Tag Archives: city of guelph

Why are citizens still paying the legal costs of a former employee who was fired?

By Gerry Barker

February 5, 2020

Opinion

Part Two

Here are 41 facts that the three-year city financed lawsuit against a private citizen proves nothing but a wanton waste of public money. It also reveals important pieces of evidence of a conspiracy by senior officials no longer employed and a compliant city council approving the financing the legal costs of one employee who was fired. He was the one who launched a defamation lawsuit against blogger Gerry Barker in November 20116.

These facts support how the abuse of political power exercised by the City of Guelph administration that has blown the doors off the public’s right to know its business. Accountability, transparency and open government are ignored most of the time.

It’s a secret society, self-absorbed and devoid of fair comment and freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights.

But judge for yourself. Read the facts and discover how people we elected have wasted your tax dollars on a mindless denial of our rights in an inverted action of revenge.

The Royal City no longer translates into Camelot

FACT 1 – For the record, my wife and I are residents of the City of Guelph.

FACT 2 – In 2016, I wrote 10 blog posts as outlined Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Mark Amorosi’s statement of claim that he sued me for defamation. The posts were critical of his role in secretly concealing a total of $98,202 salary increases shared by three senior executives, including Mr. Amorosi.

FACT 3 – These increases were awarded December 10, 2015 in a closed-session of city council.

FACT 4 – It has never been revealed whether these increases were paid retroactively for 2015 or were received throughout the year before the approval.

FACT 5 -I was served in August 2016 with a demand to apologize to Mark Amorosi for publishing posts on guelphspeaks.ca, critical of the city administration for concealing senior staff salary increases for 2015 to 2019.

FACT 6 – The Toronto lawyer representing Mr. Amorosi, Mark MacKinnon, wrote the demand for an apology. The terms included that he would write it. He demanded that it had to be posted at the top of the guelphspeaks blog for 30 days. This demand was rejected.

FACT 6 – Mr. MacKinnon also stated to my counsel that if I refused, he would recommend legal action.

FACT 8 – On November 15, 2016, Mr. Amorosi announced on the front page of the Mercury Tribune newspaper that he was suing Barker for $500,000 based on defamation as a result of the alleged critical posts on his blog. Amorosi stated in the article that the City of Guelph was paying his legal expenses.

FACT 9 – In January 2017, Mr. Barker requested a copy of the minutes of the Dec. 10 closed-session meeting of council, and it was denied in April with no explanation.

FACT 10 – On February 9, 2017, Mr. Amorosi was fired as published in the Mercury Tribune newspaper. He did not physically leave city employment until February 20.

FACT 11- The day before his dismissal, city Solicitor Donna Jaques resigned to take a job with the Northland Railroad.

FACT 12 – Three major media outlets described Amorosi’s departure as being “fired.” The Mercury Tribune that also described the departure as being fired joined them.

FACT 13 – In a sworn statement Mr. Amorosi testified that “he agreed to leave” when confronted with an inadvertent release from the Information Technology department. It forwarded some 50,000 confidential emails to a third party representing a fired employee, Chief Building Inspector, Bruce Poole. Mr. Poole sued the city for $1 million for wrongful dismissal. Mr. Amorosi was in charge of that IT department and it formed the basis of his dismissal.

FACT 14 – the Poole lawsuit was settled following the return of the missing files. Terms were never disclosed.

FACT 15 – In September 2015, Ms. Pappert requested that she receive payment of her unused sick day and vacation benefits from the Human Resources department. That department was under Mr. Amorosi’s responsibilities and three months before the salary increases to the senior managers was approved Dec. 10 in closed-session.

FACT 16 – On March 31, 2016, the 2015 provincial Sunshine List was published. The public learned of the three senior managers shared salary increases of $98,202. The province publishes the List composed of all public employees in the province earning more than $100,000 a year, not including taxable benefits.

FACT 17 – For unknown reasons, the city publishes its own “Sunshine List” each December but does not include the salaries of the senior managers.

FACT 18 – Of the three recipients, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert, who received an increase of $37,000 taking her 2015 salary to $257,000, a 16.8 per cent increase? Much of that increase was a retroactive performance bonus of $27,000.

FACT 19 – This information about Ms.Pappert’s 2015 compensation was revealed in August 2016.

FACT 20- Ms. Pappert’s compensation as Chief Executive Officer of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. for four years has never been revealed.

FACT 21 – DCAO’s Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson shared the balance. Amorosi’s 2015 salary increased 14 per cent to $209, 000.

FACT 22 – Derrick Thomson received an increase of 19 per cent taking his 2015 salary to more than $207,000.

FACT 23 – The three senior managers cost the city in 2015, $673,000 plus some $22,000 in taxable benefits. That figure does not include the $181,000 paid to DCAO Al Horsman who worked for eight months and took a job as CAO of Sault Ste. Marie.

FACT 24 – CAO Ann Pappert resigned in April 2016. DCAO Thomson resigned in January 2016 but was rehired in May to replace Ms. Pappert who left her job May 26, 2016.

FACT 25- Colleen Clack replaced Thomson as chief of Public Services. At the time her salary was $142,000. She was later promoted to DCAO.

FACT 26 – When the 2016 Sunshine List was published in March 2017, former employee Ms. Pappert was paid $263,000 for five months work in 2016.

FACT 27 – The new CAO announced details of his three-year contract, which included a salary of $230,000 plus $11,000 taxable benefit for using his personal car for city business.

FACT 28 – In March 2019, Derrick Thomson “parted ways with the city” for reasons unknown today. When the 2018 Sunshine list was published, Mr. Thomson’s salary was $335,000. In just two and a half years on the job, Mr. Thomson earned $100,000 more than his stated 2016 three-year salary of $230,000.

FACT 29 – Mayor Cam Guthrie explained that Mr. Thomson was given a $67,000 performance bonus for his work on giving away Guelph Hydro to Alectra Utilities. Guelph Hydro stated in its 2016 financial report that the city-owned power distribution utility had a total value of $228 million.

FACT 30- when city council approved the Hydro merger, there was $18.5 million of cash sitting on Hydro’s books to be returned to the city’s general revenues. There has been no reporting or accounting of what happened to the money, owned by the citizens.

FACT 31 – Mr. Amorosi testified under oath that city council did not approve staff salaries but it was the responsibility of the CAO. If it’s true, under the CAO Bylaw, it was CAO Thomson who approved his 2018 salary and performance bonus. If it is not true, them did Mr. Amorosi commit perjury?

FACT 32 – I requested a statement from the city in 2018 of the amount of public money that had been spent on Mr. Amorosi’s lawsuit and it was denied because the case was before the courts.

FACT 33 – From a reliable source, I learned there was another closed-session meeting of council in May 2018 to discuss the status of the Amorosi lawsuit and the legal costs to May 2018. It was reported the city paid Amorosi’s legal costs of $30,000. Without reservation, knowing what my legal costs are to date, it will be much more than that figure and counting. This is another example of the city denying and obfuscating the details that aren’t serving the public interest.

FACT 34 – The city has never explained why it is continuing this attack on one of its citizens. One who dared to criticize an issue that according to the city’s own code of conduct, that excludes open government policies, allowing accountability and transparency of the public’s business?

FACT 35 – It has cost Amorosi nothing in three years to perpetuate the city’s complicity in continuing to finance his lawsuit that is without merit.

FACT 36 – To date it has cost me $86,000 to defend myself. It’s not over yet.

FACT 37– The city administration has never cooperated or acknowledged details of that December 10, 2015 closed-session meeting of council. It approved the three senior staff increases. In that same month, in another closed-session, council approved a bylaw indemnifying any employee or elected officials by paying their legal costs if facing a legal proceeding against them.

FACT 38 – I did not sue Mr. Amorosi, he sued me, or I didn’t fire him or, in his submission made to the judge in 2019 that he was unable to get a job because of what I had written about him in 2016.

FACT 39 – Two independent individuals searched Mr. Amorosi’s name on the Internet. There was only one of my posts on the site but references to his dismissal from the city dominated the site.

FACT 40 – Since August 2016, the same lawyer has represented Mr. Amitosis.

FACT 41 – CAO Ann Pappert who left the city in May 2016 recommended the indemnification bylaw in December 2015.

SUMNARY

These are facts. They represent a major attack by a city council on a private citizen for unfounded reasons.

The cost to the citizens of Guelph including me, the defendant, is being covered-up by the administration.

I have never been found guilty of defaming Mark Amoroso.

After more than three years of costly litigation the end is nowhere in sight. So far, the lawyers are ahead, 180 to 0 for the city and its citizens who are paying the legal costs.

It can only end when the citizens demand it. This legal procedure was started by the city administration that financed all the legal costs of the Amorosi lawsuit.

It’s up to the administration to end this

Our taxes, fees and services are way out of line with comparable communities. It has been like that for the past 13 years. That’s the main reason that our costs of living in Guelph keep increasing every year. Just remember the promise made by Cam Guthrie in 2014 that he would keep the property tax annual increase equal to the rate of inflation.

That promise went out the window with his first budget for 2015 when the final rate was 3.96 per cent. The Consumer Price Index for 2014 stated the inflation rate for Canada was 1.1 per cent.

So if you are satisfied with the way your city is being managed, with respect, you should start researching how this city has arbitrarily increased its operating cost and capital spending to build needed projects, such as a new central library, the South End Community Centre to name just two.

Two project that leap out and are under way or recently completed, the new Maintenance Campus for Guelph Transit and the Parkade on Wilson Street next door to City Hall. Both these projects on the surface seem important but strikingly inclusive of staff needs.

There has been too much waste of resources, mismanagement, not to mention the millions lost including Urbacon, GMHI, environmental services, downtown, dodgy deferred taxes and development breaks to developers, to name a few emptying the city till.

If you believe that the city and we can do better then let your councillors know and demand a clean up of the administration brand of policies. Press staff and council to lower operating costs. Get rid of the deals and stop the shallow spinning of action. When the city says, that within ten years it will have spent $1,7 billion on capital funded projects, lets have some specifics including estimated costs, dates to completion and the sources of revenue to pay the bills.

This administration is overdue for a diet. Waiting three years to change the cast of characters can’t come soon enough.

I now turn this data over to the court of public opinion.

 

 

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Here is the real story how city council paid two former CAO’s $1,392,333 in four years

By Gerry Barker

January 27, 2020

Opinion

Here is the truth about how city’s Sunshine List published the 2019 staff earning $100,000-plus per year.

In just four years, the Guthrie administration has run roughshod over the public trust and, more important, the public’s pocketbook.

This is about the ballooning size of city staff and the money being paid over a four-year period.

Council are sworn to protect the public interest, provide the necessary checks and balances in acting as the board of directors of a $600 million corporation.

The council giveaway of Guelph Hydro was outrageous of which the benefit to the 55,000 Hydro customers who have yet to receive any explanation or benefit.

Did you know there were two Sunshine Lists publishing the salaries of every employee who earned more than $100,000 per year?

Neither did I until I stumbled on a page deep in the city website.

The city Sunshine List since 2015 revealed all those employees earning more than $100,000. It does not publish the names and data of those managers earning more that $200,000. Don’t forget there are other manager in the 200 grand club whose ID does not appear on the city’s Sunshine List.

The city Sunshine List is published at the end of the calendar year. They “beat” the 2019 provincial Sunshine List that is published in late March.

The provincial List provides the name, occupation, and taxable benefits of every public employee in the province, including those in management.

These figures are generated by the city financial department and forwarded to the provincial Sunshine List department for publication. That list contains the qualifying employees in the 445 Ontario municipalities including Guelph

This is lying by omission in plain sight. What other explanation could there be?

Is it insurance against public outrage? Possibly. Is it to paint over and cover-up the mistakes, wasted resources on pet project spending?

All those protesting the senior manager’s salaries should be shown the City’s Sunshine List that leaves a hazy fog over the truth?

What about those performance bonuses to Pappert and Thomson?

It is becoming apparent that City Council disregards many citizens.

The leadership makes decisions without regard of the unintended consequences.

In March this year, the provincial Sunshine List reports the 2019 salaries, occupations and taxable benefits of ALL public employees in Ontario including the City of Guelph.

The cover-up trail

Let’s check the city’s Sunshine List from 2015 to 2019.

In 2015, the city’s Sunshine List stated there were 158 employees earning $19,170,856. Managers were not on that list.

Conclusion: Can we believe those figures with the managers earning more than $200.000 were not included?

Moving on to 2019. The city’s Sunshine List stated there were 359 employees earning more than $100,000. The cost to citizens is$40,855,826.

The new reform Mayor, elected in 2014, a self-described “numbers guy.” How are his math working for you?

These figures show the doubling of numbers of staffers found on the city website. We have twice elected a Mayor and council that in four years have created more debt and growing exponentially the cost of living of the people who pay the civic bills?

In four years the property tax rate, averaged 3.5 per cent. It has increased property taxes by 17.5 per cent. The figure does not include the effect of increased assessment. Typically adjusted upward each April, bumps up your property tax rate that year.

Throw in the latest operating tax dodge called special levies on property, separate storm water maintenance, annual increases of supplying potable water and dealing with wastewater. Those items are excluded from the city’s operating budget.

It’s the weird system of managing figures and figuring management.

Mr. Mayor, what ever happened to your 2014 election promise to keep the Guelph property tax rate at the level of the Consumer Price index?

Here’s why. The city Sunshine List between 2015 to 2019, did not publish the salaries and benefits to senior managers, Pappert, Thomson and Amorisi.

How serious is this malignant oversight manipulated under the radar by council approving the salary increases?

For 26 months, one of the top managers was Depity Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi. From 2015 to February 2017, he was the man in charge of Finance and Human Resources. He reported to CAO Ann Pappert.

Just for the record, CAO Ann Pappert received, in 17 months, from January 2015 until May, 26, 2016. $520,000.

That’s an average of $30, 588 per month.

Do you know of anyone in your neighbourhood in Guelph who makes that kind of money a month?

As it turned out, she was not alone

In 2018, CAO Derrick Thomson, received $335,000. He left in February 2019. His departure was described by the city as a “parting of the ways.”

Today, the news is that he has just accepted a job, as CAO of Minto, a town in Wellington County, population 9,000. The previous Minto CAO was earning $160,456.

Accepting that job only rekindles speculation about his leaving Guelph. Why did he leave a $335,000 job with a one-year contract extension, to take one that paid half of what he was making as Guelph CAO?

Mr. Thomson was paid $782,333 for 32 months, from June 2016 to Febriary 2019. He also received $33,000 in taxable benefits.

Ann Pappert moves on

After leaving the city in May 2016, former CAO Ann Pappert landed a job in October 2016 as a provincial Assistant Deputy Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. She left that position in January 2017 and the trail of employment is not followed.As As it turned out, it was a banner year for Ms. Pappert who not only received $267,000 from mthe City of Guelph but an unknown salary for her four months work in Queen’s Park.

Now we come to Guthrie’s largess with senior staff manager, Mark Amorosi. He was the third recipient in that secret December10 meeting. The provincial Sunshine List confirmed the salary increases to, Pappert, Amorosi and Thomson totaling $98,202P

No one acknowledged the increases until the 2015 Sunshine List was published March 31, 2016. Pappert, Thomson and Amorosi never commented or admitted receiving the money.

For specifically critical of Mark Amorosi’s role as DCAO of Finance and Human Resources, later in the fall, I was sued for defamation claiming $500,000 in damages.

Just over two months later, Amorosi was fired for failing to oversee a data dump of 50,000 personal emails to a Kitchener lawyer representing a former Guelph Chief Building Inspector who sued the city for wrongful dismissal.

His case was quickly settled by the city.

Here we are in the fourth year of the lawsuit.

Last August, the motion judge dismissed our motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The case is now before the Ontario Court of Appeal.

I have no idea when our case will be heard,

I estimate the citizens of Guelph have already paid the lawyer representing Amorosi an estimated $100,000. This is our money. My legal costs are $80,000 and no end in sight.

The city administration refuses to reveal the cost of the personal lawsuit in Ambrosi’s name.

If you believe this laysuit isis unfair and a waste of public money, here’s what to do?

Email; your councillors and tell them yo stop using their fiscal power against a law abiding citizen whi still believes in the Canadian Constitution allowing freedom of expression.

Please send me a copy at:

gerrybarker76@gmail.com

 

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Canada’s Ballard Power rises from the ashes brings new heavy vehicle pure power to the world

By Gerry Barker

January 13, 2020

Opinion

This is a story of a Vancouver-based company that has experienced a bottom and bust past developing a third source of power that is emission-free. It is capable of powering locomotives, container ships, heavy trucks, buses, forklifts and large recreation vehicles.

This break-through technology saw Ballard Power Corporation shares, in the last decade soar to $200 a share only to crumble to penny stock levels.

Ballard Power went from darling to peasant in a few years. Collapse of auto companies and a global recession did the company in but not dead.

Today the company shares have made a modest recovery by forming alliances with a major Chinese engine manufacture, Weichjai, to partner converting fossil-fueled heavy vehicles to use the Ballard hydrogen fuel cell technology.

How does it work?

Hydrogen fuel cells combine elemental hydrogen with oxygen in the air, capturing the energy for conversion to electric, according to Ballard Power.

In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, the company worked with a number of major vehicle manufacturers including Honda, Daimler-Chrysler, Ford, Mazda, Nissan and Volkswagen.

Right now, around the world, Ballard and its partners are concentrating on heavy vehicle power that is emission free. The only discharge is water.

There are now thousands of such vehicles using the Ballard Power hydrogen fuel cell technology.

This has the potential of moving heavy vehicles safely and contributing to the reduction of carbon by fossil-fueled commercial vehicles.

What has this to do with Guelph?

There are two reasons that affect citizens.

The presence of Linamar Corporation and its place as a leading manufacturer of auto parts is essential to our community’s economy. They face new challenges to adapt to the growing use of electricity to power car, light trucks, SUV’s and vans.

Did I mention the slow death of sedans with the growth of SUV’s of all shapes and sizes?

Remember the old expression, the trend is your friend?

The new opportunity is supplying large vehicle companies with parts such as engines needed for hydrogen fuel cell heavy vehicles.

This is rapidly taking place. The Chinese engine manufacture Weichai has already partnered with Ballard. As well the U.S. engine builder, Cummins, has signed an order with Ballard Power.

The limitation of electric-powered personal vehicles is the range based on the capacity of the batteries and the limited power available in light vehicles.

Tesla Motors produced some 200,000 EV’s last year and finally made a profit. Tesla produces luxury EV’s that have costs above fossil-fueled vehicles despite government subsidies to purchasers.

One may question why the government is subsidizing EV purchases when private enterprise seems to be pricing emission-free vehicles in greater numbers now.

The second concern for Guelph is about the heavy city and transport trucks using our streets daily. They are going away and cannot convert to electric power sourced from the grid. Also, the cost of switching can be daunting.

In my opinion, Guelph Transit should be the starting point by gradually replacing its fossil-fueled buses, fleet with hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles.

The same applies to the heavy equipment used by the city.

And hydrogen fuel cell power was developed in Canada, eh?

 

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Why are the citizens still paying the legal costs of a former employee who was fired for cause?

By Gerry Barker

December 16, 2019

Opinion

The following facts support how the abuse of political power that is far too prevalent in terms of fair comment and freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights.

FACT – For the record, my wife and I are residents of the City of Guelph.

FACT – In 2016, I wrote 10 blog posts as outlining Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Mark Amorosi’s statement of claim in which he sued me for defamation. The posts were critical of his role in secretly concealing a total of $98,202 salary increases shared by three senior executives including Amorosi.

FACT – These increases were awarded December 10, 2015 in a closed-session of city council.

FACT – It has never been revealed whether these increases were paid retroactively for 2015 or were received throughout the year before the approval.

FACT -I was served in August 2016 with a demand to apologize to Mark Amorosi for publishing posts on guelphspeaks.ca, critical of the city administration for concealing senior staff salary increases for 2015.

FACT – The lawyer representing Mr. Amorosi, wrote the demand for an apology. The terms included that he would write it. He demanded that it had to be posted at the top of the guelphspeaks blog for 30 days. This demand was rejected.

FACT –  Amorosi’s counsel stated to my counsel that if I refused, he would recommend legal action.

FACT – On November 15 2016, Amorosi announced on the front page of the Guelph Mercury Tribune newspaper that he was suing Barker for $500,000 damages. It was based on defamation as a result of the alleged critical posts. He stated in the article that the City of Guelph was paying his legal expenses.

FACT – In January 2017, Mr. Barker requested a copy of the minutes of the Dec. 10 closed-session meeting of council, and it was denied in April with no explanation.

FACT – On February 9, 2017, Amorosi was fired for cause published in the Mercury Tribune newspaper. He left the city February 20.

FACT – In a sworn statement Amorosi testified that “he agreed to leave” when confronted with an an inadvertent release from the Information Technology department. It forwarded some 50,000 confidential emails to a third party representing a fired employee, Chief Building Inspector, Bruce Poole. Mr. Poole sued the city for $1 million for wrongful dismissal. Amorosi was in charge of that department and it formed the basis of his dismissal.

FACT – Three major news outlets, described Amorosi’s dismissal as being fired. The word ‘fired’ was also published in the Mercury Tribune article about the firing

FACT – On March 31, 2016, the 2015 provincial Sunshine List was published. The public learned of the three senior managers shared salary increases of $98,202. The province publishes the List composed of all public employees in the province earning more than $100,000 a year, not including taxable benefits.

FACT – The three recipients of these increase included the Chef Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert, who received an increase of $37,000 taking her 2015 salary to $257,000. The majority of that increase included a retroactive performance bonus of $27,000.

FACT – DCAO’s Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson shared the balance with Amorosi’s 2015 salary jumping 14 per cent by $209,000

FACT – Derrick Thomson received an increase of 19 per cent taking his 2015 salary to more than $207,000.

FACT – The three senior managers cost the city in 2015, $673,000 plus some $20,000 in taxable benefits.

FACT – CAO Ann Pappert resigned in April 2016. DCAO Thomson resigned in January 2016 but was rehired in May to replace Ms. Pappert who left her job May 26, 2016.

FACT – When the 2016 Sunshine List was published in March 2017, former employee Ms. Pappert was paid $263,000 for five months work in 2016.

FACT – The new CAO Derrick Thomsob, announced details of his three-year contract which included a salary of $230,000 plus $11,000 taxable benefit for using his personal car for city business.

FACT – In March 2019, Derrick Thomson “parted ways with the city” for reasons unknown today. When the 2018 Sunshine list was published, Mr. Thomson’s salary was $335,000. In just two and a half years on the job, Mr. Thomson earned $100,000 more than his stated 2016 three-year salary of $230,000.

FACT – Mayor Cam Guthrie explained that Mr. Thomson was given a $67,000 performance bonus for his work on giving away Guelph Hydro to Alectra Utilities. Guelph Hydro stated in its 2016 financial report that the city-owned power distribution utility had a total value of $228 million.

FACT –Amorosi testified that city council did not approve staff salaries. Under the CAO bylaw, it was CAO Thomson who must have approved his 2018 salary and performance bonus.

FACT – I requested a statement from the city in 2018 of the amount of public money that had been spent on Amorosi’s lawsuit and it was denied because the case was before the courts.

FACT – From a reliable source, I learned there was another closed-session meeting of council in May 2018 to discuss the status of the Amorosi lawsuit and the legal costs to May 2018. It was reported the city paid Amorosi’s legal costs of $30,000. Without reservation, knowing what my legal costs are to date, it will be much more than that figure and counting.

FACT– This is another example of the city denying and obfuscating the details that aren’t serving the public interest.

FACT – The city has never explained why it is continuing this attack on one of its citizens. One who dared to criticize an issue that according to the city’s own code of conduct, that excludes open government policies, allowing accountability and transparency of the peaple’s business?

FACT – It has cost Amorosi nothing in three years to perpetuate the city’s complicity in contnuing to finance his lawsuit that is without merit.

FACT – To date it has cost me $86,000 to defend myself. It’s not over yet.

FACT – The city administration has never cooperated or acknowledged details of that December 10, 2015 closed-session meeting of council. It approved the three senior staff increases’ increases. In that same month, in another closed-session, council approved a bylaw indemnifying any employee or elected officials by paying their legal costs if facing a legal proceeding against them.

FACT – I did not sue Mr. Amorosi, he sued me, or I didn’t fire him or, in his submission made to the judge in 2019 that he was unable to get a job because of what I had written about him in 2016.

FACT – Two independent individuals searched Amorosi’s name on the Internet. There was only one of my posts on the site but references to his dismissal from the city dominated the site.

FACT – Since August 2016, the same lawyer has represented Mr. Amotosi.

DACT – CAO Ann Pappert who left the city in May 2016 recommended the indemnification bylaw in December 2015.

SUMARY

These are facts. They represent a major attack by a city council on a private citizen for unfounded reasons.

The cost to the citizens of Guelph including me, the defendant, is being covered-up by the administration.

If you believe the proceeding facts are not true and agree with the administration that are worth very penny, you are signaling denial the right of a citizen to protest the abuse of power by controlling city council, then good luck.

Our taxes, fees and services are way out of line with comparable communities. It has been like that for the past 13 years. That’s the main reason that our costs of living in Guelph keep increasing every year. Just remember the promise made by Cam Guthrie in 2014 that he would keep the property tax annual increase equal to the rate of inflation.

That promise went out the window with his first budget for 2015 when the final rate was 3.96 per cent. The Consumer Price Index for 2014 stated the inflation rate for Canada was 1.1 per cent.

So if you are not satisfied with the way your city is being managed, with respect, you should start researching how this city has arbitrarily increased its operating cost and sourceded capital to build needed projects, such as a new central library, the South End Community Centre to name just two.

Two projects leap out that are now approved under way, The new Maintenance capus for Guelph Transit and the Parkade on Wilson Street next door to City Hall. Both these projects on the surface seem important but strikingly inclusive for staff needs.

There has been too much waste of resources, mismanagement, not to mention the millions lost including Urbacon, GMHI, environmental services, downtown, dodgy deferred taxes and development breaks to developers, to name a few emptying the city till.

If you believe that we and the city can do better then let your councillors know and demand a clean up of the administration’s policies. Press staff and council to lower operating costs. Get rid of the deals and stop the shallow spinning of action. When the city says, that within ten years it will have spent $1,7 billion on capital funded projects, lets have some specifics including estimated costs, dates to completion and the sources of revenue to pay the bills..

This administration is overdue for a diet. Waiting three years to change the cast of characters can’t come soon enough.

Please note that like most of us we are about to enjoy the holidays, guelphspeaks.ca will be on hiatus until Monday, January 7, 2020. That gives us time to say goodby to the leftovers and start the new year with good health and optimism for 2020. Enjoy!

 

 

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By a 6-3 vote council agrees to a staff proposal to spend $197 million on a new operational super garage

By Gerry Barker

October 28, 2019

Opinion

Why did four city councillors not show up to vote spending $197 million on a maintenance and transit garage? Council voted 6-3 to proceed with planning the project which will take 25 years to complete.

The vote was as follows:

IN FAVOUR: Mayor Guthrie, Councillors Allt, Gibson, Goller, Gordon and Hofland (6)

AGAINST: Councillors Bell, Piper and Salisbury (3)

ABSENT FOR VOTE: Councillors Billings, Downer, MacKinnon and O’Rourke (4)

That’s 46.15 per cent of the 13 members elected to council making this decision.

Considering the outcome, why was it so necessary to hold the meeting on federal Election Day?

It happened last Monday night when council met to approve spending $197 million on a new consolidated operations complex next to the Waste Resources Innovation Complex, aka the city dump, off Watson Road.

Council voted to proceed with preliminary planning. It is remarkable that six councillors voted to spend $197 million by 2045. If by some miracle there will be seven successive councils elected and each agrees to continue this plan.

But here is the kicker. Coun. Mike Salisbury seconded the motion to proceed with the project moved by Coun. Dan Gibson. When it was time to vote, Salisbury was one of three councillors voting against the motion.

What happened? Did some councillor say they would second the motion but failed to turn up?

Here is the actual amended motion approved by six councillors:

That staff be directed to proceed with planning and design for a consolidated City Operations Campus consisting of operations facilities for Transit, Operations, Fleet Maintenance, and Corporate Building Maintenance located on the City owned Dunlop Drive property and that the final decision on a new city operations campus be determined following the presentation of a detailed business case and staging plan being provided to Council.

Not even the Government of Canada would commit that amount of money on a single-fixed service facility to be completed in 25 years.

Of course it has been said that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Get out the Togas staff; looks like you will break the Guinness World Record for long-term planning.

Next, a staff proposal to apply another tax levy on taxpayers

I predict the cost will zoom in the next 25 years if all seven successive councils go along with it, based on just inflation to an astronomical $400 million. The affect of inflation impacts on increased labour costs, materials including cement, steel, bricks, lumber, tools, consultants, vehicles, fuel, insurance, finance charges, change orders.

The special levy is estimated to provide $50 million in capital to help pay for the project in the next ten years. This is beginning to smell like that $350 million Baker Street renaissance Private and Public project to include a library. That was a proposal Mayor Guthrie announced before last year’s civic election.

Is this a moon-shot by council?

In view of this latest display of staff self-serving planning, after 18 years when former Mayor Karen Farbridge announced council would build a new downtown library, it appears council has benched it again.

Those six councillors won’t be around to witness the ribbon cutting in 2045. So why would they approve a 25-year project of such magnitude? Is this some magical municipal financial proposal that would be created by David Copperfield … now you see it, and now you don’t?

The preliminary plan, authorized by the six coucillors, focuses on building a new Guelph Transit maintenance and operations facility. That is only estimated to cost $80 million.

How will the administration finance projects already in the pipeline?

What about those two capital projects including the downtown library, ($68 million), the South End Community Centre, ($68 million). That adds up to $136 million. The new well construction project, ($30 million) adding two new deep wells is included in the 2020 capital budget. Not in this list is the $450 million for infrastructure that is currently being financed by one per cent levy on property taxes.

A report published in the Mercury Tribune outlined cost of the South End Community complex of $68 million. In 2021, $58 million will be available chiefly from development charges. That leaves a gap of $10 million. Some of that missing amount has already been spent from city operating funds passed by the previous council. In the 2022 capiital budget there is another $587,140 for maintenance equipment.

Now there is wind of another property tax levy. Pardon my cynicism but when the administration blows $66 million on Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc and gives Guelph Hydro away for pennies on the dollar, what do we expect?

Staff predicts another 60,000 new residents by 2045

Does this group of six councillors seriously believe this is even remotely possible?

They decided these long-range capital projects to justify their egos, loyalty and survival. The city staff is also married to senior management who know what they are doing. Or more likely, are some members of council listening to their supporters and ignoring the financial requirements of such a huge project.

The process started Monday without analysis of how all those other capital projects will be financed. They made a decision that did not include a business plan.

It’s time to serve the people’s immediate needs

I can think of immediate needs for a new dowtown library, plus a major construction of two new wells to supply future needs (already in the 2020 Capital Budget). Is the Guelph Innovation District plan still alive?

The 2020 capital budget is $151.6 million subject to public and council review. The ten-year capital spending forecasts that by 2029 the total will be $1.7 billion.

According to DCAO Trevor Lee: “The ten-year plan is funded based on asset management principles that lays out the long-term investment needs for our city.

Our General Hospital is asking the city for $4.7 million to expand to meet the needs of a growing population.

These are a few of the pressing issues that affect all citizens, not just the working conditions of the staff. Spending $22 million plus on a parking garage next to city hall will basically serve the city employees. More than two-thirds of the parking spaces are only available to monthly users. Guess who they are?

City council has continued to ignore the downtown area. despite the promise by the former mayor that the downtown would be a vibrant and exciting place for everyone.

How did that turn out?

The property tax deal is a hidden subsidy to the U of G

I’ll wrap up this pet beef. When is city council going to influence the provincial government to amend the 32-year property tax deal granted to all post secondary institutions? They only pay $75 a year per registered student in lieu of property taxes.

The University of Guelph has a huge advantage under this outdated plan because it is in the property land rental business, obtaining income from properties it owns along Stone Road plus hundreds of acres currently not in use. That acreage can be leased to developers with no impact on the city property tax deal with the province.

Bottom line is the city receives approximately $1,65 million per year based on 22.000 students in lieu of property taxes. Meanwhile, the University leases it land to developers and the city receives no property tax assessment income.

How does this compare to Linamar’s property taxes with 19 plants operating in the city?

Yet citizens owning property receive annual tax bills that in recent years increases by an average of 3 per cent. In 32 years how much of an increase has the University paid in lieu of property taxes? Zero.

It has been going on for years and Guelph residents are subsidizing city services pertaining to the University and the community college.

This is iniquitous and has not been upgraded since inception to even allow for inflation.

This places a huge burden on city residents who must subsidize transit, infrastructure, police, fire and EMS services to the growing city and university/community college population. In the 2020 budget, the police services board is requesting a 10 per cent increase in the police budget.

By 2045, the staff estimates there will be 60,000 new citizens living here.

It’s something to think about.

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Along came a spider who sat down beside her and said, “what a nice new Library you may have”

By Gerry Barker

September 26, 2019

Opinion

This is one of the great myths of our lives. In 2004 during Mayor Farbridge’s first term in office, council debated whether to replace the downtown Library with a new one. The Library had outgrown its capacity to serve a growing population.

It sparked the growth of satellite branches and a bookmobile.

The Library lobby continued to campaign annually asking council to approve building a new facility to meet the needs of the present and future. The first proposal was to build a 93,000 square foot main branch Library downtown on the Baker Street Parking lot.

At the time, it was obvious that council was engaged in building a new city hall and renovating the old hall into a provincial offences court. This major project turned out to be a six-year financial disaster completes with a major wrongful dismissal lawsuit by the general contractor and a $65 million dollar bill.

The Library project went to the bottom of the capital-spending budget.

That was followed with the $66 million loss of shareholder’s investment in the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc district energy project. This was launched in 2011, during the same time frame of the city hall lawsuits. There were five different interests suing, including each other. Urbacon Buildings Group Inc. suing the city for $19.2 million brought the main one. The city counter-sued for $5 million.

It was a three-ring circus of flying legal briefs and claims.

It was the dark period of the city administration amid the Library project, which bubbled beneath council’s primary interests.

The new Mayor, Cam Guthrie, announced that a private public partnership was being assembled to renovate the Baker Street site that staff primarily would cost the city $300 million. The plan called for a combination of commercial and residential complex. Included in the Mayor’s statement was that the proposed 88,000 square foot downtown Library would be the anchor on the site.

The timing was perfect as the Mayor decided to run for re-election and spoke highly of the Library project. He was re-elected.

Earlier this year, it was announced that the Baker Street proposal was being scaled back due to costs and would not include the Library.

Council shows restraint in capping 2019 capital budget

This past January 17, city council approved a 2019 capital spending budget of $87,370,100. Almost half of that budget was slated for wastewater and two new wells to accommodate future development.

Of the nine projects in the staff recommendation, absent was the new downtown Library. You remember, the one Mayor Guthrie announced in 2018 before the civic election.

Here we are in September, and the same members of council agree to add $44 million in debt to partially fund a new downtown Library to an estimated cost of $67 million. The reports say that the begging bowl is out to get a $36.6 million grant for the Library from the federal government depending on which party wins the October 21 election.

Is this a promise to be broken?

This form of financial brinksmanship is an enduring fixation by the majority bloc of city council that has stalled funding library for the past 13 years by diverting funds for other projects.

It remains today to be a malignant history of exceeding budgets, using reserves to balance the books, wasting public funds in sketchy decisions and planning, conducting public business in closed-sessions with no public participation. Ignoring its own protocols for open government, accountability and transparency.

This was not another Guthrie example of selling the sizzle, not the steak. He was one of four councillors who voted against the proposal. The mayor had his reasons but if he was not aware of the details of the project, or perhaps he was. There seems to be a lack of fiduciary judgment by the nine councillors who voted to spend $67 million on a project that was not part of the 2019 capital budget.

Regardless, Monday, September 16, council approved spending $67 million to build a new 88,000 square foot downtown Library. Coun. Dominique O’Rourke initially objected, stating that without all the information pertaining to the proposal, “It wasn’t going to happen.”

Later she relented and voted to spend the money.

To assist those members of council who voted for the Library, here are some of the missing details to support the project that will cost more than twice that of the new renovated police headquarters.

* Has a site for the new Library been chosen, where and the cost?

* What is the acreage of the site to accommodate adequate parking?

* What’s the estimated time of construction and the start-up date?

* When does the special Library levy to taxpayers kick in?

* In 23 years what is the total cost to property owners paying the Library levy?

* Is this levy fixed or will it increase as property taxes increase over 23 years?

* Is the financing in place and approved to justify the $67 million in capital approved?

* Has a business plan been prepared that separates the construction costs from the equipment required?

* Is the present library going to be sold with proceeds going to new Library costs?

* Has an architect been commissioned to design the new Library and monitor construction?

* Has a Request for Proposal been prepared to establish construction costs?

* What does this decision do to completing the $63 million South End Recreation complex?

* How can council approve funding the Library when it is not in the current capital spending budget?

* If this is council’s intention, where will it find the $67 million it has now approved and added to the 2019 capital spnding budget?

*         *         *         *

The only possible explanation is the costs will be spread over five or six years during the time frame of completing the project. If this is the case, why didn’t council tell the public of this method that is logical and potentially manageable?

Quite frankly, this is another crapshoot by an administration that by now should have learned better handling public money.

If any of these questions have not been reviewed by staff and reported to council, how can a motion to spend $67 million succeed by a 9-4 majority without the answers?

I believe we need a new main branch Library to meet the needs of our growing city?

However, the people need a specific plan and the costs. The staff report says that $44 million is being added to the city debt.

The remaining details are not confirmed including a request to the federal government for a $36,6 million grant. The outcome of that grant request is unknown today because there is no federal government because Parliament has been prorogued until after the election.

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Apparently, to land a good job with the city it helps whom you know in the administration

By Gerry Barker

September 9, 2019

Opinion

The city announced last week that a former member of the Cam Guthrie re-election team has been hired to be manager of corporate communications and government relations.

Jodie Sales comes to Guelph from the Town of Milton where she has held a similar position for three and a half years.

On the surface it appears she is qualified for the job.

However, was the position advertised? Were other candidates applying for the position? Was Ms. Sales or other candidates interviewed for the posted position?

Tell us, was the job posted and where?

Before accusing me of nit picking, this is a job serving the public interests. It entails that there is opportunity for qualified citizens to apply. The city release did not mention the salary or benefits for the position.

Further, I am not criticizing Ms. Sales but the methods used by the administration to hire anyone for a staff position, especially one described as an “executive position.”

Perhaps in hiring employees over the years, the administration must focus on being careful to ensure that the recommended candidate will not be disruptive or offend other employees. Recommendations by a friend or relative of an employee should always be part of the hiring process.

Prior to being appointed to the management job, was Ms. Sales interviewed by senior management? Recruiting is 50 percent performance knowledge and 50 per cent having a gut feeling.

In this case, the perception is that she had the inside track on getting the job because of her work on the Mayor’s campaign.

Mayor Guthrie was asked if he had recommended her and denied he had any part in the process. Judging from that I would surmise that he was consulted but politically, he denied it.

Maybe he did not have to say anything. One thing we do know is that she did a bang-up job handling communities for the Guthrie campaign.

The most interesting part of this announcement is, what is the role of council, including the Mayor who is the only member elected across the whole city?

That email sent by the Mayor stated: “All city administration hiring is done through the CAO or other city management.”

Former DCAO Mark Amorosi who stated that council did not approve staff increases they are approved in the annual budgets. He confirmed this during a recent sworn testimony. That would indicate that council does approve salary increases because it must approve the annual city budget.

Those increases, according to the Mayor and Mr. Amorosi, are set in December for the upcoming calendar year. But the increases are not publicly released until 15 months later.

In formulating the 2015 city budget, did council have the right to approve or disapprove staff salary increases? If true, why didn’t council tell anyone? The salary increases were only reported annually each March in the provincial Sunshine List.

It lists every public employee in Ontario who earned more than $100,000 annually.

That data names the employee, the salary and taxable benefits. That list is the only record available to the public.

In recent years, the administration has published its own list prior to the Sunshine list. It is incomplete when compared to the previous provincial list to illustrate changes in salary or job responsibiliyies.

Case in Point; In 2015, the public did not learn about the three senior staff manager’s increases until Match 2016.

The 2015 budget was approved in January boosting property taxes by 3.96 per cent, including adjustments reported later.

I will be reporting more details of this and other tactics used by the administration to suppress information of concern and what is in the public interest.

I also recognize that our new CAO, Scott Stewart, is not responsible for these tactics that were created by a previous administration. Instead I am hopeful that all bylaws covering procedures and operational details be reviewed and open for the administration to open government, to accountability.

I personally wish Ms. Sales success and fulfillment in her new position.

The administration leadership has markedly changed in the past year and the opportunity exists to return our city into one of progress, financial responsibility, transparency and accountability.

A good first step is to reintroduce online voting in 2022.

 

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