Tag Archives: Mark Amorosi

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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When respect cuts both ways

By Gerry Barker

October 5, 2016

Comments on the www.guelphspeaks.ca this week have been informative and conducted with respect of citizens’ perspective of living in Guelph.

This shows that people are thinking about how their city has been managed. They are also articulating their point of view with respect. It’s refreshing if only the administration would listen.

Here’s how the owners of the Guelph newpapers and other media played ball with their power unequivacally supporting the administration, not for four years, not for eight years but to date almost forten years.

As a critic of the administration(s) for the past ten years, I am attacked from all sides, particularly by senior management and surrogates of the majority of elected officials. This group was most active prior to civic elections in 2010 and 2014.

For five years up to 2011, I wrote a regular column called Between the Lines in the Mercury editorial page that criticized the Farbridge administration’s mismanagement, particularly of city finances.

I received an email from the managing editor in the fall of 2011, saying I was fired because the paper was going in a different direction. For the record, not only that didn’t happen but also the publication folded last January. That event shocked most people but I predicted it a year before because there was not sufficient revenue to support the publication.

I charge that Ms. Farbridge and her confederates spoke with the Publisher of The Record in Kitchener who was also publisher of the Guelph Mercury, to stop using my column Between the Lines. The messenger was Lynn Haddrell, Editor in Chief of both papers to Phil Andrews, Managing Editor of the Mercury. I always respected Phil but I knew he was caught between a corporate decision and having control of the content of his newspaper. None of these people are part of the Guelph political scene today nor does the Mercury exist.

The relationship between former mayor Farbridge and the Guelph Tribune

As for Ms. Farbridge and four members of her former council, she is no longer in charge of our city.

Why did Ms. Farbridge have the power to do what she did to get rid of http://www.guelphspeaks.ca? Her leverage lay with he city paying an estimated $400,000 a year of taxpayer money to the Guelph Tribude to run “City News” pages in every issue of the paper.

This is nothing but naked power exercised to get rid of an individual consistently critical of the city operations.

Then in early 2012, the administration again tried to shut down http://www.guelphspeaks.ca. This time, Executive Director of Human Resources and Legal Services, Mark Amorosi, stated the city notified a Guelph blogger (not me) that the city would no longer respond to requests for information from “any personal blog website.”

I took it that he meant me.

Amorosi went on to say that the city only interacts with “legitimate media outlets” that follow the Ethics Guidelines of the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ).

It appears that while Amorosi used the CAJ as the benchmark of who should have right of access to public information, he couldn’t have read the CAJ Ethics Guidelines. If he had, he would have read the following:

“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 population.”

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

Believe me folks, it takes a lot of energy, research and dedication to produce a blog that is always available online to anyone and comments on events that city hall doesn’t want to talk about. And I do it using my own money because I believe it’s the right thing to do.

Government is for all the people not the chosen few

I do it because I don’t believe that any government, particularly in Guelph has the power to suppress, muzzle or deny information to which the citizens are entitled. This includes Provincial and Federal freedom of information laws.

Despite the information roadblocks set up by the administration, the ugly underbelly of gross mismanagement by an entrenched administration and majority of council is gradually exposed.. It includes neglect of vital civic issues such as affordable housing and family services, the aging infrastructure and wasteful spending on projects that were poorly planned and executed.

The evidence is there. Yet there is an element in this city that keeps saying it’s time to move on. They wish.

So let’s make it simple:

* How do we pay for the Urbacon $23 million excessive new city hall costs? How do we replenish the drained reserves?

* In 2011, Coun. Leanne Piper bragged that the city had more than $80 million in reserve funds. Most of this has evaporated as the reserves were used to cover up mistakes. These include lowball budget forecasting causing negative variances of the city budget at year end. The Province requires that the city accounts be balanced by year’s end.

* The sloppy and careless Community Energy Initiative has already cost $37.1 million and counting. The Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc (GHI) has a staff costing $267,000 annually, yet its Chief Executive Officer says GMHI has no money. Add to that the Guerlph Hydro subsidiary, Envida Community Energy Corporation owes GMHI $11 million and it does not have any money.

Gee, do you think you could run your personal budget that way?

* The role of Guelph Hydro in this convoluted financing of a co-generation plan is murky because the GMHI meetings were all held in private sessions. The plan is supposed to not only generate 10 megawatts of power from each District Energy Node (gas fired pump) to the grid, but also supplies hot and cold water to a small number of nearby buildings. The outcome has been a financial disaster due to poor planning and execution with Ms. Farbridge chair of GMHI until her defeat in October 2014.

Yes we can fight city hall

Supporting this administration is the little paper that can’t, the Guelph Mercury Tribune. It’s biased with one-sided coverage of the administration has been revealed when the paper refused to publish Guelph citizen Pat Fung, CPA, CA’s expert analysis of the financial state of the City of Guelph. Not only that but the paper refused a full-page ad on the Fung analysis claiming it wasn’t documented, was inflammatory and too political.

And all this time we believed that more people would be able to read the financial analysis.

The administration. who received copies of Mr. Fung’s analysis, rejected his findings and this was dutifully echoed in the Tribune news pages. Instead of responding with reasonable questions following Mr. Fung’s five-minute presentation to city council last Monday, council waited until he left the chamber to bolster their opinion that his findings were inaccurate.

For the record, not one member of council or the senior management holds the Degree of Chartered Accountant or Certified Public Accountant. DCAO Mark Amorosi controls city finances. He does not possess degrees in either of Mr. Fung’s professional designations nor has his experiences, performing financial analysis and senior staff management for major corporations.

Now comes the next stage of getting the eight-page Fung analysis to as many people as possible. A group of citizens are supporting a complaint about the paper’s refusal to carry the report. They are in the process of contacting the National Press Council to complain about the Tribune’s rejection of a thoroughly researched report..

Think about this. The city has a communication department with 11 communication specialists plus someone on contract. It includes one of that number to be exclusively assigned to the Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Thomson. Question, does Mayor Guthrie have his own communication specialist assigned to him? Just asking.

Let’s see, the cost of this department is just over $1 million not including taxable benefits. The Tribune has only two reporters covering city hall and they have to file reports twice a week.

Respect is won only when there is open and transparent government that is accountable to the people. And a community newspaper that has no competition openly covers both sides of the story.

Oh yes, whatever happened to Andy Best who was hired last year to bring that type of government to Guelph? Just asking.

 

 

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City administration and Guelph Tribune team up to suppress citizens’ analysis of financial issues

By Gerry Barker

September 29, 2016

This week was eventful to say the least. What follows is a lot of info. Be patient, it will be up on www.guelphspeaks.ca for the next few days.

Pat Fung is a Certified Public accountant and a Chartered Account with wide spread experience in industry and business involving senior positions. His expert analysis of the high cost structure of operating the city and solutions to fixing the runaway costs of living in Guelph, was ignored on two levels.

First, Pat’s presentation to city council last Monday night, in the words of the Guelph Tribune, was: “Persistent city finance critic rebuffed at Guelph council meeting.”

During his five-minute presentation, Mr. Fung asked Mr. Amorosi to respond to the CAO’s new plan. It is to cover the next 18 to 24 months setting three performance goals: Service excellence, financial stability and innovation at city hall.

The Mayor interceded closing down the reply: “I find it a bit disturbing that people would come in here and challenge our staff in this way.”

Is the Mayor tone deaf? Is he now so supportive of the paid staff that no citizen can question their performance? Maybe he can explain just who he represents, the people who elected him to protect their interests, or the paid staff charged with managing the $500 million corporation.

The CAO did not explain what he meant by financial stability or those past financial disasters such at the Urbacon lawsuit involving the new city hall, costing $23 million over contract; the cost of the Community Energy Initiative that has reached $37.1 million and counting; the depletion of the reserve funds that the BMA consultants warned the administration by raising a “red flag.”

Commenting on the CAO goals, Mayor Cam Guthrie gushed: “I have never seen a more well functioning executive team ever… and this plan is amazing.” The news story in the Tribune did not carry details of the CAO’s new administrative plan and targets.

In his two-year record as Mayor, his ardent support of senior managers, our Mayor went out of his way to support former CAO Ann Pappert. He had to be the only person in the city who realized she was not up for the job. She resigned in May, as did current CAO Derrick Thomson who also decided to take a job with the Town of Caledon. Within a very short period of time, Mr. Thomson was hired to replace Ms. Pappert as CAO. Did our Mayor believe this was happenstance or crumbling of senior managemement under his watch?

For the record, Mr. Thomson was hired in 2013 as Executive Director of Operations, with a starting salary of $173,720, according to the 2014 Sunshine List. His responsibilities included managing the largest public service department in the administration.

In the 2015 Sunshine List, Mr. Thomson’s salary rose to $207,534. That’s an increase of $33,814 or 19.4 per cent. This occurred during a closed-door session of council December 10, 2015. His new salary as CAO has not been disclosed. Council approved 2015 salary increases of the four top senior managers: Ann Pappert, $37,591, 17.11 per cent; Mark Amorosi, $26,868,14.7 per cent; Al Horsman (no longer employed with the city); Derrick Thomson, $33,824, 19.48 per cent. Ms Colleen Clack was promoted from General Manager of Culture and Tourism to DCAO of Operations replacing Mr. Thomson. Her 2015 salary was $142,017. Appointed in June to her new post, her new salary will not be known until March 2017.

Do these senior staff increases reflect the Guelph economy?

Am I not the only taxpayer in this city that questions these increases and how they were established and by whom? Also as the decision was held in a private session, the public should know who attended that meeting and how they voted. I will request the city clerk to provide the minutes of this closed meeting and the vote result.

If this isn’t a deliberate attempt to conceal important information to which the public is entitled, then thousands of residents are being duped, Fortunately, the public will be told when the 2016 Sunshine List is published next March. If it weren’t for this list, citizens would never know the outcome of vital, financial statements that represent the public’s interest and to which they are entitled. It’s their money as shareholders of the city corporation.

The failure of Mayor Guthrie to not insist on public disclosure of these mega increases, identifies him as being a partner to this subterfuge that is tearing down what’s left of the public trust in its civic institutions.

But, this week a group of citizens raised money to purchase advertising space in the Guelph Mercury Tribune newspaper. I was informed that the paper would not publish the ad until I made changes to the copy that highlighted the financial analysis prepared by Pat Fung from two sources: The city’s own audited Financial Information Reports were submitted to the province and a city hired management consultant firm, BMA were used to document Mr. Fung’s analysis;

When told about the demands of the newspaper, I asked for written reasons for their objections of the copy. They refused to do that but the ad rep would tell me in general terms of the changes they required.

At that point, I realized that this objection was now in the hands of corporate lawyers.

At any rate, here is what they said: Nothing in the ad copy was documented. Well, that isn’t true as you may read for yourselves in a reproduction of the ad below. The sources of the information are clearly stated and have never been denied or challenged by any administration official, including the Mayor and council majority.

The paper said the ad contained inflammatory language. Again, is it not the right of citizens to present facts and protest government representatives and their conduct of the public business? This is something right out of the history books when the Soviets controlled the populace and their message.

Welcome to the Guelph Gulag.

Ignoring the fact that the civic action group, GrassRoots Guelph, purchased more than $6,000 in advertising in the Tribune during the 2014 election campaign, the present management demanded details of the organization, its non profit corporation ID, address (which was in the ad). These demands were obviously prepared by a lawyer, but who? Was it Metroland Publishing , owners of the Tribune, or the City of Guelph legal services involved? They wanted contact information when both Pat and I not only had our names in the ad but how to reach us through either http://www.guelphspeaks.ca or Pat Fung’s email address.

This is nothing but an attempt to suppress documented and legitimate protest of citizens illustrating excesses by the past and current administration. Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there is still free speech in this country. Citizens have the right to protest, complain and challenge a public funded administration that is patently out of touch, and worse, uncaring.

So why is the newspaper blocking this important information? It’s probably to protect its lucrative advertising contract with the City of Guelph. “City News” pages appear in every edition of the newspaper. The citizens are paying for this service through their tax bills. The annual cost is estimated to range from $350, 000 to $500,000. Currently, it is impossible to find out. The Tribune owners abjectly support the administration through the news content and commentary.

Pat Fung sent a copy of his analysis to every member of council August 18. He asked the Tribune editor to publish the analysis as an op-ed piece and was refused on the ground it was too long and too political.

Pat and I then decided to collect funds to publish all or a condensation in a full page ad in the paper. We used the GrassRoots Guelph system to collect funds as it was the only established civic activist organization that has the structure to accept direction. GRG is not actively engaged at this point to represent all those folks who are seeking justice and a vehicle to vent their frustrations.

http://www.guelphspeaks.ca never sleeps

Fortunately http://www.guelphspeaks.ca offers a window to comment and self expression. Further, GS never sleeps it’s content is available 24/7 to anyone who links to the blog.

Now you know the rest of the story. This is nothing but suppression of an accurate analysis of the state of city finances. Pat was willing to work with the Tribune but you cannot edit a 2,808 word document into 400 words as demanded by the editor.

The final question is why didn’t the Tribune editorial staff interview Pat when they had ample time to verify the accuracy of his analysis? Why have they not reported on the concerns of citizens?

The Guelph Tribune is not a newspaper but a print lap dog to the city administration that is paying a lot of Tribune bills and masquerading as a newspaper.

But judge for yourselves. Here is the ad the Tribune refused to publish.

Heading – A city in crisis

By Gerry Barker, editor of http://www.guelphspeaks.ca with Pat Fung, CPA, CA

September 29, 2016

A stirring wake-up call by Guelph resident, Pat Fung, CPA, CA, analyzes the financial state of the Guelph’s administrative mismanagement of our city that is exacerbated by a bloated bureaucracy and dysfunctional council.

It has now reached a crisis of misspent treasure and lack of confidence by the public in past and present administrations. It is expressed in annual property taxes, and user fee increases. The crisis includes secret deals made with certain developers to induce special treatment by reduction of development fees and taxes. City reserves have been plundered without public knowledge to cover up mistakes.

Reality and responsibility is non-existent as the staff management continues to claim the city is in “sound financial condition,” according to Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Mark Amorosi.

Since 2008, Mark Amorosi is one of senior staff overseeing the soaring cost of living in Guelph. He was hired in 2008 as head of Human Resources. Since then, he has grown in influence becoming a DCAO of Corporate Services, the man in charge of not only HR but also the controller of city finances since the senior staff reorganization following the 2014 civic election.

What Amorosi’s “sound financial condition” claims is compared below to the analysis done by Mr. Fung, an individual with an accredited financial background. The sources of his analysis are contained in the annual audited statements of the City of Guelph and the recent report of management consultants BMA.

Here is a chart, part of Pat Fung’s analysis

Guelph’s Operating Costs 2008 to 2015 (source: City of Guelph’s

audited financial statements)

($ thousands) 2015 2014 2008     $ Change 08 to 15     %

’08 to ‘15

General government 27,070 25,136 18,891 8,179 +43.3%
Protection services 79,550 75,506 51,855 27,695 +53.4%
Transportation services 60,381 57,405 43,380 17,001 +39.2%
Environmental services 76,238 72,697 35,035 41,203 +117.6%
Health services 29,180 27,522 18,524 10,656 +57.5%
Social and family services 43,601 52,280 51,183 -7,582 -14.8%
Social housing 21,372 20,444 n/a 21,372
Recreation and cultural services 40,906 39,481 23,947 16,959 +70.8%
Planning and development 7,313 6,155 3,986 3,327 +83.5%
Total Expenses 385,611 376,626 246,801 138,810 +56.2%
Consumer Price Index 126.6 125.2 114.1 12.5 +11.0%

Pat: Guelph should reduce its operating expenses by $20 million and freeze taxes and fees at current levels to fund the capital/infrastructure gap. We cannot continue to increase spending on operating costs on top of increasing spending of capital and infrastructure

Pat’s recommendation: Freezing revenues at 2016 levels and reducing expenses by $20 million, and holding expenses at $365 million for 20 years. City reserves would be built up to $200 million in 10 years. This would be reduced by whatever is spent in the interim on capital and infrastructure. This has the same financial effect as increasing taxes but is funded totally from within the current system of taxation and user fees.

Where did the money go? For example, note two categories: Social and Family services, a 14.8 per cent reduction and Social Housing, of which there was zero change in seven years. These are two key components of the leftist majority agenda on the present council. Yet during those eight years under the Farbridge regime, the categories were totally ignored.

But wait; let’s check out Environmental Services that enjoyed a 117.6 per cent increase. In fact more money was spent on the environment than Social and Family Services and Social Housing combined. Ask Coun. James Gordon about that as he says it’s his job to improve social services including affordable housing.

Here is another chart that captures the per person charges of Guelph’s selected expenditure categories compared to the Ontario Municipal Averages. These per person figures are from the City’s own consultant, BMA.

Selected areas from 2014 BMA report Guelph cost per person Ontario cost per person Excess spending relative to other Ontario Cities based on 120,000 population in Guelph
General government $229 $104 $15,000,000
Fire $185 $165 $ 2,400,000
Waste collection $29 $10 $ 2,280,000
Roads $244 $198 $ 5,520,000
Parks $77 $59 $ 2,160,000
Library $72 $50 $ 2,640,000
Total $836 $586 $30,000,000

According to the independent BMA consultant report, every person in the city pays $836 for the operational costs of these six defined areas. The average in Ontario is $586 per person. That’s a 42.66 per cent difference, or total excess spending by Guelph of $30 million per year.

Check this out:

Guelph Ontario

Waste collection $/tonne $137 $114 20%
Roads $/kilometre $27,617 $11,847 133%

* Why are waste collection costs 20% higher than average Ontario?

* Why are road costs 133% higher than average Ontario?

* Except for residential water/sewer usage, why are commercial and industrial     water/sewer costs 10% to 12% higher than average Ontario? Particularly when water consumption has declined by 16 per cent in the past six years.

* Why have Guelph Hydro rates increased by 42.5 per cent in the past four years?

According to the 2015 Sunshine List, the City has 92 middle managers carrying the title “manager,” in addition to senior and supervisory staff. The City must reduce these positions and flatten out the organization to make it more responsive and more cost effective. In our financial situation, we cannot afford this huge layer of middle management.

These soaring costs are one of the problems why Guelph has not achieved greater business and industrial development that increases revenue. The current assessment ratio between residential and commercial/industrial is a dismal 84 per cent to 16 per cent. It has not changed in ten years. The Ontario average ratio in many cities is 60/40. Neighbouring Milton is an example.

Now let’s take the General Government’s cost comparison. Guelph spends $229 per person in this category. The Ontario average cost per person is $104. The difference is a whopping 120 per cent additional cost to every resident of the city.

Further, General Government expense is not a service but overhead. Based on a per capita population, it can be reduced to meet needed operational expenses. This would bring the city government costs in line with what most Ontario municipalities are currently paying. Also, it’s an excellent place to start cutting operational costs.

This method does not affect service cuts to the public, the favourite excuse of the majority of council and the new Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Thomson. He says the staff will not propose any service cuts in the 2017 budget.

The current acting CFO, DCAO, Mark Amoroso, doesn’t like to talk about the per capita cost to Guelph’s citizens. He says it’s irrelevant. Does he care? He lives in Hamilton.

Looking back nine years, how have your household costs affected you? Did the exploding cost of running a city overtake your income, an ability to pay your City taxes? You are not alone.

Only we the people can create change

This message was paid for by a group of Guelph citizens who care about their city. Now it’s your turn. The best way the people can influence change in the way your money is being managed, is to contact your councillor. Each member has received the Fung analysis. Demand answers from them over the excessive spending and mismanagement contained in this well-documented report. Pat Fung has provided indisputable evidence that this city is on the brink of financial disaster, compounded in the past nine years.

To help stop this recklessness, join the thousands of Guelph residents engaged in protest of the way their city is being mismanaged. Please donate to help finance the protest. Send your donation and comments to:

GrassRoots Guelph

Box 250 – 17A – 218 Silvercreek Pkwy, North,

Guelph ON N1H 8E8

Please make your cheques and money orders payable to Grassroots Guelph. Sorry, we cannot accept credit card contributions, but cash in a sealed envelope is welcome. No contribution is considered too small. All funds received will be used exclusively for creating change in the way our city is being managed.

Both GrassRoots Guelph and http://www.guelphspeaks.ca are non-profit organizations and manned by volunteers. Thanks for participating, welcome to the cause and join the protest today supporting common sense management.

For a copy of Pat’s full analysis, go to: www.guelphspeaks.ca or email pat.fung@sympatic.ca

 

 

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Memo to city administration: It’s about the spending, stupid

By Gerry Barker

September 22, 2016

There was a guy named James Carville who, in the 1992 Presidential election, coined the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Carville was a political agent for Democrat candidate Bill Clinton who was facing George H.W. Bush. That one sentence galvanized the U.S. electorate to elect Clinton their new president.

It doesn’t take much more convincing that Guelph has not only a spending problem but the problem of carrying the baggage of money wasted on various schemes initiated by the former Farbridge administration.

There have been a number of revelations of money wasted. The Urbacon city hall contract lawsuit added an additional $23 million to the original cost of the building, taking the cost to $65 million. An impatient mayor triggered the firing of the general contractor, when the building was 95 per cent finished, caused this. That led to the defeat of the former mayor. She has yet to apologize for that mistake in judgment.

Did the public approve of this?

In her eight years in office, the former mayor and her council majority of supporters, allowed the number of full-time city staff to balloon by more than 35 per cent. The population increase during that period was 6.5 per cent.

Along comes the $37.1 million spent by the city-owned Guelph Municipal holdings Inc. (GMHI). The board was chaired by the mayor and four members of council, giving the chair absolute authority.

She exercised that authority behind closed doors without any public participation or input. Last May 16, we learned the truth about her secret project to develop two District Energy Node pumps, powered by natural gas and through a complex underground co-generation system, supplied hot and cold water to nearby buildings.

The Node located in the Sleeman Centre, supplies the co-generated hot and cold water to the two, new hi-rise Tricar Condo buildings, Sleeman Centre, RiverRun Theatres and St. Mark’s church.

Pankaj Sardana delivered the bad news to council in an open meeting. He said the project was started with a bad business plan and should never have been started in the first place. His presentation to the GMHI shareholders, aka city council was supported by the former CAO, Ann Pappert, who had served a Chief Executive Officer(CEO) of GMHI for four years.

If anyone knew of what GMHI was planning, it had to be her. But no one, the former mayor, the four councillors or Ms. Pappert serving on the GMHI board, said a word. Mr. Sardana’s presentation was the first indication of trouble with this project.

The devil is in the details

On July 13, the staff presented a detailed report on how the project failed and the associated costs. Those costs included the sum of $68.5 million an “impairment” asset on the city books. What is the interpretation of an ”impairment” charge? If the recoverable amount of an investment is less than its carrying value, then the asset is deemed to be impaired. The value must be written down to the recoverable amount.

Now most people know that the city must balance its books every year.

But because Farbridge persuaded her city council comrades to form GMHI in 2010, as a separate corporation, the finances went off the city books. This clandestine approval allowed her to pursue her dream of energy sustainability and reduction of carbon.

This $68.5 million is impaired because the cost of carrying the asset is some $3.5 million and exceeds the revenue. But there is no provision in the city income to pay these interest costs annually. The result is the so-called “asset” becomes a liability on the city books. In other words, the citizens have to pay for this colossal, multi-million dollar mistake. Yet Mark Amorosi keeps saying the city finances are in solid condition.

The mysteries remain: How was that impaired investment money spent? Was it a term loan? Who guaranteed it? Are there hard assets to provide collateral under-pinning the funds?

Mr. Sardana only mentioned that there were investors bankrolling the funds. It now appears that those “investors” were Guelph Hydro through it subsidiary, Guelph Hydro Electric Services Inc (GHESI). This is the billing and collection department of Guelph Hydro. The cash flow from some 55,000 customers each month is estimated to be more than $20 million or $240,000,000 a year.

The next question: Did the former mayor use that cash flow to finance her abortive Community Energy Initiative (CEI)?

And did her demands for GMHI financing, impact the Hydro costs of the estimated 55,000 customers in the past four years? During that time consumer Hydro charges increased by 42.5 per cent in Guelph.

If you can’t use it, pay someone else to take it off your hands

And what is the provincial electricity system doing during that period? Among other things, it is paying U.S. Border States to take its excess power off its hands. That indicates that since 2006, power consumption has dropped in Ontario by 13 per cent. Yet, the province continues to expand wind, solar and natural gas fired generators adding another 1,300 megawatts (MW) this year. The province’s supply of power now has an installed capacity of 40,000 MW.

The highest daily peak demand was in 2006, during the summer, when demand reached 27,000 MW. This year, during a severe drought for most of the summer months, the peak demand exceeded 23,000 MW for just one day.

Despite these facts of provincial power capacity and usage, the former mayor amalgamated Guelph Hydro that is owned by the city, with GMHI. She gained complete control, using the utility as her piggy bank to fulfill her CEI dream of power sustainability and climate control.

Mr. Sardana says that neither GMHI nor the Guelph Hydro subsidiary, Envida Community Energy Corporation, is financially viable.

With what we know now, I feel the police should investigate this whole GMHI/Guelph Hydro failed plan. If for no other reason, the public needs assurance there is no evidence of fraud, misuse of public funds, failing to disclose GMHI financial data of the operations to citizens. There should also be an investigation into complicity on the part of the former mayor, members of council serving on the GMHI board of directors, and Guelph Hydro.

We know that the Bloc of Seven majority supporters of the former mayor will never agree to any investigation of the CEI despite the evidence, that is now public that they tried to suppress. In fact, the city is advertising for people to apply for the CEI public advisory board, despite the history of CEI and the financial mess that remains.

By failing to accept their responsibility to effectively represent their electors, they face a backlash, if not next year but the year after, when they must answer to the voters in the October 2018 civic election.

In Guelph, preparations are underway to create the staff’s 2017 budget recommendations to Council sometime in the next few weeks. Rumours have been flying about the financial condition of the city.

Citizens who will be able to make presentations during the process will closely follow this procedure to finalize the next city budget.

There is a viable cost-cutting alternative financial plan on the table prepared by Guelph resident, Pat Fung, CPA, CA. It will be interesting to discover how this plan will affect the outcome. To obtain a copy, go to www.guelphspeaks.ca and it is available for downloading.

Please participate, it’s our future.

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When personal greed and ambition supersedes responsibility

By Gerry Barker

September 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

A case of double dipping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comforting words from the man in charge of finances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they went ahead anyway blocking public input

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

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

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

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

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

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

The public pot is now empty

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

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

This situation is showing little sign of correction.

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

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

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

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

This is another expensive remnant of the Karen Farbridge legacy.

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Why Guelph’s bureaucratic costs are crippling our city, because staff won’t listen

By Gerry Barker

September 12, 2016

On August 22, My wife and I sent an open letter to the Hon. Bill Mauro, Minister of Municipal Affairs. In the letter, the details of mismanagement of our city were outlined and we asked a reply to our request for an investigation of city operations.

That was three weeks ago and we are still waiting.

Premier Kathleen Wynne appointed Mr. Mauro in her recent cabinet shake-up. He has experience on this file as he served in the job before. Our MPP Liz Sandals was moved in that shake-up from Minister of Education to President of the Provincial Treasury Board, a less onerous cabinet job with little or no public exposure or consequence. That’s the equivalent of a “D” in politics.

Meanwhile Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) Mark Amorosi disagreed with his new boss, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Derrick Thomson, about the state of city finances. His statement claiming the city was in “sound financial condition” contrasted with the CAO’s statement that the nine-year capital expense plan was underfunded by $170 million after just one year in operation.

Believing today that this city can afford a new Downtown Library, South End recreation Centre, the Wilson Street parking garage and redevelopment of the Baker Street parking lot, is pixie dust and impossible.

It is now open and transparent about how public money has been wasted by a staff in concert with council in the past nine years.

It is not Mayor Cam Guthrie’s fault. He, unknowingly in taking office December 1, 2014, inherited a financial cesspool of millions spent and wasted on self-serving policies of the previous Farbridge administration. You remember them and all their self-promoted awards. To read a recent column written by one of her supporters, the writer painted her as Saint Karen, the revered leader of Guelph. Yikes! Is there no limit to their arrogance?

The problem today is the rigid control of council. They regularly support the senior staff that has seen a CAO and DCAO leave the city because of the revelations of mismanagement.

In his fine analysis of the bloated city operational costs, Pat Fung, CPA, CA, outlined why the city’s operating costs were growing at an unsustainable rate that lasted seven years.

Here is a telling chart of Pat Fung’s analysis

Guelph’s Operating Costs 2008 to 2015 (source: Audited financial statements)

($ thousands) 2015 2014 2008   $ ’08 to ’15 per cent
           
General government 27,070 25,136 18,891   8,179 +43.3%
Protection services 79,550 75,506 51,855   27,695 +53.4%
Transportation services 60,381 57,405 43,380   17,001 +39.2%
Environmental services 76,238 72,697 35,035   41,203 +117.6%
Health services 29,180 27,522 18,524   10,656 +57.5%
Social and family services 43,601 52,280 51,183   -7,582 -14.8%
Social housing 21,372 20,444 n/a   21,372  
Recreation and cultural services 40,906 39,481 23,947   16,959 +70.8%
Planning and development 7,313 6,155 3,986   3,327 +83.5%
           
Total Expenses 385,611 376,626 246,801   138,810 +56.2%
Consumer Price Index 126.6 125.2 114.1   12.5 +11.0%

Guelph should reduce its operating expenses by $20 million and freeze taxes and fees at current levels to fund the capital/infrastructure gap. We cannot continue to increase spending on operating costs on top of increasing our spending on capital and infrastructure.

The Fung Solution: It can be done by freezing revenues at 2016 levels and reducing expenses by $20 million annually. It can be accompkised by freezing expenses at $365 million for 20 years, allowing for increases for index of inflation and assessment growth. City reserves would be built up to $200 million in 10 years. This would be reduced by whatever is spent in the interim on capital and infrastructure. This has the same financial effect as increasing taxes but is funded totally from within the current taxation, user fees and spending.

Will Guelph do the right thing and reduce staff and operating costs?

Guelph’s current financial situation is close to what the City of Brampton faced last week when it terminated 25 senior managers. Mr. Fung pulls no punches in his analysis saying in order to reduce operational expenses, the city will have to lay off staff, reduce salaries and reduce management personnel. According to the provincial Sunshine List there are 92 city staff positions with the title “ manager.” That’s one for every 22 full-time equivalent employees

Regardless, the new CAO is quoted as saying that: “One option the staff will not present to council this fall as a solution to its capital funding woes is drastic cutting of services.”

That’s the usual claptrap excuse that has enveloped thinking of both city staff and leftist members of council.

Mercy me. We can’t cut services as the runaway train of financial mismanagement plunges off the cliff? Thomson disregards the Mayor’s request to investigate funding alternatives other than another property tax increase.

With that thinking by the CAO, who heads the 2,100 member of staff, get ready for a recommendation by staff to approve a 2 per cent special levy of property taxes for more than five years. Or, perhaps a longer period. It remains a sloppy and quick fix to the deep financial problems existent today and are not hoing away. It’s just another way to extract more money from the property taxpayer.

Do these deep thinkers on staff not understand why Guelph’s operating costs on a per person basis in six active operational areas, far exceed the average of the rest of the municipalities in Ontario?

According to the independent BMA consultant report, every person in the city pays $836 for the operational costs of six defined areas. The average in Ontario is $586 per person. That’s a 42.66 per cent difference, or total excess spending by Guelph of $30 million per year.

Now let’s take the General Government’s cost comparison. Guelph spends $229 per person in this category. The Ontario average cost per person is $104. The difference is a whopping 120 per cent additional cost to every resident of the city. Further, General Government expense is not a service but overhead. It can be reduced to meet needed cost cutting measures to bring the city government costs in line with what most Ontario municipalities are currently paying, based on a per capita population.

Now current acting CFO, DCAO, Mark Amorosi, doesn’t like to talk about this per captia cost. He says it’s irrelevant. What doe he care? He lives in Hamilton.

The present senior staff management and the Bloc of Seven on council, show no signs of acknowledging the growing financial problems being foisted on the taxpayers year after year. Plainly the staff is bloated with too many managers, high salaries and benefits, plus in some cases, two high priced managers doing one job.

Mark Amorosi’s crowning triumph was getting council, in closed session, to approve a 17.11 per cent increase for his then boss Ann Pappert and his three DCAO colleagues between 14 and nine per cent increases for 2015.

The public found out about it in March this year when the provincial Sunshine List of every public employee in Ontario earning more than $100,000 is named with taxable benefits five months after the fact.

Mark Amortosi was in charge of the city finances and Human Resources when council approved those increases December 9, 2015. Why is this man still working for the City of Guelph?

We urge folks to read the complete Fung Report. It can be found in the guelphspeaks.ca archives – Part One was posted August 29, 2016 and Part Two was posted September 1, 2016. If unable to locate the report, please contact Pat at pat.fung@sympatico.ca or guelphspeaks.ca

 

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