By Doug Hallett
Mayor Karen Farbridge has responded to sharp criticism from mayoral candidate Cam Guthrie, who didn’t support an apology about the city hall project and the Urbacon lawsuit that she delivered at last week’s council meeting.
“We cannot change the past decisions – good or bad – of council or the administration,” Farbridge said in an email to the Tribune on Thursday.
“We can only continue to do our best for the people we serve, apologize when a project does not go the way it was planned and make changes to ensure it does not happen again.”
She indicated she didn’t regret reading an apologetic statement at the July 14 council meeting, despite the biting response it drew from Guthrie, who is running against her in the Oct. 27 civic election.
“In political life, it is easy to talk yourself out of doing the right thing – like making an apology – because of the anticipated political backlash,” Farbridge said in the email.
“I am very proud that nine members of council had the courage to support the apology that I delivered on behalf of the City of Guelph,” she said.
On July 15, Guthrie issued a news release containing strongly worded criticism of the statement that Farbridge read at the council meeting.
At that meeting, Guthrie voted along with councillors Jim Furfaro and Andy Van Hellemond against a motion to “direct the mayor to read into the record a statement regarding the construction of city hall.” The motion passed 10-3, with Farbridge and nine of the 12 councillors in support.
In the statement, Farbridge said she wanted to apologize on behalf of the City of Guelph to the city’s residents for the fact that the city hall construction project will cost more than was budgeted. It will cost more because the city has lost a breach-of-contract lawsuit filed by Urbacon, the general contractor fired by the city in September 2008.
The actual amount of damages the city will have to pay in Urbacon’s $20-million lawsuit hasn’t been established yet.
“The construction of city hall has involved four terms of council and many senior city employees, some no longer employed with the City of Guelph. Collectively, we are responsible for this project,” Farbridge said in the statement she read at the council meeting.
In his response the next day, Guthrie accused Farbridge of “grasping at straws” to deflect blame from herself for something that happened while she was mayor. “The fact is that the termination of Urbacon occurred under Karen Farbridge’s leadership as mayor,” he said.
“So now, grasping at straws, she frantically searches for yet another excuse that she hopes might work. And that is to blame the previous four terms of council.”