By Doug Hallett
Guelph chief administrative officer Ann Pappert says former CAO Hans Loewig had the power to act on his own in firing Urbacon from the city hall construction project in September 2008.
Even a go-ahead from the mayor was not needed, Pappert said Tuesday when the Tribune sought elaboration on a memo she’d issued on April 3.
Asked if Loewig wouldn’t at least have needed Mayor Karen Farbridge’s go-ahead to fire Urbacon, Pappert said he wouldn’t. “Under the CAO bylaw, the CAO has the full administrative delegated authority from city council to make administrative decisions, e.g. cancelling contracts,” she said in an email sent in response to a Tribune query.
“Furthermore, the CAO does not receive direction from the mayor or any individual member of council,” she said. “The Municipal Act does not give any authority to the mayor as head of council or CEO to give ‘a go-ahead’ to the CAO or city staff.
“Only council as a whole gives direction to city staff,” Pappert said, citing specific provisions of the Municipal Act.
Pappert’s April 3 memo said Loewig “was advised by legal, professional external consultants and project management staff” before deciding to terminate Urbacon’s $42-million contract to build a new city hall and convert the old one into a courthouse. The council of the day “received verbal updates” from Loewig “on the status of the city hall construction project,” the memo said. But there was no report to council seeking approval of Loewig’s decision to fire Urbacon, and there was “no resolution of council directing staff to terminate the contract.”
Asked why council’s prior approval wasn’t sought before Urbacon was fired, Pappert said Tuesday: “The CAO is delegated the role and responsibility to administer all business affairs of the corporation, including ‘to direct the coordination of all policy decisions of council and to deal with all matters arising from council’s decisions without further reference to council except to regularly report to council upon actions taken.’
“While city council did receive updates related to how administration dealt with issues throughout the construction of city hall, the CAO is responsible for the administrative decisions,” Pappert said.
Urbacon filed a $20-million breach-of-contract lawsuit against the city in October 2008. A judge of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice ruled in Urbacon’s favour last week, finding the city liable in the case. At the same time, the judge dismissed the city’s $5-million counterclaim against Urbacon. The judge hasn’t yet released any reasons for this decision, though.
Loewig became Guelph’s CAO in October 2007 after four months as acting CAO.
Loewig and Farbridge couldn’t be reached for comment this week.
By Doug Hallett