Tag Archives: Mayor Cam Guthrie

Reviewing what the city administration won’t tell us about our business

By Gerry Barker

May 19, 2020

Opinion based on facts

In my 14 years of commenting and publishing about the Guelph administration, it occurs it may have all been in vain. It was the record of waste of public money on unsupported schemes to fit personal agendas. It was a period in Guelph’s history.

It was known as the age of the radical environmentalists controlling the city of Guelph.

In 2018, it climaxed with the election of Mike Schreiner, the leader of the Ontario Green Party, representing Guelph. He was a party of one in the Ontario Legislature.

Schreiner’s smashing victory, as reported to Elections Ontario, cost $119,864.14. It was believed to be tops in Ontario. His contributions totaled $58,090.43. That came up short of the total claim of $119,864.29. In his financial report, there was some $92,000 unsupported or identified in his campaign report

Regardless, let’s hit the launch button and review the nasty collection of secrecy, leading to mismanagement and complicity of basic operations practised by two administrations.

Fiddling with the new City Hall project between 2007 and 2008

It started with the election of Karen Farbridge and a large majority of city councillors. Recall that it was the Kate Quarrie council that approved spending $42 million to build a new city hall and renovate the old city hall into a provincial offenses courthouse.

Little did we know that eight years later when the bill was $65 million, the result of a $19.2 million dollar lawsuit brought by the general contractor, Urbacon Buildings Group, for wrongful dismissal.

It was September 18, 2008 when Mayor Farbridge, frustrated over the delays in completion of the project, ordered CAO Hans Loewig to remove them from the site. This was enforced by Guelph police. It was a sad day when pique overcame reason.

Later, new Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert addressed some of the details and what steps were being taken to complete the project. She did not mention the 19.2 million lawsuit filed by Urbacon. She resigned in May 2016 and was paid $263,000 for five months work. It should be noted that in 2008, she was hired as a Guelph’s new Director of Community Services at a salary of $129,148.

Using other people’s money is the mantra of the city’s administration

In 2009, the city participated in a tripartite deal with the federal and provincial governments to spend $100 million on projects ready to start. The city then piggy-backed on top of its share spending additional city funds on unknown projects,

$2 million building dedicated bike lanes on Stone Road plus a new $75,000 time-clock in the Sleeman Centre.

Wasting money of an organic waste processing facility

In 2010, there was construction of a new $34 million organic waste processing, wet, solid waste facility. Built by Maple Reinders, who also were awarded a contract to operate the facility through a subsidiary company. The end product produced since 2011, was organic compost but was never distributed or sold to citizens of Guelph.

They only paid for a plant that had a capacity of six times greater than the feedstock produced by the city.

See if I have this right. The city finances a plant that is run by the builder and receives nothing in return because the contractor sells the finished product to nameless customers. It did not take long for other municipals, including Kitchener, to boost volumes and, we presume, profits.

Who makes these deals that totally ignore the public’s interest?

Last year, there were stories about world-wide surplus of recycable materials, the result being that the value of recycable materials faded fast. Guelph is no different. I am told that increasing quantities of recycables are being sent to the landfill.

In the midst of this, the city entered into a contract between the Rizzo Brothers in Detroit and the City of Guelph. While terms were not revealed, Dean Wyman, General Manager of solid waste resources, told city council that an addition shift was needed to cope with the increased volume of exchanging waste.

Rizzo agreed to truck recycables to Guelph and pick up solid waste destined to the landfill. It didn’t take long to discover the Rizzo materials were mostly garbage and not the promised recycables.

It was later revealed that the deal cost the city a million plus and Mr. Wyman left for a job in Edmonton.

These events were never covered in the main stream media.

2014- Mayor Farbridge is defeated by Coun. Cam Guthrie

In just over a month, the new mayor discovered the financial state of the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. These included Guelph Hydro, the Guelph Junction Railroad, and the District Energy Program that was a disaster.

It took some four before an audit byKPG accountatiing firm revealed a shareholder’s liability og $66 million and counting. Ut was swaxeibws as ab “impaired asset.” Could cover the payments to lenders, ever.

It was, at the time, the greatest loss by a municipality in the province.

As they say in show business, the house lights faded to black and secrecy dominated any information. Nobody was told what was happening.

Mr. Guthrie conducted a total of 84 closed-session meetings in his first two years in office. He was a man with grandiose ideas and projects. He announced that the city was entering a Public Private Participation project involving the Baker Street parking lot.

The key element was a new downtown library as the anchor for the development.

He was following the Trumpian technique of changing the narrative to get the public interested in something else

GMHI?

$34 million later and still no compost for citizens

The paper published artist renderings of the Baker Street proposal that the administration praised as revitalizing downtown.

Two events occurred in 2016-17. The first was the Mayor’s announcement that the Baker Street project was dead. The city announced the appointment of a special committee to investigate the option of disposing Guelph Hydro. The Special Options Committee (SOC) was composed initially with CAO Derrick Thomson and Pankaj Sardana, Guelph Hydro CEO as co-chairs plus three civilian members.

The investigation started in a series of closed-sessions that denied public participation of a major asset until February when a leak occurred.

First, what options were included in the SOC mandate? There was a merger with

another muncipally-owned Power distribution system. Then the option of dealing Guelph Hydro to a large power distribution corporation; the selling of the utility on a first-come basis.

The SOC committee was restructured with co-chair Mr. Sardana by Guelph Hydro chair Jane Alexander. Mr.Puccinni resigned. Later, we learned he protested the selling of Guelph Hydro that had been decided in closed-session.

No reason was given following the leak.

The whole process was operating in a closed-sessions vacuum. But things were happening and some six months later the Mayor announced the merger with Alectra Utilities and Guelph Hydro were almost complete. The city staff was employed to set up town hall meetings and phone surveys to support the merger.

The only thing missing were the details.

I sent an extensive questionnaire asking the opinion of councillors and why they would support it. I did not receive one reply. However, the mayor replied and among other things, said the merger was a give away of Guelph Hydro with a 2016 book value of $226 million.

Regardless, despite 22 delegates’ submissions to slow the process to allow public participation, city council by a 10 to 3 vote, agreed to the merger with no discussion.

Here’s my opinion. GMHI was in a bind with a loss of $66 million in lost shareholder value. Also, the debenture holders – Guelph Hydro Electric Sytems Inc, operators of Guelph Hydro, loaned GMHI more than unsecured $90 million, in debentures.

To make this work, the city would declare the $90 million Hydro loans as an impaired asset of GMHI. It had to maintain GMHI as a city asset and write it down over time.

This opened the door for Alectra to receive the assets of Guelph Hydro without paying a penny.

The city also had the $66 million GMHI impaired asset to also be written down over the years.

.Today,a GMHI lives and the promised annual share of Alectra Utilities profits are delivered to GMHI. How much was that dividend in 2019

.That’s only part history of major league bungling of our administrations.

 

 

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The City of Guelph has spent an estimated $100,000 financing a dismissed employee who is being used as a surrogate to sue a private citizen who criticized the administration.

By Gerry Barker

February 3, 2020

Opinion

Part One

Note: The salary figures used in this report are rounded down for ease of reading. Actual figures are available from the Province of Ontario Sunshine List website or the City of Guelph Finance department.

Today is the first of two parts about how our city council was complicit in attacking a resident for criticizing the administration for concealing, in closed-sessions the payments made to the three top executives. There is no argument that the data was concealed according to the city’s own published “Sunshine List, published in December each reporting year on its,website

We now know that the City’s Sunshine List since 2015 has never revealed the salary data of its top senior managers

They did it because they calculated that most citizens would never access their provincial Sunshine List published annually and containing the three management salary data.

That’s why, until a week ago, that guelphspeaks.ca revealed the $1,392,333 paid to two of those Dec.10, 2026 recipients. One was CAO AnnePappert who resigned May 26, 2016. The other was Derrick Thomson, who left the city in January 2016 and was rehired as CAO in June 2016 to replace Ms. Pappert.

Why Mr.Thomson who had left the city? Were there no candidates in Ontario who were qualified to apply fore a $259,000 job?

Why was Ms. Pappert in such a rush to get out of her job that paid her $263,000 for months work in 2016?

Thomson and the city agreed to “part ways” in February 2019. He was given a one-year contract extention of his $335,000, 2018 income, from the city as CAO.

So, why did he give that up? A year later, he was appointed CAO of a tiny municipality (pop. 9,000).

Now here’s the back-story

From 2015 to February 2017, the third recipient was Mark Amorosi. He sued Barker in November 2016 and was dismissed in February 9, 2017. At the time, his colleague, CAO Derrick Thomson told the public that Amorosi’s dismissal had nothing to do with the lawsuit charging Barker with defamation for telling the truth. In fact, it had a lot to do with the performance of those three senior managers.

This placed the city in an awkward situation. There was no place to hide for Thomson after making that undertaking on behalf of Amorosi who left the city without recourse. Later in a submission to Superior Court Justice, Cynthia Peterson, he stated that he “agreed to leave.”

Even the motion judge stated that three major media outlets described his departure as being “fired.”

This lawsuit has now entered its fourth year. The estimated cost of Amorosi’s lawsuit to the citizen’s is $100,000.

Barker’s legal cost are $88,000 to date. In four years his property taxes cost $30,000. It is impossible to guess what every taxpayer is contributing to this scandal. Until this dispute is cleared, we’re all in it together.

Oh! my there’s more

The city’s dilemma is that this has become a major political problem. It involves using a surrogate, a former employee, who, for four years made Barker pay for his criticism of the administration.

But here’s the rub. Not only is Barker paying to defend himself but also so are the taxpayers including Barker. This is all about political ego, deep pockets using public money and denying the rights of the public trust.

And it’s not going away.

I don’t know who supported this in 2015. However, in sworn testimony, Amorosi stated that CAO Ann Pappert, not city council, vetted and approved all city employee salaries including the senior managers. This claim was made under the special CAO Bylaw covering responsibilities. It appears to be a conflict of interest. Absent are the checks and balances,

It was an overt way to get rid of Barker, except nobody on council figured out the political fallout, and possible intervention in the form of a provincial inquiry.

There is a solution. The City of Guelph, the authors of this misguided support of a lawsuit by a former employee, refund Barker’s legal fees. Barker will take down the alleged offending 2016 posts that initiated this lawsuit.

Each day that goes by only makes a bad decision four years ago, worsen.

Summary

This is the story about a citizen. It is a David versus a corporate Goliath episode about the abuse of power by a city administration against a citizen who blew the whistle on a secret council meeting.

It was no ordinary meeting December 10, 2015. It secretly awarded $98,202 salary increases, bonuses and benefits to the three top managers of the City of Guelph’s administration. The final settlement will be confidential.

It gets better. Follow the record of how municipal financial power is used for four years, attempting to muzzle a citizen who was critical of a number of closed-session meetings by the city administration. A former employee launched defamation lawsuit alleging critical postings published in the blog gurslphspesks.ca. Amorosi announced the city was paying his legal bills.

Here’s a quick summary of what happened. On November 15, 2016, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi, sued Gerry Barker for $500,s000 in damages. He claimed defamation resulting from 10 critical blog posts and stated the city was paying his legal expenses. Barker had reported in March 2016, the three top managers received increases totaling $98,202. February 9, 2017, Mark Amoroso was fired.

That was three years ago. The case has never been settled. It has cost Barker YTD $88,000 to defend himself and his postings are fair comment. The city refuses to reveal the cost of supporting Amorosi that is estimated to be more than $100,000 of public money.

It is interesting the Judge Peterson stated that Barkers language was “measured” and did not vilify Amorosi personally.

On Wednesday, February 5, 2020, the second report on this major breach of the public trust will be revealed.

Since November 15, 2016, Gerry Barker has never been found guilty of defaming Mark Amorosi.

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

By Gerry Barker

January 27, 2020

Opinion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about those performance bonuses to Pappert and Thomson?

It is becoming apparent that City Council disregards many citizens.

The leadership makes decisions without regard of the unintended consequences.

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

The cover-up trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As it turned out, she was not alone

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

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

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

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

Ann Pappert moves on

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

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

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

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

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

His case was quickly settled by the city.

Here we are in the fourth year of the lawsuit.

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

I have no idea when our case will be heard,

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

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

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

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

Please send me a copy at:

gerrybarker76@gmail.com

 

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The police budget deferment demonstrates council’s ignorance of how our public safety service works on our behalf 24/7

By Gerry Barker

December 2, 2019

Opinion

Coun. June Hofland, has indicated that she may ask the Police Services Board to spread out “its big budget ask” over two or three years.

The former chair of the council finance committee for three years in the Farbridge administration, Ms. Hofland was also on the Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc board of direcors. With her years of experience, she would logically understand the relationship between city council and the Police Board.

She said she intended to discuss the 10 per cent Police Budget increase of $3.9 million with the chair of the Police Board before the final vote on the city budget, is taken on December 3.

If city council were a TV sitcom, you wouldn’t need a laugh track.

But their behavior overseeing the public’s business is no laughing matter.

Its time to start dumping the administration’s garbage can

But Ms. Hofland isn’t a throwback to Gilligan’s Island; she’s just an amiable stooge for her fellow councillors, Curly, Joe and Moe.

Editor’ note: Having been sued by these same guys three years ago, I hesitate to identify them but I’m confident you can figure it out.

These three gems stated they would support Ms. Hofland’s approach to discuss the Police Budget with the chair of the Police Board. It’s called the hands-on approach.

Trouble is, that’s not permitted because the Police Services Board is an independent body, not subject to council intervention in its financial requirements or operations.

In fact, the Police Board is empowered to seek resolution of their service requirements from a province-appointed mediator to review the budget if city council reneges.

Why not talk to Police Board members, the Mayor and Coun. Billings?

So if those four councillors supported the Hofland proposal, why didn’t they talk to the Mayor and Coun. Christine Billings who are members of the Police Board?

It’s interesting to me that in August 2014, just before council was denied capital spending due to the October civic election, the Farbridge council approved spending $34 million on renovation of the downtown police HQ.

The project is scheduled for completion at the end of this month, five years later.

This capital project was to be financed with $3 million from the Police Board reserve, diverting development fees from private projects and adding to the city debt.

This decision came on the heels of being forced to spend $23 million over budget to complete the new city hall and renovation of the old city hall. It was only the tip of the iceberg that was caused by vital mismanagement of the project by city contract staff. A judgment by Justice Donald MacKenzie confirmed wrongful dismissal of the general contractor, Urbacon Buildings Gtoup.

Along came GMHI

One of the serious problems facing the Guthrie administration was the former mayor’s pet project to use Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc to make Guelph self-sufficient in terms of power generation. The plan introduced geo-thermal heating and cooling to a handful of downtown buildings, including two new high-rise condominiums.

The former Mayor was also chair of the GMHI board of directors that took control of Guelph Hydro and installed solar-generating panels on many public buildings to generate electricity. It was only the beginning of creating a district Energy plan.

None of these major projects were conducted with oversight or participation of the public. June Hofland was a member of the GMHI board of directors but never commented or spoke up about the operations.

The shoe dropped in May 2016 with a report of the financial mess GMHI was in. It was followed in July with a staff analysis that was devastating. Then came an independent, consolidated audit of GMHI by the accounting firm KPMG.

It revealed a shareholder’s liability of $66 million. This was never denied by city council.

This has been the genesis of disastrous toxic mixture of poor planning, crazy-legs fiscal management wasting public money, and, mostly done in secret.

This is the damning 14-year legacy of overtaxing property and user fees with yearly increasing by more than twice the rate of the Consumer Price Index maintained by StatCan.

It was toxic because the Mayor of the city was also the chair of GMHI with a loyal supporting cast of councillors and the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert, who also doubled as Chief Executive Officer of GMHI.

Pappert knew in 2015 that she could be in trouble as two reports of the GMHI operations were a devastating indictment of a failure to manage and oversee the impact on the city’s finances.

The record shows she started her exit from the city in late 2015 by requesting the cash value of her unused sick and vacation benefits from the Human Resources Department.

And who was in charge of that department? Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Mark Amorosi.

In December 2015, council held two closed-session meeting. One was to award CAO Pappert with a $27,000 performance bonus along with an additional $10,000 for assorted benefits. DCAO Amorosi and Derrick Thomson each received increases that were part of a total $98,202 shared among the three senior managers.

The other closed-session meeting, also held in December 2015, approved an indemnification bylaw that the city would pay all legal costs of any employee and elected official who faced a legal procedure.

City council was directly involved in both these closed-sessions that was not revealed to the public until March 31, 2016. By that time Mr. Thomson had left to take a job with the town of Caledon.

Two weeks after the 2015 provincial Sunshine List was published, CAO Pappert gave notice of her resignation. She agreed to stay on until May 26, 2016, when Derrick Thomson returned in June to accept the CAO position.

These two top managers benefited further in 2016, 2018 and 2019. First in March 2017 the 2016 Sunshine List showed that Ms. Papper received $263,000 for five-month’s work.

In 2018, Mr.Thomson received a salary of $335,000 that included a performance bonus of $67,000. He “parted ways with the city in February 2019 just before the 2018 Sunshine List was published.

This is how our city council conducts our business.

The following is an outline on how to regain control of our city.

What can be done about it?

Simple answer is get involved. Get organized to challenge this council that has demonstrated it cannot manage a two-car funeral.

Council is about to start a review of changing ward boundaries. This should only be reviewed by an independent committee, appointed by the mayor elect incorporating public participation.

I believe that a major change must come to create more efficiency, fairness and is accountable to control the operations with the city staff.

Greater transparency will be achieved with an independent staff rationalization from top to bottom, including council and senior city staff.

A first step is to reduce the size of council to nine. This would involve redefining job descriptions in concert with the staff rationalization program. The rationalization should cover every employee, full and part-time and contracted workers.

An independent committee of civilians would be appointed to outline the responsibilities and communication rules. This would include streamlining procedures, rewriting the staff and elected official’s Code of Conduct. It would eliminate the Integrity Commissioner and the closed-session investigators.

The indemnification bylaw will be eliminated.

Civic Elections will include online voting. Proportional voting will not be used.

There will be a review of all bylaws and reserve funds status. This will be revealed to the public.

City communications will be revised to allow citizens to select to receive regular information online or hard copy through their electric bill.

Minutes of all council, committee and board meetings will be available within a fixed time, determined by length and content.

All council and committee votes will be recorded and distributed to citizens as part of the communications plan.

Finance and legal departments will review city advertising policies.

All pending legal cases against the city will be reviewed and the status revealed to the public, but not legal strategy or tactics..

Councillors, staff or citizens should never be threatened by anyone. This is subject to the revised Code of Conduct.

The new council will operate in public and at the convenience of all citizens.

Citizens will be respected and receive prompt replies from staff regarding their request.

Realignment of organization

Reduce to four wards with one councillor. Each representative to be paid $60,000 per year and reviewed by the CAO and designated senior staff.

Elected at large is the Mayor who will receive $180, 000 plus defined expenses.

The four full-time councillors, elected at large, would receive $100,000 plus expenses and adjusted annually using the CPI as the benchmark.

These four councillors will have direct oversight of Finance, Public Operations, Clerk’s office and Legal department, Environmental services. Specifics to come.

Now I realize that there will be severe opposition to these proposals. But unless we, the public, don’t empty the garbage can, there will be more of the same to come.

The opportunity to change only occurs every four years.

Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

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Nothing nefarious or backhanded here Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie tells concerned citizens

By Gerry Barker

October 10, 2019

Opinion

When bad stuff hits the fan, it’s time to pull the plug.

That’s what our Mayor Cam Guthrie did Monday night during a council meeting. He said he was sick and tired of the ‘continuing narrative’ of his administration’s operations and citizens’ concerns of ‘demising democracy’ in Guelph.

One report said the mayor ‘bristled’ over his description of the ‘continuing narrative’ that he sees as criticism of his administration. Now this is a Mayor who is known for easily becoming angry over something he didn’t like. In his case ‘bristling’ is an understatement.

I know from personal experience dealing with the man.

And guelphspeaks has been a constant critic of the mayor and his council so I presume we are included in the bad stuff hitting the fan.

The subject of the meeting concerned public access to the 20 public advisory committees appointed by council. Leading that delegation was civic activist, Susan Watson. I generally haven’t agreed with Ms. Watson over the years but she is right in asking council to allow public access to the public advisory committees.

Guelphspeaks.ca has been complaining since 2013 about the use of closed-session council meetings that deny the right of the public to be informed and able to express opinions in the public’s interest.

I know that when I requested a copy of the closed-session minutes of that December 10, 2015, regarding salary increases for three senior staff managers. The request was denied four months later.

I filed the request in January 2016. I was tipped off what had happened at that December 10 meeting. I was also told that council passed a bylaw, also in closed-session, that indemnified any employee and elected official who were facing a legal procedure brought by a citizen or corporation. The bylaw protected that group from legal action by the city paying their legal expenses.

I bring up the case of former Chief Building Inspector Bruce Poole who was fired because he dared to challenge the administration because some 50 city-owned building projects did not obtain building permits as required by law.

In this case, the city was his employer but did not pay his legal expenses when he sued for $1 million for wrongful dismissal. He won his case when the city Information Technology department bungled a request from Mr. Poole’s lawyer for documents pertaining to his dismissal. Instead, some 50,000 private emails were sent to the lawyer. The city settled the case withholding details of the settlement.

Was this a case of a double standard? I believe today that December meeting information was in the public interest and was co erred up.

When the 2015 Sunshine List was published in March 2016, I compared the 2014 salaries of the senior city staff with the 2015 List and it confirmed my early information that it was accurate. I proceeded to report the information, focusing on the responsibilities of the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi.

Why him? It was because he was responsible for the Finances of the City and Human Resources. He also oversaw three other departments. If Mr. Amorosi was not involved in the decision, who was?

Instead, as a result of my reporting, he sued me for $500,000 alleging defamation. Slightly more that two months after filing the lawsuit, Mr. Amorosi was fired for cause. The sick joke was that despite his alleged incompetence, his legal expenses are still being paid by the city. That includes my wife and I.

So, when Cam Guthrie says he is sick and tired of the continuing narrative of a diminished democracy, he should consider that he was Mayor when the corporation, with its deep pockets, supported Amorosi’s lawsuit brought November 16, 2016. He was fired February 9, 2017.

This is a mayor who agreed to support Mr. Amorosi when his former Dec. 10 colleague, Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Thomson, who said the city would continue to pay his legal expenses, fired him. That has been the case for the past two years and seven months and counting.

Sick joke number two: Amorosi testified that he agreed to leave. Even the motion judge punctured that balloon stating that three major media outlets described his dismissal as being fired.

This is a case of corporate corruption by an elected council led by a mayor who did not like what I wrote or me personally. Regardless, the council had to agree to support Amorosi except that the legal reason to do so using the indemnification byway to justify their decision.

They twisted the bylaw’s intent backwards. I did not take legal action against Amorosi, because I was forced to defend myself as the defendant.

I am not giving up because I can’t. This case is before the courts and I must pay my legal bills untold a resolution is reached.

This is not just about me. It is the ability of the City of Guelph to use public money to suppress any criticism by a citizen using the public’s money to enforce its power.

Gerry Barker is a Guelph resident and retired journalist. His 13 years writing and blogging of the City of Guelph administrations frequently exposes reports and commentary of the lack of open government, accountability and transparency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Has the stain of corruption been the city administration’s operating practice since 2007?

By Gerry Barker

October 7, 2019

Opinion

What is corruption? Is it good people behaving badly? Is it a matter of convenience to hide operations by using closed-session council meetings?

Looking back in the coverage of the city administration in the past 13 years, my bulging files are full of data including dates of publishing either in the Guelph Mercury or guelphspeaks.ca.

Well, the records shows that closed-session meetings were the product of the Farbridge administration with Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert, as head of the city staff and Chief Executive Officer of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI) for four years.

The Mayor also served as chair of GMHI that eventually scooped up Guelph Hydro and its subsidiaries.

In my opinion, these top executive controled the epicemtre of administrative corruption.

First, it gave awat control of all the City of Guelph Corporation assets and operations. It artfully eliminated public participation.

Second, the Board of Directors of GMHI was made up of the mayor’s loyalists on city council, including Todd Dennis, Karl Wettstein, June Hofland and Lise Burcher. Not one has disclosed details of those GMHI closed-session meetings. And I am not on their Christmas List.

Conducting closed-sessions enhanced control by the GMHI Board of Directors. The only occasional press release stated in principle that GMHI had sent $1,500 to the city as a dividend each year.

The problem was that GMHI was losing bags of money so what was the source of that dividend?

Actually, the only GMHI asset making money was Guelph Hydro.

The wheels starting coming off this comingled collection of the public corporation with the defeat of Mayor Farbridge and a number of her supporters.

Cam Guthrie was elected Mayor but was stuck with a majority in council of the former mayor. They managed to be in control with seven members. What few people realized was that the progressive supporter had built a formidable political firebase throughout the city.

The Mayor oversaw some 84 closed-session meetings in his first two years in office. In 2015, CAO Ann Pappert requested that she wanted reimbursement for her unused sick days and vacation allowances. She also knew about her new salary would include a $27,000 retroactive performance bonus.

Did you know about this? Neither did I or anyone else except the staff and council insiders who kept their mouths shut.

Then in March 2016, the provincial Sunshine List was published. I was the only media outlet that compared the salaries of staff in the 2014 List with the 2015 List. The annual List reports the salaries and taxable benefits of every provincial public service employee earning more than $100,000 in the previous year.

The three senior managers, Ann Papper, Mark Amorosi and Derrick Thomson share increases totaling $98,202. That figure was never confirmed or denied.

As the lone wolf in this, I wrote a number of blogs that were critical of Mr. Amorosi who was the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer in charge and responsible for Finance, Human Resources, Information Technology, Special Projects and Court Services.

If anyone should know about the salary increases it should be him, right?

On Novembers 16, 2016, I was served with a charge of defamation of Mark Amorosi. On February 9, 2017, Amorosi was fired for cause by his colleague Derrick Thomson who replaced Ann Pappert as CAO. Thomson went out of his was to say the dismissal had no affect on the city-financed legal fees of the departed Amorosi.

To be clear, I had nothing to do with his firing. His evidence presented to the court was that he agreed to leave his job. His counsel said that in two years he applied for four jobs and never obtained an interview. He was listed on LinkedIn as a retired civic manager listing his experience in Guelph.

In my opinion, no matter how you slice it, the city by agreeing to pay his legal bills is complicit in this vigorous personal attack on my wife and me just because I wrote the truth in words they didn’t like.

The senior manager receiving a share of that $98,202 remununeration boost for 2015, are all gone.

So much for checks and balances of the public’s interest.

 

 

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

By Gerry Barker

September 26, 2019

Opinion

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

It sparked the growth of satellite branches and a bookmobile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Council shows restraint in capping 2019 capital budget

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

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

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

Is this a promise to be broken?

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

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

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

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

Later she relented and voted to spend the money.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*         *         *         *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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