Vancouver Mayor benefits from $1000 per day no-bid contract

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 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

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About The Author

  • It was a pleasure to have worked with you on this.
    It’s also featured on my blog. Kudos!

  • A triumph.

  • Todd

    “he gave political insiders a $50,000 contract to videotape him during the Olympics”
    LOL – What the hell is this all about? Does Mayor Moonbeam wanna watch himself, via tape delay, at his retreat on the Hollyhock Isle?
    $50 grand? Vision(s) of grandeur? Too funny.

  • COPE supporter

    Ellen Woodsworth should immediately demand that these type of contracts come to a halt. Or she should ask Robertson for access to her own separate funds to hire staff and help her and David do their jobs. Then again, why does she need to ask Robertson for anything, he’s just one vote on council.
    This is quickly becoming a three ring circus at 12th and Cambie. When will the mainstream media and voters wake up and smell the coffee?

  • John

    “The Vancouver Green Capital brand.”
    Now I know what they mean by ‘green’.

  • Glissando Remmy

    The Thought of The Day
    “Leo Getz, small time crook – fictitious character in an action movie. I’d trust Getz over Robertson and Ballem – real characters in a horror documentary…in an eye blink.”
    Now, for your benefit, the Real City of Vancouver Fiscal Policy, explained:
    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • That’s it-Robertson’s a genius, an innovator…!!!

  • Once again-take care of Penny and the dollars will take care of themselves…

  • Inside the Hall

    How many of us city workers make $1000 day? None. Yet we work our butts of cleaning our garbage bins and paving roads. Meanwhile we get treated like crap from upon high. We’re shouted at. We’re told we’re not working hard enough. We’re told we’re redundant. All the while, Ballem is out hiring contractors left and right for $1000 bucks a day. How demoralizing for all of us who keep the lights on at the city each day. This info will make for a long week for the troops. I’m sure the mayor will be able to rationalize this somehow as necessary for his progressive and green agenda.

  • rf

    Sadly……there are quite a few public sector workers making $1000/day….a few in city hall too (including Penny herself).
    365 days in a year. Subtract 104 Sat/Sun’s. That’s 261 days. Take off the customary 8 weeks of vacation for senior public sector workers, that’s another 40 days. Down to 221. Take off another 11 public holidays, were down to 210 days. Basically any public sector worker making over $200k is at about $1000/day.
    Of course, once they are collecting pension, we can get that cost down to about $500/day….for another 40 years.

  • Kalmee Sinical

    This is yet another great story that will get buried by the MSM because 1. A blogger wrote it first 2. The mainstream media are still in a cozy honeymoon phase with Robertson 3. City hall beat reporters are afraid to upset his worship and get cutoff of future fluffy stories by the Mayor’s staff. That’s why more people are turning to new media to get this kind of stuff. Great job Alex and Mike. Keep up the great investigative work. You’re putting a lot of people who get paid to do this to shame.

  • landlord

    While we’re talking about productivity and generous early-retirement bonuses, let’s not forget the teaching “profession” (K-12) in BC.
    The current (imposed)collective agreement specifies thirty-seven 30-hour weeks per year. That’s 185 (6-hour)days/year (1110 hrs), almost as many days off as days of work. Top salaries around $80K/yr.
    The poor bastards whose taxes pay for this work at least fifty 40-hour weeks/yr (2000 hrs)and make on average $38K/yr. Only 10% of them (but almost all teachers) make over $60K/yr.

  • rf

    The dirty secret the teachers don’t talk about is how they are destroying their own.
    The trick today is for a senior teacher to retire, take full pension, then accept a sweetheart contract from a chummy principal working part time at $500/day.
    They get the same total pay and only work half the time.
    Meanwhile, substitutes and new teachers are left with little work or full-time opportunities.
    A classic “some animals are more equal than others” situation.

  • david hadaway

    I was told, by an embittered ex employee, that there is a similar situation with retired cops on full pension working as transit police.

  • Max

    What a load of holly hock!

  • a teacher

    check your figures and your facts. Principal’s don’t hire teachers, School Boards do. No on-call teacher gets $500 per day. Yes my classroom hours are from 8:30 to 3:15 but I am at work most days at 7:30 and leave at about 5. Plus I coach 4-6 hours per week, mark in the evenings and on weekends. I am expected to teach the curriculum, civics, manners and social integration. I am a teacher, nurse, parent and psychologist in my classroom. I get little respect from people whose last time in the classroom was probably when they were in high school.I’m not boo-hooing because it is my choice and my vocation. But before you shoot your mouth off and show your ignorance, check your facts.

  • Max

    Actually, there was an article published by the Globe & Mail that pretty much stated was ‘rf’ quoted.

  • rf

    You should change your name to boohoo.
    So what do the sweetheart contract teachers make? $400/day?
    Are you suggesting that Principals don’t have any input on who the school boards gives the contracts to in their schools?
    Save the speech on the rest. You may do all the extra stuff and that’s great, but don’t pretend that everyone does, especially pension collecting contractors.
    Don’t just tell us how it isn’t. Tell us how it is.

  • rf

    Here are some links. Fill us in on what the exact number is per day ‘a teacher’.
    If anyone is wondering why the school boards are short money, even with less kids every year, this is the answer.
    The teachers are eating each others lunch.

  • Glen Hall

    Meanwhile back in Vancouver city hall;
    Gregor, Magee, Meggs, Ballem and the spit-shine boy Quinlan, had a brief meditation get-together this morning to plan for the calls coming this afternoon – from various newsrooms for quotes to include in pieces being prepared for tonights newscasts on yet another Vision waste of $200K+.
    Anyway, lets save the teacher, police, and other pay discussion for another post on Patti Bacchus and get back to the post on Gregor using the City Manager’s office to funnel money to his office through untendered contracts that have very questionable multi-purpose initiatives which directly benefit Gregor and Visions’ political efforts.
    Very questionable and just shy of being criminal.

  • rf

    Ok ok.
    Ironically…..Oglov appears to actually have decent credentials for what she was hired to do (arguably a first for Vision!).
    However, if this thing were put to tender I’m sure they could have found 2 dozen qualified contractors who would have jumped at $300-400 day.

  • @rf. Vision have had the “look at her résumé” spin ready ever since we did the FOI. Spending $200K to plump up the Mayor’s political agenda using a contractor who is “off the books” (not in the Mayor’s office budget) doesn’t cut it. No one said Oglov didn’t have the chops. The question is whether the dollars should have been spent at all.

  • Julia

    $125 an hour for a good PR consultant is not that outrageous. However, at those sorts of dollars, someone could have been on staff full time and providing other additional services to the city for the same amount of money. More important, where is all this money coming from. It almost seems like there is a tree out back at the hall with $1,000 bills hanging off it. Does anyone there recall that the economy is still lousy and they are going to kill the goose that is laying their golden egg by taxing them to death just so they can run their town like it is NYC.

  • Max

    You are familiar with the NDP policy of ‘tax and spend’…aren’t you?
    What I love, it took Gordon Campbell and the Liberals 2 terms before they imploded….Gregor and gang have broken that record.
    And the t-shirt goes to…..

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    “Spending $200K to plump up the Mayor’s political agenda using a contractor who is “off the books” (not in the Mayor’s office budget) doesn’t cut it.”
    Funny, but this sure sounds a lot like the NPA paying Geoff Plant $300,000 per year to push Sullivan’s Civil City, er, project.
    And Judy Rogers hired her old mentor Ken Dobell for around $300,000 to write the Cultural Precinct Plan.
    Wasn’t Klassen working for Mayor Sullivan during all this?
    I don’t condone this on either side (what taxpayer would?), but it’s pure hypocrisy for the old NPA guard at City Caucus to rail on sanctimoniously about something they indulged in themselves.

  • Dennis

    Gassy are you trying to imply that Klassen made hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit from his previous work at the mayor’s office? If not, I think your talking apples and oranges here.
    As for Dobell and Plant, weren’t their budgets all approved by council? Did Oglov’s contract(s) to work directly for the mayor ever come before council for approval?

  • Dave

    Ahh the barrage has started..
    I am sure Kevy, Ian, Little Johnny Blog Boy, Naomi, BooHoo, et al have all been fed the appropriate documents to smear Klassen, Fontaine and most everyone else in their sights.
    Smooth move losers… you ARE the government now…. NOT them and last time I checked 2 wrongs don’t make a right!
    Smearing people isn’t exactly the best way to make your point either.
    Here’s a novel concept..
    GROW A PAIR and admit a mistake.
    You might even gain back some respect after the epic lies and screw ups of the past few months..
    Funny though… even if “off the books” contracts occured under Sullivan’s administration it still doesn’t make the holier than thou Vision determination to continue such a practice any better.
    So the rationale is they porked up at the through SO WE SHOULD AS WELL!
    Oink, oink, oink we come
    The NPA must be thinking
    Oh ya great strategy..
    Please .. please…please go into the next election with that as your part of the Vision platform…
    “Lets see how we can rip off the public purse because they did”
    Sorry Ian, Little Johnny, Kevy and the rest of the apologists …. this is a lose lose for everyone.. especially Taxpayers!
    Remember we live here, we pay for it.
    Rest assured when the clown show raises our taxes next year I will be remembering all the way to the ballot box!

  • RealityCheck

    If they were running it like NYC, we’d be a lot better off as a city. But they’re not. They’re trying to re-invent the wheel at every turn with every urban planner’s social experiment wet dream.
    Meanwhile, there’s still homeless. The Downtown East Side continues to deteriorate at a rate of $1 million per day. And the Vancouver budget is plundered to the point where we’re destined to become like Athens or Los Angeles.
    Amazing the devastation just 3 years in power can do.

  • boohoo

    Grow up. I find it very strange that you lump a few people on a blog together in some conspiracy to defend the mayor or whatever the ‘scoop’ of the day is.
    Fed documents? So many people on these blogs think there’s some kind of grand ‘left wing’ conspiracy to make sure talking points are made on these blogs. I assure you, I’m just some guy interested in local politics. I’m not part of some clandestine group out to prove some point. The rash jumping to bizarre conclusions on these blogs is really crazy…
    I would bother pointing out (as I’ve stated before…) that I think the mayor is a tool, that Vision (and other parties) are all the same, etc… but that would make you actually think–make you actually question whether your silly little stereotypes and childish generalizations hold water. I wouldn’t want to do that to you or Tsakumis’ or any of you other petty little people who are content to just rant on a blog.
    So again, grow up.

  • Dave

    oh really???
    I gather you have no sense of humour or sarcasm.. kinda typical of “earnest.. do gooder types”
    that figures … c’est dommage
    But BooHoo what brought about your recent epiphany to question Hizzoner and the syncophants of Vision. Just askin…
    You defense of all things Vision in the past and your conversion has the masses wondering…

  • boohoo

    Oh I see, my mistake. It was all just a joke, how could I miss that…
    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go ‘defend’ vision in some other threads. Cause that’s really what I’m here to do you know–I get fed documents and talking points from a secret cabal of vision supporters. We strategize late into the night, thinking of devious ways to get into arguments on blogs.
    Sound ridiculous? You are.

  • George

    Are you aware that when you post you sound as confused on the issues as the Mayor?
    He has trouble remembering/understanding the points he has been fed as well…