By Gerry Barker
January 9, 2017
I still wonder why and how those three senior managers got away with $98,202 in increases for 2015.
It was done in secret, that’s closed session, with council members attending December 10, 2015.
The three were then Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert, Deputy Chief Administrative Officers (DCAO’s), Derrick Thomson and Mark Amorosi.
What followed was something out of a cheap pulp fiction novel.
Allow me to recap because the pieces are starting to fit together.
Prior to that Dec. 10 meeting, the Mayor had steadfastly supported Ms. Pappert. He sent out an email to an unknown number of citizens saying that I did not know what I was talking about and to ignore me. That was in January 2015.
In early spring 2015, the Mayor said that Ms. Pappert could not defend herself.
Then he threatened a citizen, Rena Akerman, with legal action because she emailed the record of Ms. Pappert’s performance as CAO over five years to “concerned citizens.” That legal threat disappeared quickly.
The Mayor continued supporting the CAO who, in five years, failed to balance the city books because she overspent her own budget. She authorized using money from reserve funds to ensure the City books were balanced when the Financial Information Report was filed with the province, as required by law.
She also served as Chief Executive Officer of the failed Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc for four years.
In 2010, the City reported reserves of $77 million. In 2015 that total was just $10 million.
The attitude at the top of the staff was they could use the reserves for any purpose they chose. The greatest was the $5.7 million they took from three unrelated reserve funds to settle the Lawsuit won by Urbacon Buildings Group Inc in August 2014.
Because there have been no details of that Dec. 10 meeting revealed, City Clerk, Stephen O’Brien, says closed session meetings of council are “not part of the public record.”
But, don’t you believe that awarding such huge increases, of our money is part of the public record and the right of the people to know?
An educated guess is that Ms. Pappert was already on a job search and planned to leave the city. She resigned May 26, 2016. In September, she revealed she had been appointed an Assistant Deputy Minister in the Culture, Tourism and Sport Ministry.
But this is only the beginning of the “Goodbye Ann” caper
According to the official agenda of the October 13. 2015, a closed-session meeting reviewed the performance of the CAO. The process went like this: Each member of council rated the performance of the CAO. The outside consultant received the councillor’s ratings and prepared a consolidated report.
The consultant reported that the aggregate score did not qualify the CAO for an annual salary raise because it was less than required.
Apparently, there was additional discussion by councilors that ranged from the boring to the ridiculous. These included that the CAO should be treated to an increase “out of respect” and “fairness” and “perhaps we were too tough on her.”
Disregarding the consultant’s advice, the majority of council voted to give her the $37,591 increase making her the highest paid CAO in the group of similar sized Ontario cities.
It is troubling that the identity of those councillors voting for the CAO salary increase was never revealed because of the ridiculous closed-session rules.
The CAO was not present at the October 13 meeting. How about this for irony? On December 9, 2015, the meeting to determine the 2016 budget, during another closed-session before the regular meeting, the CAO was informed of her failing score but agreed to take the increase any way!
The truth about that $37,591 Pappert increase for 2015
Last August, Councillor Cathy Downer asked the Human Resources Department to break down the $37,591 received by Ms. Pappert for 2015 and approved in closed session by council Dec. 10.
Why would Ms. Downer bring this up months after Pappert left?
The reason was the amount of negative public reaction to Mr. Pappert’s generous increase when the Provincial Sunshine List revealed her total remuneration of $263,748 for 2015; four months after the increases were awarded in closed session Dec. 10.
Ms. Pappert resigned shortly following the release of her 2015 increase.
The HR staffer told Ms. Downer that Pappert only received a two percent base salary increase for 2015. But then went on to say she received a retroactive performance bonus going back to 2013 of some $18,000. Plus she received more than $18,000 of unused accumulated vacation pay.
A payout of unused vacation time was a clue the CAO was leaving
Now that vacation payout is the clue that council knew she was leaving Dec. 10. One little problem is the managerial agreement states that managers can only withdraw one week a year in unused vacation. Receiving three weeks in one year accommodated her.
This is exemplified by CAO Derrick Thomson’s new contract in which he is entitled to six weeks paid vacation plus another week in lieu of overtime. Overtime? Since when does the CAO of a $500 million corporation charge overtime? Particularly when the CAO is being paid $239,600 a year.
That wrinkle is the CAO’s workdays for the year total 260 days. Now deduct 49 days for paid vacation and another 12 days for statutory holidays and the extra days off when the city hall is closed, estimate 10 days (Christmas and New Years are recent examples). Accordingly, Mr. Thomson is on the job as CAO for 201 days a year being paid $1,192 per day. (239,600/201).
It’s difficult to blame Mr. Thomson because most members of council were complicit in the whole Pappert-leaving episode and also approving large amounts to the two remaining DCAO’s.
I believe Mr. Thomson should be given a chance to sanitize the administration he inherited and return the city to affordable financial stability and accountability.
On November 9th, 2016, I requested City Clerk Stephen O’Brien to ask the Closed Session Investigator (CSI) to unseal the minutes of that Dec. 10th meeting, if they even exist seeing they are not part of the public record. As of today’s date, that request has not been fulfilled in two months. I have never heard from the city’s hired consultant, CSI, Amberlea Gravel of London, Ontario. Mr. O’Brien acknowledged forwarding the pertinent documents to the CSI.
This has mushroomed into a serious abuse of the public trust. We the public have the right to know what we are paying our staff. That’s why CAO Thomson said he would publish details of his contract, and he has.
It’s obvious there is sensitivity in the Guthrie administration about this blatant cover-up by his council and senior staff. This is why it’s important for citizens to know the details of that closed session meeting of council December 10, 2015.
The ludicrous claim that Ms. Pappert only received a two per cent base salary increase almost nine months after the Dec. 10th meeting, has only fuelled the public’s demand for an explanation, one to which they are entitled.
The announcement by CAO Thomson that he would reveal his contract details was another step to shut down the demand for the minutes of that Dec. 10 meeting. The public wanted details of the rationale for those increases and who voted to support it.
I believe Mayor Guthrie should order the details of the meeting be available to the public. This is a black eye on Guelph that needs clarity.
It also discourages trust in the administration and future development of the city.
The council majority preys on the gullibity of the people who pay the bills. It is driven by political practices that allowed the core of council to continue the social engineering policies of the previous administration and its multi-million dollar failures.
The overt denial to reveal the circumstances surrounding the $98,202 increases paid to the top three senior managers borders on corruption. It is a miscarriage of fiduciary responsibility each councillor has sworn to uphold.
Soon their culpability will be tested and their arrogance exposed.