against the proposal but lost.

Is this a man obsessed with a point of view that is neither rational nor responsible?

James, tell us about how much has been spent on affordable housing in Guelph in the past nine years? How many units have been created and where?

What has been done to attract business to Guelph to strengthen the tax base? The ratio of industrial/commercial assessment has not budged since 2006. The taxpayer portion of property tax assessment remains at 84 per cent. FYI the Ontario average is 60 per cent residential and 40 per cent industrials/commercial.

Attracting business, Gordon says, enables our city to grow our economy and keep our taxes affordable. The key word here is “our” and Gordon seems to believe that his way, or that of those like-minded cohorts, is the only way to make Guelph better. Didn’t that approximate the slogan in Mayor Guthrie’s campaign, “For a Better Guelph.”

James now you are plumping for a new downtown library. Karen Farbridge. in her first term as mayor. promised that would happen 15 years ago. Libraries have morphed big time since then and the last figure I recalled was to spend $64 million on the project.

Old library projects never die, they just fade away

Your bent economic theory that a new downtown library will pay for itself quickly lacks any economic basis. I cannot recall any municipal operation in the city that has ever paid for itself and the capital spent. A great example is the Sleeman Centre whose main customer is the Guelph Storm. It cost millions when a deal was struck with Nustadia to operate the arena during the first Farbridge administration. Today, there is a paid staff of more than 100 to run the place. Tell me, how much business did that bring downtown?

And another example is the Civic Museum. The council has never revealed the operating costs of that $16 million, built on land the city doesn’t own. Has it paid back the capital it took to renovate the pre-Confederation convent on the hill?

Here’s another example of irresponsible spending. The Organic Waste Processing Facility that cost $34 million and was built exceeding the needs of the city of Guelph for 20 years. Today, to keep it running, wet waste comes from outside sources to maintain the function of the operation. We have yet to learn how much compost is manufactured and where it is sold.

Mr. Gordon’s political views are well established. His claim that: “A small minority but vocal minority who would sacrifice service cuts, cut back programs, widen our income gap and turn their backs on investing in the future.”

What? Has Gordon now appointed himself as the spokesperson for the city administration? Again, he has no substantiation for this charge. How does he know the minority is small? Is that in numbers or stature?

Gordon, much like his fellow Farbridge travelers on council, knows how to spend other people’s money. The tight control of the former regime led us to a huge lawsuit defeat that cost taxpayers $23 million, or so the administration has admitted so far. To pay for this and a variety of projects, the reserves were raided to a point that replenishing them will take years and further burden the taxpayer.

So Mr. Gordon, as a member of council, perhaps you ought to seek more information about your colleague’s ambitious plans to build for the future without regard of the city’s ability to pay.

As for your demand for a new downtown library, look inwardly at your caucus. The $34 million approval to renovate the downtown police headquarters further pushed the library down the trail.

Even Gordon should get that.

What’ll you have? Cops or Readers?

 

 

 

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