Payback time for Ontario?
The eHealth file continues to burn up headlines in Ontario, and more local coverage has appeared. TheTyee.ca interviewed Penny Ballem to ask whether she ever hired Courtyard Group, the consultancy Michael Guerriere currently works for. Her answer was, "Let's say this: not to my knowledge."
Now the Vancouver Sun's Miro Cernetig uses Penny Ballem's eHealth pay as an argument for a review of consultant compensation.
Since CityCaucus.com has published Ballem's invoice to eHealth, questions are being asked again about the timelines involved in the decision to hire Dr. Penny Ballem as Vancouver's City Manager. Was she working for the Ontario government in good faith by starting work on a long term project just days before agreeing to come work for the City of Vancouver?
Mayor Robertson referred to getting Ballem as his hand-picked choice to replace Judy Rogers as "serendipity," which few actually believe. Here's what he said on the Bill Good Show last December:
She, she came forward and said, uh, that she was available. I think it was in some ways serendipity that the opportunity came about last week (CC notes: week of December 8th) on such short notice...
Columnist Allen Garr, who sometimes knows more about what Vision is doing than they do, describes a much longer play for Ballem. This is what the Beekeeper said back on December 17th:
What allowed for the decision on Rogers to be made so quickly was Ballem telling Vision she was available long before the election results were known. (Note: Election Day was November 15th, Ballem's eHealth services ran Oct. 30 - Dec. 6).
Both Robertson and his chief of staff Mike Magee met with her before Vancouverites went to the polls. Following the election and before the inauguration, Robertson and Magee nailed down an agreement with Ballem.
Penny Ballem submitted her $33,645.61 invoice to eHealth on February 5th, a full two months after starting her $300K+ annual salaried position as City Manager. The bulk of the hours and travel took place during the last week before she officially began work at City Hall.
Does the appearance of a consultant, who has signed on for a "six-month block" to develop a Diabetes strategy for the Ontario government, racking up hours just prior to quitting for another position raise any questions?
Imagine you're a homeowner who's just hired a designer to renovate your kitchen. They rip out the cupboards and tear everything down to the studs. Then they tell you that they've taken another job and won't be able to finish the work. And to top it off they keep the plans for the renovated kitchen.
You're left with no kitchen and a huge bill for the tradespeople's hours.
How is this any different for the Ontario taxpayer? Penny Ballem apparently knew before November 15th that she would in all probability become Vancouver's next City Manager. Her response was to hop on a jet to Toronto and take more meetings.
At least some eHealth suppliers realized what a dysfunctional mess the organization was and wisely walked away from it. The Globe and Mail reports how consultant Stephen Kellogg voluntarily terminated their contract with eHealth just for that reason. That is the ethical thing to do.
We ask again, would Penny Ballem as BC's Deputy Health Minister have tolerated this kind of abuse of the public's money? We somehow doubt that any of the ministers she worked with would have seen good value in this kind of spending.
And how can BC's left be comfortable with their own hypocrisy on this matter? If this consultant had been hired by the BC Liberals or the Conservatives there would be chorus of rage across the headlines and calls for resignations. Instead, we're getting a collective shrug from the left who argue that the fees "are not out of line."
Unless there is proof that working just a few weeks at her $3,000 daily rate resulted in something of value, Dr. Penny JD Ballem Inc. should immediately pay back these fees to the Government of Ontario.