Tag Archives: Mark Amorosi

How the Guelph administrative system works against the interests of the people

By Gerry Barker

November 4, 2016

In the past week, I have attempted to obtain a copy of the minutes of that closed-session meeting of council that approved those three elephant-sized increases to the three top senior employees.

The meeting was held last December 10. There was no public announcement of the outcome, the reason, or how council decided the increases were warranted. Council obviously approved the increases.

In March, the size of the increases was published in the Provincial Sunshine List naming all employees in the province earning more than $100,000 per year. The List named the employee, the before-tax salary plus taxable benefits and the individual’s job title.

The city clerk turned down my request stating that closed-session council meeting are not a matter of the public record.

Last Friday I asked the Ombudsman’s office to investigate this closed-door meeting. I was informed that the Ombudsman could not investigate because Guelph has it’s own Closed-Session Investigator. As it turns out, the same designated investigator has been on the job since January 1, 2008.

There is only one investigation listed on the Closed-Session Investigator website. That’s over ten years.

It took another email to the clerk to be told how and where on the city website I could file a closed-session complaint. You have to wonder why Mr. O’Brien did not inform me of this when I asked for the minutes.

This is another example of how the City of Guelph has rules and procedures that for the most part, are designed to protect the interests of council and staff as opposed to the interests and trust of the people who pay the bills.

After eight years of the virtual dictatorship of the former mayor who created this Byzantium labyrinth of self-serving controls, there seems to be little change, instead of serving the public openly and with accuracy.

Any time when I attempt to obtain information from the administration I think I’m living in the Guelph Gulag.

These Farbridge inspired rules of procedure and control are still in place today. In fact there is a 2016 procedural bylaw, signed by Mayor Guthrie that is an echo of the former version that dominated public affairs for eight years.

Earlier this year, he attacked a citizen’s criticism of Ms. Pappert and her record in office for five years. The trouble was the report signed by Rena Akerman, ignited his honour to threaten legal action. It never happened.

Oh, it is now easy to understand the Mayor’s loyalty to the senior management. He stuck with former CAO Ann Pappert at the expense of citizen’s having an uncomfortable feeling about his threat and their rights of freedom of speech.

So here we have a citizen relating facts about Ms. Pappert’s performance and being threatened by the Mayor, using the power of his office to unleash the city legal department.

Recently this apparent staff loyalty problem surfaced when the Mayor commented when Pat Fung dared to direct a question at DCAO Mark Amorosi presenting his report to council. The Mayor said: “I find it a bit disturbing that people would come in here and challenge our staff in this way.”

Gee! I didn’t know we elected a King instead of a Mayor

What does Mayor Guthrie mean when he adds, “in this way?” Are the people he represents not supposed to complain when accurate facts of financial mismanagement are exposed? Which “way” should the people react and respond?

Our Mayor seems to have drifted away from representing the people, who supported him, to go out of his way to protect the hired help. Does he seriously believe that there aren’t people in the city who clearly understand the gross mismanagement of the city that he promised to correct?

Well, we now know that Mayor Guthrie convened that closed-session meeting last December 10. It resulted in three top managers receiving excessive salary and pension benefits. And he and members of council never said a word. Not even after the provincial Sunshine List let the cat out of the bag four months later.

It shows that we have a council that doesn’t really care what the people say or think. These so-called town hall meetings that some councillors are conducting to get public opinions to the upcoming 2017 city budget, are an empty gesture to the myth of accountability in Guelph.

When it comes to two-way conversations with the administration, we don’t need more examples of suppression of information, stonewalling and lying by omission.

For example, why did Mayor Guthrie convene that Salary-Gate meeting when he had the power to say no?

Or, why did he complain that he didn’t like citizen activism questioning senior staff?

Why does he have temper tantrums with people who make statements he doesn’t like?

Why is he so beholden to senior staff? One that has been shattered under his watch with firings without cause, resignations, rescinded resignations, and a senior employee lawsuit demanding $1 million for wrongful dismissal?

Through it all, he remains impervious to any criticism from informed citizens such as Pat Fung, a Chartered Accountant and Certified Public Accountant, who is an expert about finances. There is not one city official that has his financial accreditation and experience. Not on council and not on staff.

Yet, council and the administration ignore Mr. Fung’s analysis of city finances and a plan to fix the growing financial status of the city.

However, despite the Guelph Mercury Tribune blocking publication of the report, the details are out and more and more citizens are becoming aware. There is no doubt that this will be a major election issue in 2018.

Accordingly, Mr. Fung and I have appealed the Tribune’s refusal to carry the story and refused a full-page ad, to the National NewsMedia Council.  Here is part of that submission:

To the National NewsMedia Council

From Gerry Barker & Pat Fung CPA, CA

Subject: The following is a complaint regarding biased coverage of the Guelph Mercury Tribune newspaper, subsidiary of Metroland Publishing Corporation, owned by TorStar Corporation

August 18, 2016 – Pat Fung delivered a copy to all 13 members of city council and to the Mercury Tribune of his analysis of the City of Guelph’s finances all taken from public documents either from the City or Public Salary Disclosure. Attached is a copy of that letter.

After several emails back and forth and cutting down the August 18 letter to about 400 words as requested by the editor of the Mercury Tribune, attached is an August 25th email from the Trib. The following response was received on August 30th:

“In the form of a letter to the editor, the statements and questions posed here are framed as fact for political purposes. We simply can’t publish this as is.”

August 25, 2016 – Mr. Fung contacted Mr. Barker, the editor of the blog known as www.guelphspeaks.ca. Barker believed that Mr. Fung’s message was important for all citizens of Guelph to read. Barker split the analysis into two parts and published it on his blog. He said he would raise money to buy a full-page ad in the Tribune (controlled circulation of 45K on Thursdays) so citizens would read the analysis.

The blog’s viewer response set a three-day response record.

September 26, 2016, Barker delivered copy for a full-page ad to the Tribune advertising representative with a cheque for $2,083. Concerned Guelph residents raised the funds and the ad was to be published in its September 28th edition of the Tribune.

September 28, 2016 – Two days later, Barker received a call from the Tribune ad rep saying there were “red flags” raised about the ad copy. Following questioning by Barker, the ad copy was refused by the Tribune on the grounds it was not documented, lacked sources of the information and was “inflammatory.” When asked for specifics, Barker was told that they would verbalize their objections but would not put their objections in writing.

The result was a totally incomplete and unreasonable verbal explanation, the ad never ran and the cheque was returned. Mr. Fung and Mr. Barker are well aware that a publication has the right to turn down advertising if it chooses.

But in this case, the Tribune Editor made it clear the Fung analysis or any form of it was not going to run. When the Editor told Mr. Fung his work is too “political,” and the advertising department claims the ad copy was “inflammatory,” you can only conclude it wasn’t going to run in the Guelph Mercury Tribune.

Mr. Fung’s presentation to city council and the ad copy is attached.

In this case, it was clear this newspaper, publishing twice a week, was deliberately blocking a legitimate news story that affected the entire community. The attached copy of Mr. Fung’s original statement clearly states his sources to make the analysis, including examining years of city Financial Information Reports submitted annually to the Province’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs. He also used information contained in the BMA management consultant’s report in 2014. This information compared basic costs of operations in Guelph with other similar sized cities in Ontario.

In our opinion, the newspaper, the only print newspaper publishing in the City of 121,000 residents, has made the analysis “political” because it has denied exposure of this important report that affects all citizens. The paper’s Editor made no attempt to assign a reporter to check the report or even interview the author.

The Editor’s demand that Mr. Fung reduce a 2,800-word document with supporting charts, to 400 words was nothing but a misguided excuse not to publish it at all.

One of the reasons management is refusing to publish the report, may be the paid advertising linage the paper receives from the City of Guelph titled “City News” that is funded by the taxpayers. The city refuses to reveal the cost of this advertising but the volume of full and partial full-page ads per week would indicate a cost estimated to be more than $450,000 a year. This is based on buying the equivalent of six full pages weekly each year. This advertising volume is estimated to make the City of Guelph one of the largest advertisers in the Tribune.

As a retired newspaper executive, Barker has experienced several cases of print media bias, particularly among the smaller community newspapers. He knows because he owned a community newspaper in a small town. He is a past president of the former Ontario Weekly Newspaper Association in Ontario.

But Guelph is not a small town and the record of extreme editorial support for the city administration borders on a tainted editorial responsibility that belies fair journalistic standards.

In Barker’s experience as a professional newsman working for the largest newspaper in Canada and owning one of the smallest, he has never seen such blatant abuse of editorial responsibility refusing to present both sides of an important and thoroughly documented story.

It’s no wonder the media today is held in such disregard. Newspapers are not elected to office nor should they be lap dogs for special interests.

In this case, this newspaper and its controlling corporations put their special interest first before their readers. And we wonder why newspapers are disappearing. One of these included the Metroland daily, The Guelph Mercury, that was shut down last January. It was the paper of record for more than 100 years.

We, on behalf of fellow citizens of Guelph, respectfully request that the National NewsMedia Council sanction the actions of the Guelph Mercury Tribune, if for no other reason than to remind owners and citizens of responsibility to report important factual information to it readers.

 

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Since 2008, here’s why two Guelph administrations held so many closed meetings

By Gerry Barker

October 31, 2016

This is no Halloween prank.

Last Friday I complained to the Ontario Ombudsman’s office about that December 10, 2015 closed-session city council meeting that awarded $98,209 to three top staff managers for 2015. This decision was never reported or acknowledged by council until the provincial Sunshine List was published in March 2016.

You know how most of us felt when we found out the amounts given to former CAO Ann Pappert and DCAO’s Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson. Mr. Thomson had resigned to take a job with the Town of Caledon, where he resides, when the Sunshine List was published in March. He was quickly persuaded to return as CAO of our city to replace Ms. Pappert who resigned in May.

The Ombudsman’s office called me within two hours to say that they had no jurisdiction to handle the closed session complaint. It was because we had a council- appointed Closed Session Investigator

It turns out that back in January 1, 2008, the McGuinty Liberals ordered municipalities to hire their own Closed-Session Investigator to adjudicate whether councils had the right to discuss public business behind closed doors or not. In 2007, the Farbridge council voted to hire an outfit called Amberlea-Gravel Inc to be the city’s closed-session investigator.

At the time, it was legal and above board, according to the Ombudsman’s representative.

And almost nine years later, that outfit is still with us.

Checking out their website, we discover that there is an umbrella group called Local Authority Service (LAS) that is a subsidiary of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). The membership is composed of elected officials from across the Province and is supported by the Ontario government.

Prior to implementation of LAS, municipalities were told they had to hire a “Closed Session Investigator” to investigate complaints about councils, committees and boards. Such a selection had to be completed by January 1, 2008.

That’s why the Farbridge administration hired Amberlea-Gravel to be its closed- session investigator. For nine years, they have been paid an annual retainer, plus an hourly rate for the investigator when a complaint is made and expenses.

Since 2008, I could find only one investigation made in January 2016 regarding the alleged walkout of four councillors during a closed-session meeting. The complaint was dismissed following the investigation.

The main reason is that the people did not know that the city had retained a Closed-Session Investigator to which they could complain about closed-sessions city operations. The proof of this is the number of investigations conducted by Amberlea-Gravel. So far in nine tears it’s one.

Here’s the conundrum. The closed-session investigation company is hired by the council, how is it possible to remain impartial? There is a requirement for trust and integrity by both parties in the resolution of the complaint.

This is a successful attempt to shut down citizen’s complaints. Not informing the public of the existence if this city closed session investigator, demonstrates another method to not expose details of the two administration’s agenda. It is one that has wasted millions in the past nine years. Both administrations were determined to maintain the now familiar pattern of secrecy and non-exposure of the city corporation’s business and operations.

Now we know why city Clerk Stephen O’Brien tells us the minutes of that Dec. 10 closed session of council are not available because, “they are not part of the public record.”

Well, I am requesting a complaint form from the Clerk regarding that December 10 closed-session meeting that gave those large salary increases to three managers. This is the complaint procedure outlined by Amberlea-Gravel.

It is now apparent that very few citizens, except in the administration, knew the closed-session investigator services existed.

Does this closed-session investigation firm only act when council or the City Clerk requests it? And why would council allow its closed-session meetings to be investigated by its own appointed investigator?

I am asking Amberlea-Gravel to confirm the number of closed-session investigations it has conducted in the past nine years for the City of Guelph and complainants.

I am also asking for the fees they are being paid to perform this function.

I found only one investigation by Amberlea-Gravel reported on its Website. There may be more. It does appear odd, that the Farbridge administration conducted an untold number of closed-session meetings during its eight years in office, and yet there is no evidence of investigation of those meetings?

It took a judge to expose the wrongful dismissal of Urbacon, the general contractor of the new city hall. The judgment was open and available to all citizens. It led to the defeat of Mayor Farbridge because it was made public and not locked up behind closed doors.

It should be noted that there is always a closed-session meeting held, starting two hours before every open council meeting. But it’s the other meetings in which decisions were made, in camera, that affect the citizens and the public treasure.

The case for the LAS investigations being independent is suspect in view of the AMO connection including in its membership members of Guelph city council. This organization is a creature of the province whereas the Ontario Ombudsman is totally independent.

Now here is delicious irony. In 2013, the Farbridge administration hired a Toronto consultant to develop an Open and Transparent Government Plan. The cost later revealed was $500,000 and a lengthy report was developed to direct the city toward setting up an open and transparent government that promised accountability to the stakeholders, that’s us.

Well, an election happened in the fall of 2014 and Mayor Karen Farbridge was defeated plus four member of her council, two of who did not run and two who were defeated.

Then in July 2015, Andy Best, a Farbridge supporter, was hired as a contractor earning $92,000 a year to manage the Farbridge Open Government Initiative. Results to open up council business to the public have been, year to date, a futile exercise.

According to the Ombudsman’s office, that Amberlea- Gravel Closed-Session Investigation firm is still with us. The Ombudsman cannot help expose this closed meeting.

So, how does the Guthrie administration reconcile the city paying a half million dollars to open up our city government? How many citizen complaints have been made to the Clerk’s office since 2008? Is Mayor Guthrie even aware that this outfit is still employed by the city? Is he aware that the Ombudsman’s office cannot investigate a closed-session complaint by a citizen because the city has its own investigator?

Kind of reminds us of the Maytag repairman who never had anything to do because the machines were so well built.

Is this a case of the 12–member city communication staff incapable of informing citizens of their right to complain about closed-session meetings?

Do we need more evidence that this is a giant threat to our rights of free speech and freedoms as citizens? Unless of course, there are complaints lodged by citizens through the Clerk’s office demanding explanation.

There is only one solution. Dismiss Amberlea-Gravel and engage the Ombudsman’s office to represent the city as its closed-session investigator. Some 210 Ontario Municipalities have already done this. At least if a citizen asks for an investigation of a closed-session of council, there will be an independent investigation by the Ombudsman’s office and the decision will be made public.

As a public service, here is the list of exception subjects that the Ontario Municipal Act, 2001, permits to hold a legal closed-session meeting of council or any subsidiary board or committee.

Preamble: A meeting or part of a meeting may be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered is:

*   (a) The security of the property of the municipality or local board;

* (b) Personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees;

*   (c) A proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board;

*   (d) Labour relations or employer negotiations;

*   (e) Litigation or potential litigation, including matter before administrative tribunals affecting the municipality or local board;

*   (f) Advise that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose;

*   (g) A matter in respect in which a council, board, committee or other body may hold a closed meeting under another Act. 2001, c. 25, s. 239 (2).

The only possible category that council last December10 could have used as a reason to hold a closed meeting is the category, “Labour relations and employee negotiations.”

Exception (d) is a razor thin reason to close the meeting to award those excessive increases to three senior managers. It was confirmation of a decision already baked in the decision.

It was not a negotiation, it was a naked grab of power exercised in secret without any public knowledge or input. It allowed CAO Ann Pappert to retire in late May 2016 having earned some $52,798: ($3,132 per month increase X 16 months plus 26 days $2.677 = $52,798). This was in addition to her 2014 base salary of $219,500 but not her contractual severance allowances or taxable benefits.

Now we know why this was done behind closed doors. To this day not one member of council has admitted voting for that increase. It’s obvious the majority attending the meeting did vote to award the increases.

So, why haven’t elected councillors spoken up? It’s because of a threat of breaking the Code of Conduct that prevents members of council to reveal anything said in closed session. This could lead to an investigation by the Integrity Commissioner and possible sanction of the offending member.

Isn’t this a great way to run the public’s business? You elect a councillor with the belief he or she will represent your interests only to discover they don’t. It is the essence of the Big Brother syndrome, the control of the many by the chosen few concentrated in power.

Here’s how that works: What they don’t know, won’t hurt them.

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Why do the top two senior staff managers choose not to live in Guelph?

By Gerry Barker

October 28, 2016

Let’s start by agreeing that it is not normal for any employer, public or private, to pay for traveling expenses from home to work. While accepting a senior management position, there are contractual benefits that go with the job. In Guelph’s case, details of those contracts are not released to the public. Although the terms may be secret the cost is born by the citizens of the city.

Let’s review what we do know about the current two top managers of the city, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Derrick Thomson and Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO), Mark Amorosi.

Each received salary increases in a closed meeting of city council December 10, 2015. Mr. Thomson received $33, 814 or 19 per cent. Mr. Amorosi received $26,868 or a 14 per cent increase. The former CAO, Ann Pappert, also received $37,591 and resigned in May 2016. Included in the Provincial Sunshine List for 2015, are the taxable benefits paid by the city covering a fixed amount of car expenses? Ms. Pappert received $6,508, Mr. Thomson, $6,472 and Mr. Amorosi $6,472.

None of those figures have been revealed by the City of Guelph administration. Nor have there been any supportive details of why the increases’ were approved by council in closed-session. Also, the administration has not revealed the salary increases to the four top managers for 2016, a period in which there were significant salary increases.

Deja vu? Looks like we’ll have to wait until March 2017 to discover what they are being paid in 2016.

I have learned that the taxable benefits are for a vehicle used by the employee paid by the city as a fixed cost.

Now here is where it gets murky.

Mr. Thomson lives in Caledon. Mr. Amorosi lives in Hamilton since joining the city staff in 2008. These two senior managers are in charge of creating the 2017 budget. Neither pays taxes in Guelph. You will recall that city council gave former CAO Ann Pappert $20,000 to relocate from Waterloo to Guelph.

Council was concerned about its senior manager living in the city and offered a hefty incentive to move 30 kilometres. Why isn’t the Guthrie administration insisting on the city’s present top managers to become residents of the city in which they are in charge of managing? Under Ontario employment law, an employer cannot dictate the residence of the employee without consent.

Wasn’t Mr. Amorosi, as head of Human Resources, involved in the Pappert decision and for that matter, responsible for negotiating management contracts of those employees not part of the unions?

Which brings us to how employees are reimbursed for work-related expenses such as travel, entertainment, accommodation and that old favourite, sundry.

Does Mark Amorosi travel home every night regardless of the time change, weather conditions and late night city meetings? The same question can be asked of Derrick Thomson who lives in the snow belt of Mid-Western Ontario.

Have either of these top managers had difficulty in the morning due to bad weather, traffic conditions to get to work on time?

While the Sunshine Lists reveals the salaries and taxable benefits paid to those earning more than $100,000 a year, it does not tell us about expense accounts.

This information is not available. The public has no idea of what their elected officials and non-union staff are receiving for expenses incurred doing their job. In fact, the guidelines for allowing work-related expense claims are also top secret.

The costs of commuting

Does Mr. Amorosi cover the operating cost of commuting more than 200 kilometres a day, five days a week, from his pocket? One way is approximately 100 kms, double it and the cost at 50 cents per kms is $100 every day. That works out to $500 a week times 48 weeks equals $24,000 a year. That does not include parking, emergency vehicle repairs, insurance or accommodation if necessary due to weather or late meetings. How often is he required to stay overnight and where does he stay?

Is Mr. Amorosi claiming these expenses as part of his employment contract?

It was his decision not to leave Hamilton and commute to his job in Guelph.

The same questions are asked of CAO Derrick Thomson whose commuting distance is slightly less.

Is this siuation a repeat of the cozy deal the former CAO Hans Loewig made with the Farbrodge administration? Loewig lived in Brantford and communted to work in Guelph. It was alleged that he often stayed overnight in Guelph at public expense. Also his deal, made just before Ms. Amorosi took over HR in 2008, is alleged to include 12 weeks of holidays at his winter home in Arizona. Loewig or the administration never acknowledged or denied this.

Who must approve staff expense account claims? Is it currently Mr. Amorosi as head of Finance? Or is it a surrogate in Finance? How do senior managers process their expense claims if they are responsible for maintaining fiduciary responsibility?

This takes us back to a letter I wrote April 2, 2012 to Mr. Amorosi:

Mr. Mark Amorosi

Executive director of Human Resources and Legal Services

The City of Guelph

1 Carden Street

Guelph, Ontario   N1H 3A1

April 2, 2012

Dear Sir:

I am a taxpaying resident of the City of Guelph and a retired professional journalist.

It has been brought to my attention that you informed a citizen that the city would no longer respond to requests for information from any personal “blog” website.

You further stated that the city interacts with legitimate media outlets that follow the Ethics Guidelines of the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ).

Without defining “legitimate outlets,” the city has denied the rights of individuals and organizations that, under the Charter of Rights and the Ontario Municipal Act, have a rightful access to public information.

Nor is it established what a personal “blog” website is.

As a non-journalist, before using the CAJ as your excuse for not revealing public information, I suggest you read the Ethics document published (online) by the CAJ. Two elements are pertinent to the city’s decision to ban access.

Definitions: “News organizations – including newspapers, websites, magazines, radio and television – provide forums for the free interchange of information and opinion. As such we (CAJ) seek to include views from all segments of the populations.”

“Personal online activity, including emails and social networking should generally be regarded as public and not private.”

Under the circumstances outlined by you, one may believe that the city is muzzling sources of nominally public news that is not always friendly to the administration.

Accordingly, I am requesting that the travel expense reports for all members of council and senior staff since January 1, 2011, be made available to the public. Specifically, I request that my blog – guelphspeaks.ca – receive this information. It can be emailed to gerrybarker76@gmail.com.

With respect, given the circumstances, I suggest that in the public interest it would be useful to reverse this decision and allow residents full disclosure.

I would be interested if the city is an associate member of the CAJ and therefore subject to its bylaws and more specifically, its Ethics document. If it is not a member, then perhaps that Association may be interested in how the organization is being used to stifle legitimate news and comment by the City of Guelph.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

Gerry Barker

Editor

guelphspeaks.ca

 

Mr. Amorosi was good to his word and never replied to my request. It revealed that the city was not going to respond to requests for public information including expense accounts.

It was the early start of a pattern to restrict public information involving decisions, high cost public projects, executive payments and Human Resoures issues by the Farbridge administration.

Is Mr. Amorosi right to deny public information to the citizens, even when a respectful request is made?

Perhaps he has good reason.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The day Mayor Cam Guthrie blinked and lost credibility over Salary-Gate

By Gerry Barker

October 26, 2016

There are many questions concerning that December 10, 2015 closed-session city council meeting. It was called by the Mayor to approve large 2015 salary increases for three senior staff managers, Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert, ($37,591) Deputy Chief Administrative Officers Mark Amorosi, ($26.868) and Derrick Thomson, ($33,814).

It’s unlikely any elected official will answer these questions because they were directly involved in that closed meeting and are covering up to protect their standing under the council’s “Code of Conduct.” This was created by the former Farbridge administration when it hired an Integrity Commissioner to adjudicate any breaches of the Code and recommend sanctions if necessary.

Its real purpose was to shut down the closed-door council leaks that were occurring. Ask yourself, why would the Farbridge administration, with a solid majority of council, need to spend your money to stop information that they didn’t want you know or understand? They made it official by hiring an Integrity Commissioner to police and deal with suspected breaches of the Code of Conduct. The Guthrie administration recently renewed this contract.

Funny, the Commissioner must have missed Coun. Mike Salisbury’s confessed leaking to a friendly blogger of confidential information as to why five members of his caucus walked out of another closed-door meeting last January. It appears there is a double standard when it comes to investigating alleged breaking of the code of conduct by city councillors.

Here are some questions citizens should ask their councillors about that Salary-Gate issue and why was it kept a secret for almost four months?

* Why did the Mayor believe it was necessary to convene a closed session to approve the 2015 top management increases when the fiscal year was almost over?

* Did the Mayor receive information about the senior staff increases prior to the meeting?

* Were these increases included in the 2015 budget, approved by council in March 2015?

* Besides the Mayor, who initiated this closed meeting and why on the 12th month of the year, approved the 2016 city budget?

*   Is it not Provincial policy to reveal the name, salary, taxable benefits and job title for every public employee earning $100,000 or more in Ontario?

* What were the substantive reasons causing council to award these increases that took each of the three staffers’ salaries to well over $200,000, knowing full well the Provincial Sunshine List would publish the salaries in March 2016?

*   When the minutes of that closed meeting were requested, did the city clerk reply that closed-session meetings are “not on the public record and therefore not available?”

* Does this mean that whenever the Mayor convenes a closed session, for any reason, the public is denied access, forever?

*   What was the legal reason for calling a closed session under the Ontario Municipal Act rules, governing such meetings?

*   Did city council understand that by conducting the public’s business in closed session they were, in effect, concealing these senior staff increases, in direct violation of Provincial policy?

*   Which councillors voted for approving the increases in the closed session?

Did Mayor Guthrie vote to approve the increases

*   Did councillorrs realize that they shut down any possible public objection because the results wouldn’t be known until three months into 2016?

*   Was council informed of the rationale that determined how much each of the senior managers was to receive?

*   Were any of the three senior managers involved in conducting performance and market reviews of their peers to determine who gets how much and when?

*   Who informed council of the request for the increases?

*   Did the three managers hire a consultant to advise how much they should receive? If so, who was the consultant and the cost of his/her involvement?

*   Did Mayor Guthrie consult the city solicitor about the legality of conducting the closed-session meeting and was it in accordance with the Ontario Municipal Act guidelines?

*   How many, and which staff people were involved in this closed-session and were they sworn to secrecy?

*   Is it true that this meeting was held so as not to interfere with the final approval of the 2016 budget?

*   Did Corporate Services DCAO Mark Amorosi mislead Coun. Mike Salisbury, who asked for the reason for the $37,581 increase to CAO Ann Pappert? Was it because she did not request an increase in 2014 from the Human Resources department, according to Mr. Amorosi?

*   Is it not true that Ms. Pappert received a $5,005 increase according to the 2014 Sunshine List?

Conclusion

Council, including the Mayor, duped the public by concealing these three senior staff increases to avoid public reaction that would have stalled the conclusion of the 2016 budget.

Ms. Pappert resigned in May 2016 following more than five years on the job.

Al Horsman, the last Chief Financial Officer the city employed, resigned in August 2015 before council approved the 2015 salary increases. He is now CAO of the city of Sault Ste Marie.

Derrick Thomson resigned last April to take a job with the Town of Caledon. He was later persuaded to return to Guelph and was named CAO.

Janice Sheehy, former General Manager of Finance and City Treasurer, resigned last March to take a job with the Region of Peel.

Colleen Clack, General Manager of Tourism and Culture, was promoted to DCAO in charge of Operations, formally held by Mr. Thomson.

DCAO Mark Amorosi, following a three-month search using a professional headhunting firm to replace Ms. Sheehy, appointed Tara Baker, an analyst in the Finance Department. She was named Chief Financial Officer, General Manager of Finance and Treasurer. Ms. Baker is currently on maternity leave and will not be available until next year.

What do you think? Was all this a calm transition of power that has lead to a “Better Guelph?”

Or, is it a contrived attempt to retain power by the Bloc of Seven?

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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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A saga of senior management’s protected indulgence in secrecy

By Gerry Barker

October 17, 2016

This week I asked City Clerk Stephen O’Brien to see the minutes of the closed session of council that approved the 2015 increases to four members of the senior staff December 10, 2015.

He replied: “Thank you for your email. Closed meeting minutes are not open public records and therefore I cannot share such minutes with you.”

It was not an unexpected reply. But, how can public business be discussed in closed session and not be part of the public record? This is a threat to the right for citizens to have access to public information. If abused, it sets the stage for illegal and corruptive action on the part of the participants.

There is no public input in these closed sessions. The perfect example of abuse is the salary increases given to four senior managers in camera, December 10, and concealed until the Provincial Sunshine List for 2015 published them last March. How can the citizens trust its elected officials and staff to not deliberately hide information that concerns the public interest and public trust?

The only recourse for citizens is to commence a Freedom of Information request to obtain the details. The risk is what is redacted (blackened out), how long will the request take and be refused again?

Except, we already know the outcome of that closed session, thanks to the Provincial Sunshine List blowing the cover of those oversized increases. What’s more important is what was the methodology of determining Ms. Pappert’s increase of 17.11 per cent or $37,581 for 2015?

That particular increase was the only one to which Mr. Amorosi responded. To paraphrase his comment: ‘Ann did not receive an increase in 2014 because she did not request one from HR.’

Well, as it turned out, that wasn’t true. She did receive an increase of $5,500 in 2014 according to the 2014 Sunshine List. The truth is, the citizens of Guelph, who pay the bills, now have learned that the CAO of their administration received a total increase in her salary of some $43,000 in two years. That’s a 20 per cent increase and did not include taxpayer-funded taxable income..

It was not documented or explained in any way why she deserved that increase, or who conducted her performance review to substantiate the increase.

But the other three recipients, Al Horsman, Derrick Thomson and Mark Amorosi also received 2015 salary increases between 14 and 19 per cent.

The fallout came swiftly. Horsman was first to resign leaving in August 2015 because he knew what was coming. Derrick Thomson tendered his resignation to accept a job in the Town of Caledon. CAO Ann Pappert resigned in May 2016 two months after the Sunshine List revelation.

The last man standing, Mark Amorosi is still with us. Derrick Thomson was recalled to take over as CAO of the city.

The curious part of all this is why Mark Amorosi was passed over twice to become CAO? In each case he lost the job to staffers with less city experience than him. In 2011, he was a candidate for promotion to replace the retiring CAO Hans Loewig. Instead, Ann Pappert was selected.

Again this year Mr. Amorosi, the lone original senior manager with eight years experience, Derrick Thomson was selected as his new boss.

*            *            *            *

In 2008, the city administration, led by former mayor Karen Farbridge, hired Mark Amorosi to head up Human Resources. The new city hall general contractor, Urbacon Buildings Group being fired off the job in September 2008, overshadowed his arrival. In the following five years, five lawsuits and an $8.96 million settlement to Urbacon occurred just prior to the 2014 civic election.

The blame game was played to the extent that in October 2014, Ms. Farbridge and two of her councillors were defeated. Two other council supporters declined to run. Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, later said her predecessor, Hans Loewig, kicked the contractor off the job. To this day, not one elected councillor at the time took any responsibility for the wrongful dismissal of Urbacon.

Four of them who were on that council are sitting as councillors today including June Hofland, Karl Wettstein, Leanne Piper and Mike Salisbury.

Mark Amorosi was rising through the senior management ranks to become Executive director of Human Resourses (HR) and Legal Services (LS) under the job title of Corporate Services.

Up to that point, he had served under two CAO’s Hans Loewig and Ann Pappert; two Chief Financial Officers, Margaret Neubaur and Al Horsman, plus a senior manager in the Finance department, Susan Arum who was acting CFO until she resigned. There was another man hired to be CFO but resigned after a week on the job.

But Mark Amorosi remained the constant in the senior management ranks.

His big opportunity came early in November 2014, just weeks after the civic election.

CAO Ann Pappert announced a senior management reorganization. The title Executive Director was dropped in favour of Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO). This was because Janet Laird, chief of Waste Management and Environmental Services, retired. Denis McCaughan, Chief of Operations, left his city job with no explanation.

There were three senior managers who gained that DCAO title, Al Horsman, Derrick Thomson and Mark Amorosi. They all received a $6,200 increase that same month of November to reflect their alleged new responsibilities.

As a result of this reorganization, Mr. Horsman, the CFO, was moved to replace Ms. Laird as DCAO of Waste Management and Environment Services. Derrick Thomson, who had been with the city for a little over a year, was named DCAO of Operations replacing Mr. McCaughan.

Mark Amorosi added finance to his responsibilities of HR and LS. Next to the CAO, he became the most powerful civil servant in the City of Guelph administration.

Lack of continuity of the financial staff

As the new head of finance, Mr. Amorosi has named four people to the job of General Manager of Finance and Treasurer in just 20 months. First there was Katrina Power, no longer with the city. Then Janice Sheehy arrived in March 2015 and left in March 2016. James Krauter as acting GM of Finance and Treasurer replaced her. He is currently on the job during the absence of the newly appointed GM of Finance and Treasurer who has the added title of Chief Financial Officer.

Last July, Mr. Amorosi announced that an analyst in the Finance Department, Tara Baker, was appointed as the new CFO, General Manager of Finance and Treasurer. In doing so, Mr. Amorosi was aware that Ms. Baker was on maternity leave until next year.

In his current position, Mr. Amorosi has been the defacto CFO of Guelph for almost two years. In that time he has overseen two city budgets and is involved today in the 2017 budget. This is the man responsible for the finances of a $500 million Corporation that had a budget of $382 million in 2016.

Guelph resident Pat Fung, CPA, CA completed a financial analysis of the city and sent a copy to each member of council. Mr. Amorosi, hief Financial Officer in the administration, did not agree with the figures. The source of the facts in Mr. Fung’s analysis came from the city’s own audited Financial Information Reports filed with the Province for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. In addition, Mr. Fung used portions of the city’s own consultant’s, BMA Management’s report for 2014.

This information compared Guelph’s operating and capital spending with other similar sized Ontario cities. The results are devastating because Guelph’s operating costs are some 50 per cent higher than either Kitchener or Cambridge.

The per capita cost in each reflected how much more the city is spending compared to the sample cities.

Mr. Amorosi said that per capita costs comparison is irrelevant. He should know because he lives in Hamilton and has not paid Guelph taxes for eight years as a senior employee of the city.

Maybe it was because he said the per capita cost to the people to manage its affairs is irrelevant.

 

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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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