Tag Archives: Mayor Farbridge

Questions Guelph citizens should be asking about Salary-Gate

By Gerry Barker

Posting #776 – May 26, 2016

GUELPH SPEAKS

NEWS FLASH

CAO Ann Pappert is leaving her Chief Administrative Officer position

Ann Pappert tendered her resignation today in the wake of performance issues and public reaction. She is prepared to stay on to facilitate a smooth turn over of her responsibilities to her successor. Her contract ends in October.

It is not known at this time what her plans are.

She is the second senior officer of the city staff to leave in the past few days. Deputy Chief Administration Officer(DCAI), Derrick Thomson, resigned and that leaves just DCAO Mark Amorosi, remaining of the senior staff members hired by the former Farbridge administration. DCAO Scott Stewart, was only hired last December.

To replace Ms. Pappert will take some months as the city restructures its senior management..

The current post continous

We recently learned that in a closed-session last October 13, members of council were asked to rate the performance of Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Pappert. An independent consultant tallied the responses of the 13-member council. It was reported that the CAO’s performance failed to have the support of council. The result, according to the consultant, did not warrant any increase in salary for the CAO. It is important to note that Ms. Pappert was not present at the meeting.

What allegedly followed was a series of recriminations by certain councillors over what they had just collectively stated, therefore there should be no raise. Expressions of remorse including “maybe we were too tough on her” were made, again in closed session.

On December 9, in closed-session, council voted to increase the CAO’s salary by $37,581 for 2015.

Now we learn that the CAO has hired a lawyer, a specialist in human resources cases who will only negotiate with city lawyers. Negotiate what? Ms. Pappert’s exit?

This has become known as “Salary-Gate,” the abuse of power by the administration. It is a clear example of a council exhibiting its arrogance and lack of resolve by supporting this outrageous increase. The thought of renewing this individual’s more than $257,000 contract is a chilling prospect in view of her well documented performance over five years.

Some unanswered questions

QUESTION: Who voted for this increase conducted in closed session?

QUESTION: Did the Mayor vote to pay Ms. Pappert the $37,581 salary increase December 9?

QUESTION: Why was the CAO’s 2015 salary increase stalled until December 9, 2015?

QUESTION: Who determined the amount of the increase?

QUESTION: When and how was that amount calculated?

The Human Resources department, headed by Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO), Mark Amorosi, normally recommends salary increases based on research comparing rates for similar jobs in other municipalities. His boss is CAO Pappert.

QUESTION: Is this not a conflict of interest?

QUESTION: What about the increases given to the three DCAO’s, Mark Amorosi, Al Horsman and Derrick Thomson? The latter two have left the city.

QUESTION: When were they approved and who decided the amount of their substantial increases?

QUESTION: Why is the senior staff involved at all setting their own salary increases?

QUESTION: Why are these details conducted in closed-session?

These four senior managers of the corporation are public servants and the public has the right to know the details of negotiations.

QUESTION: Why has Mayor Cam Guthrie gone to great lengths to support his CAO despite the outcome of the council rejection of any increase for Ms. Pappert, October 13, 2015?

QUESTION: Why did DCAO Mark Amorosi state that the reason the CAO got the raise was because she did not get one in 2014 and she did not request one?

QUESTION: Was the CAO told not to request an increase in the 2014 election year?

QUESTION: Is it possible that former Mayor Karen Farbridge is advising the seven members of the Orange Crush on council to block reform of her failed policies, including awarding excessive executive salary increases?

QUESTION: Were there promises made in the dying days of the Farbridge term to reward her trusted senior staff?

QUESTION: Is there any recourse by citizens to stop the waste of public money and deliberate obstructionism by the Orange Crush majority on council?

In Ontario, there is little citizens can do to recall errant public servants and elected officials, short of being convicted of robbing a bank. In this case, the four executives were in charge of the bank.

This action by the majority of council is reprehensible and a dereliction of their sworn duty toward the citizens of the city.

Why did council not tell us about the salary increases?

In particular, it was a secretive, duplicitous action that only came to light when the provincial Sunshine List of public employees earning more than $100,000 was released in March this year, almost four months after the fact.

Most disturbing is the action of Mayor Guthrie, who has repeatedly avoided involvement in confrontational events requiring his leadership. Earning a resounding victory in October 2014, Mayor Guthrie has failed to follow through on his promises to make a “Better Guelph.” Instead he has squandered obvious opportunities to fulfill his mandate.

His ability to provide leadership of this city is needed more than ever. As time goes by, it is making him less relevant as a mayor and politician. It didn’t have to be that way because there were resources to assist him to overcome the Farbridge stranglehold on city operations.

Instead, he denigrated citizens who objected to the performance of his CAO by summarily dismissing any suggestion that she lacked the ability to do the job. He even threatened one citizen with legal action. That threat disappeared quickly due to the public reaction.

He has been quoted saying that he is receiving calls from mayors and reporters from all over Canada asking how does he do it, what was his secret?

Do what?

This isn’t about selling insurance, big guy; it’s about integrity, toughness and keeping your word. All three of those attributes of your Posting #776leadership are MIA – Missing in Action.

In the meantime, contact your councillor to let them know of you displeasure over this salary case and other serious mismanagement of city finances and operations. There is no shortage of material.

It didn’t have to be this way.

Here is the Council contact list:

Mayor            Cam Guthrie              mayor@guelph.ca                         519 837 4643

WARD 1

Coun. Dan Gibson                            dan.gibson@guelph.ca                 519 822 1260 Ext 2502

Coun. Bob Bell                                 bob.bell@guelph.ca                        519 803 5543

WARD 2

Coun. Andy Van Hellemond       andy.vanhellemond@guelph.ca   519 822 1260 Ext 2503

Coun. James Gordon                   james.gordon@guelph.ca               519 822 1260 Ext 2504

WARD 3

Coun. Phil Allt                              phil.allt@guelph.ca                          519 822 1260 Ext 2510

Coun. June Hofland                    june.holfland@guelph.ca                519 822 1260 Ext 2505

WARD 4

Coun. Christine Billings            christine.billings@guelph.ca            519 826 0567

Coun. Mike Salisbury                mike.salisbury@guelph.ca                 519 822 1260 Ext 2512

WARD 5

Coun. Leanne Piper                   leanne.piper@guelph.ca                    519 822 1260 Ext 2295

Coun. Cathy Downer                 cathy.downer@guelph.ca                  519 822 1260 Ext 2294

WARD 6

Coun. Mark MacKinnon            mark.mackinnon@guelph.ca            519 822 1260 Ext 2296

Coun. Karl Wettstein                        karl.wettstein@guelph.ca            519 763 5105

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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City pays $1,125 fine for failing to take out a building permit for one of its own projects

By Gerry Barker

Posted March 24, 2016

Is this the tip of the iceberg? Recently, Bruce Poole, the former Chief Building Inspector with 20 years service, sued the city for wrongful dismissal. He is claiming $1 million in compensation. This matter is now before the courts.

Why was the veteran Poole fired? Because he approached the senior staff management and said there were some 55 building projects being performed by the city that did not have building permits as required by the Provincial Building Codes Act (BCA).

Poole said he was fired after he warned senior management staff that he would blow the whistle on this breach of BCA protocol. It is alleged that he would institute an action to fine the city for failing to adhere to the Building Codes Act.

Poole was initially offered to step aside and receive his regular pay. He refused. Then the city said he had to take the deal. He refused again and was fired.

This brings up the case of Margaret Neubaur, the Chief Financial Officer of the city for three years. With advance warning, she was unceremoniously marched out of the building in May 2011, by former Chief Administrative Officer, Hans Loewig, and Executive Director of Human Resources, Mark Amorosi. Those two refused to allow Ms, Neubaur to collect her belongings. It was a classic intimidation by the two senior managers. We do not know whether she sued for wrongful dismissal or received compensation for the action. The public was never told why she was fired.

Here’s another example. In 2007, the Farbridge administration fired Chief Administrative Officer, Larry Kotseff, and Chief Financial Officer, David Kennedy, in one fell swoop. It took two years to obtain the settlement details of more than $500,000 through the Freedom of Information Act.

This action gutted the heart of senior management and it has never recovered.

This whole Bruce Poole affair could have been avoided if the senior management had obeyed the rules. Instead, they took it out on their chief building inspector who warned them of the situation.

This is yet another example of incompetence by senior management. And, where was the council in all this? This brings up the excessive use of closed session by council. Under the Municipal Act, a council can go into closed session when the subject is a discussion of a member of the staff that involves personal matters..

In fact, this is yet another example of screening issues behind closed doors. That impacts the public. Rarely are these issues discussed in open council. . Councillors are held to a Farbridge vintage rule that prevents them from discussing what went on in a specific closed session. Often these meetings, held in private before a regular council meeting, turns out to be donnybrooks far from the public’s gaze.

The city now faces not only settling another wrongful dismissal lawsuit but also paying additional fines to the province for all those city projects not having building permits.

And these are the same staff management people who allegedly managed the city’s Urbacon lawsuit defence, that cost $8.96 million to settle, and are now responsible for the Poole firing.

Now we know the city has already paid a fine for not having a building permit for renovations to the West Recreation Centre. Does the new Chief Building Inspector pursues any additional flagrant abuse of the powers given to the senior staff of this administration?

We will never know the answer to this until the conclusion of the civil action brought by Bruce Poole, a man only trying to do his job.

This trial will probably conclude in two years, just in time for the 2018 civic election. Is this not a repeat of the Urbacon decision that cost the city $8.96 million? Later the city admitted the new City Hall contract overrun was $23 million.

Our current dysfunctional city council, with its pro-Farbridge majority, will founder in its attempt to coerce the staff to settle the Poole claim.

The trouble is, because of senior management ineptitude in 2015, they have no leverage. To assault the intelligence of citizens admitting to paying the province a fine of $1,125 for breaching the Ontario Building Codes Act, is beneath contempt. It is no secret that Mr. Poole states there were 55 breaches in city-operated building projects without obtaining a building permit.

The next question is who was getting paid off?

The camera swings onto those contractors hired by the city to perform the work. Why was there no control over these projects?

If Mr. Poole’s assertions are proven in court, and that does not appear to be in doubt, citizens must ask: How did this occur and who benefitted?

Also, the system of management from top to bottom should be subject to professional review to determine what happened and why?

On the surface, Bruce Poole appeared to be a fall guy who allegedly lost control of his department with zero support from senior management. If it reaches trial, the defence will spin that theory.

But reality dictates that the man in charge became so frustrated that he went to the top management and said he had to fine his own city for failing to issue building permits for the city’s own building projects.

You be the judge, is Bruce Poole the victim for doing his job or an inconvenience to the senior staff?

For what it’s worth, my money is on Poole

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Democracy has left the building

Posted July 11, 2012

When the underlying issues of a civilized society are endangered by a dictatorial and secretive administration, democracy, as we know it, vanishes.

It’s a natural instinct for those in power to withhold information that may reflect on their actions and management of the public assets.

Once in power the tendency is to surround yourself with friends and supporters who blindly follow.

One of the first tenants of political power is to control the message and give the appearance of serving the public stakeholders. Those controlling the agenda ignore disagreement and rejection of the controlling political organization’s policies.

This leads to anger and disillusionment on the part of the stakeholder, you and me.

So, thanks to a report by Carol Goar in the Toronto Star, here are three lessons to emphasize the theory of democracy discarded by those empowered.

Lesson One: Those with power – politicians, police and bureaucrats – don’t believe they should have to share that power. Basically, they dismiss the rights of citizens to share that power and don’t believe they have any role to play in their sphere of influence.

Lesson Two:  Governments frequently slap pejorative labels on those who oppose and complain. Such methods are to use surrogates to attack those objectors labelling them as ignorant, dangerous, violent and out of touch.

Lesson Three: Citizens have to use the tools they have to keep democracy alive. These include solidarity, willingness to stand up to authorities and to reach beyond their own ranks.

How does that menu rank with what has been going on in Guelph for the past six years?

First, we have been governed by a civic dictatorship composed of a majority of councillors who, 99 per cent of the time, votes their own agenda. The opposition – in the first four years consisted of just two councillors. Since 2010, the opposition has grown to five councillors who have voiced concerns about the operation of the city government but are defeated most times when votes are held.

There is growing evidence that Mayor Karen Farbridge, the architect of Guelph’s public policy, along with a close-knit group of unelected advisors, has created a growing unrest among voters.

Democracy is no longer operative in this council.

The administration works in two parts. The mayor to carry out her agenda, has handpicked the senior bureaucrats. Policy rests with the mayor and her advisors including former councillors Ken Hammill and Cathy Downer.

The Mayor is beholden and influenced by the Guelph Civic League although since the 10 Carden Street organization came into being that influence has diminished. Instead, 10 Carden Street is the stepchild of the Guelph Civic League. It received a $135,000 Trillium Foundation grant from the provincial government to provide “community services.”

This is a thinly disguised political action group dedicated to support the present Farbridge political organization.

The artful part is how the Farbridge crew has influenced and received support from a number of community and neighbourhood groups supplying public funding, support in planning and social issues.

The offshoot of all this is the vast silent majority of voters who are not united, knowledgeable nor organized to question or oppose policies advanced by the Farbridge political organization.

This has resulted in participatory democracy failing to acknowledge its majority rule.

For almost six years,the city has b ten ruled by a tight-knit group of individuals operating under the mantra of: “ it’s our way or the highway.”

Still not convinced?

The ambition of this group has cost taxpayers millions in personal pet projects, dumb planning, excessive legal expenses and fiscal mismanagement aided and abetted by unqualified or absent individuals. Those responsible for protecting the public interest

Madame Mayor, democracy has left your building.

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Lullaby journalism is alive and well in Guelph

Posted July 1, 2012

On Canada Day morning, I checked out the local daily newspaper that included an insert, a glossy full-colour magazine titled “My Guelph.”

It represents the soft side of the city and is a stepchild of the newspaper with some of its staffers and contributors supplying the marshmallow content.

It is a thinly disguised advertising vehicle masquerading as a city magazine to extract more dollars from the marketplace. Toronto Life it isn’t.

It is yet another example of how critical thinking and investigation of city affairs has disappeared from the print and electronic media.

Another element of lullaby journalism is the Rogers community channel that features soft and flabby coverage of only so-called good news including a misnamed program called “Inside  Guelph.” It is really an extension of the Farbridge Administration’ s tightly wound control of communications.

In our view, the medium is not the real message.

The other troubling aspect is the how Guelph’s print sources of news is controlled by Torstar, corporate umbrella of the Toronto Star, and its suburban publishing operation called Metroland.

Metroland operates the daily Guelph Mercury, the twice weekly Guelph Tribune and now My Guelph magazine.

In the past six years, it is a rare occurrence for the two newspapers to be critical of the city administration including council. For that length of time, Mayor Karen Farbridge and her majority of councillors rarely deviate from the message that’s controlling this city.

Because of this situation, taxpayers do not receive balanced coverage from the corporate controlled print or the television media.

Indeed, questions involving the real costs of major multi-million projects are withheld. As a result, management of city finances has been so manipulated with the apparent concurrence of the outside accounting firm charged with auditing the books.

Running a $174 million operation requires transparent and responsible reporting

For example, what is the true cost of the new Civic Museum? Such questions as how much was spent on the original $12.7 million estimated budget over five years from general funds? There have been vague hints that the cost ballooned to $15.5 million due to unexpected foundation problems. But this was never confirmed.

The real cost of the new $33 million compost plant has been masked with dodging and obfuscation by the staff leadership charged with executing the plan and contract.

Taxpayers have never been informed of the details of the contract signed by the city and general contractor Maple Reinders. This lush contract included two wholly owned subsidiaries of Maple Reinder that won the right to run the plant and procure addition wet waste (feedstock}. This is why the City of Waterloo entered an agreement to supply 20,000 tonnes of wet waste per year.  This side contract was negotiated by AIM Environmental, wholly controlled by Maple Reinders.

Underlying this, is the plant was over-built to meet the needs of Guelph.  It is estimated that our city will never use the capacity of that plant … when it eventually becomes fully operational … for the presumed 20-year lifespan.

Summing up: Guelph taxpayers must guarantee the amount of wet waste to keep the plant in operation daily.  But Aim Environmental has exclusive right to operate the plant and negotiate contracts to bring in additional feedstock.

The city must finance the construction cost. It also must raise an additional $15 million to provide large bins or carts to property owners along with special trucks to remove the contents of the bins. This was because the Ministry of the Environment told the city the plant could not receive the waste in plastic bags. What a surprise!

Was this ever discussed or considered during the contact talks?

Finally, what happens to the tonnes of compost projected to be the end product of the plant?  What is the cost of the heavy trucks coming from other municipalities damaging Guelph streets over time? What is the true operating cost of the plant?

Why haven’t these and a host of other questions been answered by the city administration?

Is lulling you this warm summer into dreaming about cooking the best steak, or advising you how to budget, or advising singles to get into the social whirl, making important matters that affect you, go away? Think again.

The real news is submerged under a barrage of soft pap, served up by self-serving corporate entities that control the message.

So many questions, so few answers.

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Mayor Farbridge and the city waterworks

Recently, there was a rare occurrence during a meeting of city council.

The Farbridge administration has enjoyed a majority of councillors supporting the agenda of the mayor and, senior civil servants.

This meeting was attended by a group of condominium owners asking for compensation because their owner’s association water bill had jumped from an average of $1,600 per billing period to $25,000 from April 21 to May 17.

The manager of the city water works said the meter tested accurately and offered no explanation as to why the condo water bill zoomed to such proportions. To use that much water, it was estimated every tap and toilet in the condominium would have to run constantly for six months. 

It was acknowledged that there was no similar surge at the wastewater facility.

So, where did the water go?

Now this gets interesting. Coun. Bob Bell made a motion to compensate the condo association. By the way, the association paid the $25,000 bill by levying a special assessment on every owner.

The Farbridge gang of eight would normally defeat this motion swiftly.  But this was not a normal situation. Coun. Gloria Kovach was not present for the vote leaving six councillors supporting Coun. Bell’s motion and six councillors voted against.

The six against were all members of the Farbridge gang of eight. But there was a defection. Coun. Maggie Laidlaw, normally a member of the council majority, supported the condo owner’s plea for compensation.

Because of the tie, the mayor cast the seventh vote against supporting the Bob Bell motion.

She opted to throw the question back to the waterworks department staff. That was the same bunch that was either unwilling or unable to solve what was a serious usage and billing problem.

Any dolt with half a brain could understand that something was terribly wrong.

Then another property owner surfaced saying he was hit with a $6,000 water bill in his duplex rented out to four students. He has not paid the bill saying his normal monthly usage is 40 cubic meters or $140.

Last August, residents of an 85-unit townhouse complex on Scottsdale Drive, received a water bill for $24,000 when a typical two-month billing would be $8,000.

Residents are paying it off in installments ending in May.

Do you think those folks are going to vote for Mayor Farbridge and her gang?

The Mayor’s deciding vote was a defining moment in her stewardship as head of civic government.

She may sit in her office and wonder why the taxpayers are resentful and have lost respect for her management. The steady erosion of confidence in the Mayor and her cohorts on council is growing in all areas of the city.

And respect and confidence are earned and hard to replace when lost.

There was a swift and simple solution to the excessive water-billing problem.

All council had to do was instruct the water department to suspend excessive water bills. Then reinstall meters at the sites where excessive water use had been reported. Monitor usage over a two-month period to ensure accuracy. Next, review and report to council the billing processes for water use and wastewater disposal.

 Instead, the Mayor said that the staff was working on a compensation program that was larded with foggy language such as “considering, recommendation and proposed.”

 As the elderly lady said in the Wendy’s commercial: “Where’s the Beef?”

 Has the Mayor allowed unlimited power to go to her head? Has she become so immune to serious needs of her constituents?

 The Mayor should remember to dance with the people who brought her to the party.

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I get stupidity fatigue reading Macleans’ 99 ways government stupidity spent your money

  • For viewers who don’t read Macleans, there is not enough space to describe how, across the country, our fog-bound, greedy officials make dumb decisions spending your money willfully supporting the most specious of proposals.

One of my favourites was spending by Ottawa to build seven chalets along the Rideau Canal, at a cost of $750,000 each to accommodate skaters in winter. Average house costs in the city are just $360,000.

I can report reading the report is a revealing and tiring exercise.

So then look at the situation in Guelph, where we have a substantial portfolio of home-grown stupidity by our council and staff.

Let me count the ways.

*  My favourite was the nameless city staffer who promoted the idea of selling Guelph’s streetlights to Guelph Hydro. That’s like borrowing from yourself. The taxpayers own Guelph Hydro.  It was a stupid proposal designed to create fresh capital to a council starved for money. That was shifting the debt to another city agency. Try doing that at home.

*            *            *

*  Picking a fight with partners in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health Unit.  The health board approved a $17 million headquarters on Stone Road and a satellite office in Orangeville. Guelph’s share was mandated to be $10 million.

Mayor Farbridge and her supporters on council decided to challenge the proposal by first withdrawing its representatives from the public health board and then challenging the decision in the courts. The city lost. The cost to taxpayers for this is an unbudgeted $10 million. Why can’t our council get along with their partners?

*            *            *

*  Using $2 million of stimulus money to install bicycle lanes on Stone Road. The other stupid use of stimulus cash was paying $750,000 for a new time clock in the Sleeman Centre.

*            *            *

*  Then along came the stupid downtown pissoir experiment. Councillor Ian Findlay and Mike Salisbury travelled to Edmonton to check out how that city handles the public calls of nature. The result of Guelph’s six week temporary pissoir experiment was collecting more than 2,000 litres of male urine. It didn’t fix the problem.

*            *            *

*  Spending $300,000 to a consultant to rearrange the Guelph Transit routes to be more efficient and of service to the public.  When started January 1st, the system was a disaster. Passengers complained of route changes, wait times and missed transfers. But hey! The buses were given new logos and the drivers took the heat from passengers. Is that any way to run a railroad, er transit service?

*            *            *

*  The granddaddy of stupidity was spending $33 million on a wet waste composting plant and then being told by the Ministry of Environment that they would not allow plastic bags to be used at the facility. Instead, council agreed, based on a staff recommendation, that another $15 million be spent on a green bin system plus automated trucks to pick the bins up.

*            *            *

*  For the past five years, the Farbridge Council has used reserve funds to prop up ambitious projects and keep the annual tax rate increases in the 3.5 per cent area. The chickens came home to roost recently when city staff told council there was not an evident pool of money to support the city’s share of a proposed affordable housing project. If the staff doesn’t know where the funding comes from how can such a program even be considered?

Coun. Bob Bell who attended the county meeting to discuss the project, wished there was $2.5 million in the city’s affordable housing reserve fund but said, “ we haven’t put any money in there for about three years.”

So, when Coun. Leanne Piper brags that the city has $84 million in reserves, maybe she should drill down and find out where and how much there is in the reserves.

*            *            *

Finally, the stupidity prize goes to Mayor Farbridge who bypassed her own council bylaws and allowed Coun. Leanne Piper to engineer a coup that saw Coun. Gloria Kovach stripped of her police services post. Then she took the job for herself. Her seven fellow travelers on council supported both moves, 8 to 5.

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How Farbridge moves the ball downfield

Here is another example how the Farbridge administration shifts responsibility.

The Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) will evaluate the technical report on what’s wrong with the $34 million compost plant. Maple Reinders, designer and contractor of the plant along with its two wholly controlled subsidiary companies, prepared the report.

I’m informed that this report is of such a technical nature that the average person, such as those on the CAC, will not understand the impact of the suggested remedial changes Maple Reinders is proposing.

Taxpayers should ask why the City’s waste management department isn’t vetting this report and recommending its findings to council – the people’s representatives?

It appears this is not a simple operation problem incurred at start-up. It is most likely a design problem that rests with Maple Reinders.

Council chose to get in bed with Maple Reinders because its proposal claimed to be the latest and most innovative solution converting the city’s wet waste into compost. Well, it hasn’t worked out that way.

Is Guelph the guinea pig for radical solutions to convert wet waste into environmentally safe production of compost?

Stay tuned to this. It’s going to be quite a while before a solution is reached. That is if one can be reached.

Meanwhile our Teflon Mayor shifts responsibility onto a volunteer board of citizens.

As usual, it’s your money.

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