By Gerry Barker
Posted March 20, 2016
It is reported that Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert’s contract expires March 21 and council will make the decision to renew it or to seek a new CAO. Her Guelph job began in 2008 when she was hired as executive director of Community and Social Services.
Her starting salary in 2008 was $129,146. Her 2014 salary, not including taxable benefits, was $219,000. The 2015 sunshine list has not been published yet. Regardless of the increased responsibility, it represents a huge jump in salary in six years.
Ann Pappert was appointed CAO in September 2011, following the resignation of former CAO Hans Loewig. Like Loewig, she was a mercenary who lived in Kitchener and was one of five executive directors, including two others who lived outside Guelph, Mark Amorosi and Janet Laird.
One of the conditions of her employment as CAO was that she agreed to move to Guelph. This obligation was not fulfilled, until council, in 2013, said it would pay her $20,000 to move to Guelph. It was put to her as an ultimatum and within 30-days she purchased a house in Guelph.
The circumstances of her hiring came about as a result of a headhunting group who were paid $45,000 to present candidates. As the day of selection arrived there were three candidates in the running including Ms. Pappert, Mr. Amorosi and an unidentified outsider, who withdrew his application.
Both the remaining candidates for the CAO job had been hired by the Farbridge administration in 2008. Mr. Amorosi’s resume included a background in Human Resources. Ms. Pappert’s background was mostly in the so-called soft civic responsibilities, including social services and community links.
We’ll never know what former mayor Karen Farbridge was thinking, but Pappert got the job. It is no secret that she was an avid supporter of the former mayor, even to a degree of making public statements defending the mayor.
On the job for her first year in 2012, a friend of mine, a senior business executive, and life-long resident, told me that he attended a Rotary Club meeting at which the new CAO spoke and said she was under-qualified and should never have been appointed to that job.
This marked the beginning of the public view of Ms. Pappert. Was she toady to the mayor and just not up for the job?
As events unfolded, that became apparent to many citizens.
One of Ms. Pappert’s classic statements came when she dumped on the GrassRoots Guelph petition to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, saying the petition “was a waste of time.”
It was a stupid response and she was cautioned by the mayor about it because it attacked citizens who were entitled to question the operations of the city.
Next came the now famous statement that the Urbacon settlement would not affect property taxes. The word she left out was, yet.
So why should council renew her contract?
The finances of this city are in a shambles. We have a secular majority of city council that vote as a bloc and obstruct any attempts to reform and repair the financial damage created by the previous administration.
Now we have the sudden resignation of the general manager of finance and city treasure, Janice Sheehy, who was hired, just a year ago. The question, is was she pushed, or realistic enough to see the dreadful financial condition of the city, and yet found another job with the Region of Peel?
Let’s see, since former mayor Farbridge took over the city in 2006, there have been six employees charged with managing the financial system in the city. Only three had the title of Chief Financial Officer.
Okay what’s the problem? The new council in 2015, approved property tax increases of 6.96 per cent in two budgets, years 2015 and 2016. I sat through all the two-day 2016 budget discussions by council and there was no reference to paying back the money, taken from the three reserves, used to pay the Urbacon lawsuit settlement costing $8.96 million.
Ms. Pappert’s declaration at the time, gave the impression that this was not going to cost the taxpayers because the money came from the reserves. She failed to admit that it was the taxpapyers who supplied the money for those depleted reserves.
During the 2016 council budget discussions, there was no mention of the staff proposal to charge property owners a ten-year; two per cent special levy to pay for needed infrastructure maintenance in the city. That one item will be on the table when the 2017 budget talks begin this fall. It’s not going away and the council must grasp that they cannot mortgage this city for the next 20 years.
When CAO Pappert proposed spending $900,000 a year for five years to replenish the raided reserve finds, Coun. Karl Wettstein moved to reduce that in the 2015 budget to $500,000 and turn the matter over to the staff.
There has been no plan since that put forward by the staff to repay that serious deficit.
Our reserves are seriously depleted, our debt is at record levels, our capital cost commitments exceed our ability to pay. There is no indication that council is prepared to tackle these problems created by eight years of excessive spending. Much of this falls on the shoulders of CAO Pappert, who, after five years in the job, as the senior administrator of the staff of some 2,100 employee, has failed to stem the spending spiral that has created this financial crisis.
Does this performance by the CAO warrant a contract renewal?
I think not.