By Gerry Barker
Posted November 24, 2015
This week the Mercury reported that the city spent $103,282 on catering in 2014. The only way the citizens learned about this was because the newspaper filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act. Even then it will take another request to drill down to where the money was spent and who received the money.
DCAO Mark Amorosi is in charge of finances and his comments are opaque and stocked with generalities but no specifics.
For example, he says that the city caters to visitors, such as events at city hall by invitation only, or from outside organizations and government. Then it is appropriate for the city to supply coffee, juice or cookies.
Please Mark, you’re breaking me up.
This isn’t about cookies, coffee and juice, this is about lavish bun feeds at Cutten Fields or Bueno Gusto. This about the use of City of Guelph corporate credit cards being used to cater food and drinks for unnamed senior officials and unknown reasons.
When you divide the total amount recorded, $103,282, by the number of full-time equivalent employees, 2,100, it amounts to $49.18 per employee. So let’s stop kidding anyone. More than 80 per cent of those employees never claimed a dime for city-paid catering. That’s 1,680 staff leaving 420 employees, plus certain members of council, who probably used their corporate cards to cater, but to whom?
Experience has shown that the administration is exposed to people who want something and are prepared to pay for entertaining key staffers (decision makers) and members of council.
It appears that the chiefs of the administration are the main beneficiaries of the city catering budget, if one even exists.
But here’s Coun. Leanne Piper commenting on catering costs: “As far as saving money goes in relation to negotiating next year’s budget, it wouldn’t be worth it for the city to cut catering costs.”
Piper goes on to make the point that most councillors have day jobs, like her, and she says she leaves her University of Guelph job at 4:45 pm and doesn’t have time to go home and eat because council meets, usually starting at 5:00 pm. City Council meets some 26 times a year based on twice a month, except at budget time and takes the month of August off.
Then she adds: “Under the Employment Standards Act. If you’re working a double shift, if you’re working all day and expected to work into the night, then the employer is obligated to provide a meal.”
This warped logic only epitomizes the entitlement attitude that Ms. Piper feels she deserves.
First, who pays for the meal? The University or the City? Second, the city job is a part-time job that she chose. Third, if she thinks that this catering issue is not worthy of close examination, then she has little regard for her fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of Guelph as an elected member of city council.
In polite circles it’s known as the Marie Antoinette syndrome: “Let them eat cake”
Oops, this piece is about catering. Okay it’s just an appropriate play on words.
You may ask why the Mercury was forced to obtain the catering information to which it had every right to obtain, from senor administrators. It’s public money and the public has the right to know.
Three years, ago, the former mayor and council spent more than $100,000 to a Toronto consultant to prepare an Open Government Action Plan to allow a free-flow of information to the people.
Today, we have Farbridge supporter Andy Best, manager of the open and transparent government plan. He was hired last spring on a one-year contract paying some $92,000.
Hold onto your hats folks, that contract has been extended under the proposed staff 2016 budget to three years costing $264,000.
Guess the only conclusion is, what’s Andy Best’s job? Is it worth paying $356,000?
Yet it is another expensive hangover of the former mayor’s eight years in office. The trouble is those policies and costs aren’t going away.
At least, not if Leanne Piper has anything to do with it.