The interesting case of Linda Oglov – see contracts & invoices
City hall watchers familiar with some of Dr. Penny Ballem's more famous quotes will recall her defense of a private staff party that cost taxpayers $34,000, calling it a mere "drop in the bucket". The City Manager is not shy about charging taxpayers top dollar for her services, and her $3000 per day bills to eHealth Ontario are evidence of that. It helps to explain her contradictory decision to hire a contractor to work for the Mayor's office at $1000 per day at a time when council was severely tightening its belt.
In one of her very first acts as Vancouver's then new City Manager, Ballem requested approval from council to maximize the upper limit of her allowable spending on contracts. Before Ballem, sole-sourced (and non-tendered) contracts above $30,000 needed to be approved by city council. As of early last year, that amount jumped to over $300,000.
This background information will help our readers to understand how a contractor named Linda Oglov has quietly billed the City $187,983.60 on a no-bid contract during the months leading up to and during the 2010 Games. As controversy has swirled all week around the expansion of Mayor Roberton's office, and His Nibs' denials that it has anything to do with the hiring of more political aides, the work of Oglov (a business coach working for the Mayor since March 2009) is proof that Gregor Robertson is not telling taxpayers the full story.
On page two of the contract received after a freedom of information request by fellow blogger Alex G. Tsakumis (both Tsakumis and CityCaucus.com made similar information requests this summer), it states that Oglov's deliverables included:
Advice to the Mayor and City Manager's offices – continuing consultation and advice to the Mayor and City Manager's offices with respect to the 2010 Games. This includes taking a leadership role, as requested, on particular initiatives such as Vancouver House, the Vancouver Green Capital brand and others.
Deliverables: advice and recommedations related to the approval of the "story" and content of exhibits at Vancouver House. Liaison with the various agencies involved in executing the Vancouver Green Capital brand. Attendance at numerous planning sessions for these initiatives and others.
With these directives Oglov put her fingerprints on virtually every aspect of Mayor's office policy moving forward in the following year. She even developed the schedule for the Mayor's activities during the 2010 Games. Oglov also was responsible for Robertson's Board of Trade speech where he introduced Vancouver Green Capital; she set up meetings for him in London, UK; involved herself with Robertson's Carbon War Room project and his activities during the Copehagen climate change summit.
It would appear that Oglov also advised the City on the new direction for the lacklustre Vancouver House project which failed to represent the Host City in any substantive way, while also involving herself in all aspects of the Metro Vancouver Commerce initiative carried out in cooperation with the Vancouver Economic Development Commission. Part of Oglov's deliverables include a final report to be delivered to the City Manager, and we have requested a copy of this report through freedom of information.
Like contractors FD Elements – who attracted headlines by getting a $50,000 no-bid contract and turning up on the exclusive guest list for Vancouver House – Oglov represents a significant expansion of the amount of outsourced political support that is not budgeted by Robertson's office.
Numbers provided by the City show that the budget for Gregor Robertson's office has increased modestly since the last council, as a "result of the way the stipends for the Mayor and Councillors are calculated".
Approved budgets ($000’s) Office of the Mayor
Budget 2009: $858 – up 2.9% from 2008
Budget 2010: $869 – up 1.3% from 2009
Councillors and Council Secretariat
Budget 2009: $1,210 – up 6% from 2008
Budget 2010: $1,230 – up 1.6% from 2009
Overall increases for Mayor and Council:
2009 – 4.7%
2010 – 1.5%
In spite of the fact her work supports Roberton's political initiatives, Oglov's various contracts are not regarded as part of the Mayor's office budget. Rather, it appears that she was paid through the City's Olympics operations budget, conveniently keeping it "off the books" for Robertson.
During the arduous budgeting process that took place in early 2009 – before Oglov was hired on – the budget chair put forward a motion recommending that City Manager should be "limiting external consultant engagements" in an attempt to keep tax increases to a minimum. By bringing on Oglov in a no tender/sole-source $1000 per day contract just a few weeks later (!), Penny Ballem clearly rejected city council's advice.
What Vancouver has seen since it elected Gregor Robertson as mayor is an arrogant and cavalier disregard for taxpayers hard-earned dosh. In his first act as Mayor he approved an $85,000 self-congratulatory inaugural ball for friends and insiders, he allowed a $60,000 untendered public relations contract to happen that has permanently damaged the international image of the Olympic Athlete's Village. He approved spending $235,000 on the Green Capital logo, and he gave political insiders a $50,000 contract to videotape him during the Olympics, and is ramming through a $260,000 office renovation for himself and a new dining room for city council.
Top that off with Oglov's no-bid contract, which includes a public relations sub-contract for a total of $200,000, and you can start to see a pattern. In our present system of government Robertson is bound by what budget city council will approve for him. Yet he consistently is having the City Manager supply him with additional financial resources to make it appear that Robertson is living within his means when he really isn't.
The entire city council, not just the City Manager and the Mayor himself, are supposed to be involved in approving Gregor Robertson's budget. But under this regime, the rules apparently don't apply. Let's hope we hear from both the COPE and NPA councillors on this one.
- post by Mike