Fired CAO David Barrick demands more than $1M in severance and damages from City of Brampton
Former Brampton CAO David Barrick is demanding a 36-month severance payment, a positive reference letter and $250,000 in damages on account of “defamation, moral damages, and damages to his reputation”, following his firing by the City of Brampton on February 11.
A letter from Barrick’s lawyer obtained by The Pointer confirms the former CAO had his employment “terminated” when he was replaced by interim CAO Paul Morrison on the same day. The letter is addressed to Cynthia Ogbarmey-Tetteh and is dated March 1. Ogbarmey-Tetteh is the acting director of human resources following Sandeep Aujla’s recent dismissal.
“It appears that there has been ongoing systematic targeting, bullying and harassment of Mr. Barrick that has resulted in very substantial damages to his reputation,” the letter alleges, referencing media articles.
Chris Foulon, the lawyer representing Barrick, refused to verify the letter obtained by The Pointer.
“Any correspondence between my office and the City is confidential…” he wrote.
Barrick was embroiled in numerous controversies after Mayor Patrick Brown oversaw the process to hire him, despite Barrick’s involvement in the “Inside Job” hiring scandal that rocked Niagara Region.
His tenure as Brampton CAO lasted from October 2019 to February 2022.
A senior Brampton staffer alleged he had engaged in improper hiring practices and questionable procurements for City contracts. An incomplete probe of the allegations by Deloitte found Barrick did not break rules around hiring policies because he simply changed them as he went.
“Certain policies and standard operating procedures were revised or updated by the CAO contemporaneously with alleged activity,” the Deloitte report revealed.
It listed several key barriers to completing a fulsome investigation. They include: the fact investigators could not access Barrick’s WhatsApp messages (a platform he used despite policies designed to have City business conducted through official communication channels such as corporate email); a failure to complete six scheduled interviews; and water damage that prevented the firm from accessing the City-issued device of the whistleblower.
In July of 2020, Barrick chose two new “Directors for departments responsible for managing critical city infrastructure”, the findings detailed. The job postings stated that university engineering degrees were a requirement for the jobs, along with all professional accreditations needed to carry out these critical director roles. The successful candidates had to have “7-10 years of managerial experience with at least 5 years of experience in project management and construction.”
The men Barrick chose himself had no such experience and didn’t even have engineering degrees. “Deloitte did not identify any indications of construction experience on either candidate’s CV.”
The investigation report revealed some senior staff were unwilling to go along with Barrick’s conduct.
“Email evidence from July 2020 indicates that the (now former) commissioner of the department these individuals were hired into refused to send an email announcing the hiring of the 2 candidates,” the report says. The same day the two directors were hired, Barrick updated City policy in an email “to explicitly reference the CAO’s authority to authorize an appointment without a role review form signed by the Department Head and the Director of HR.”
An initial job posting for another senior role required a post-secondary degree, but Barrick changed the requirement to allow a candidate who was “working towards a degree”. Barrick changed the key educational requirement to suit a particular handpicked candidate he wanted for the senior position. The man eventually hired for the senior role inside Barrick’s office “did not meet the requirements of the job posting, as originally drafted”, the Deloitte report states.
“People being hired who are not qualified, for example in engineering or architecture, if they’re not qualified it could have serious implications from a health and safety perspective,” Councillor Martin Medeiros said at the time.
Paul Morrison has replaced Barrick as CAO in the interim.
(Image from The Pointer files)
In the six-page letter written for Barrick by the firm Israel Foulon Wong LLP, the lawyer outlines the alleged damage to Barrick’s reputation. The letter alleges there was “a concentrated effort by certain members of Council” to have Barrick removed as CAO. It referenced the recently signed open letter from six Brampton councillors that alleged democracy in Brampton was “under siege”.
The Pointer sent questions to Mayor Patrick Brown and Brampton’s two councillors for Wards 9 and 10—who have voted in opposition to one another on many recent key issues. Brown and Harkirat Singh did not respond; Gurpreet Dhillon said he could not comment.
Barrick’s lawyer says in his communication to the City of Brampton that the open letter was about the former CAO. “A group of six (6) Councilors brought Council business to a halt claiming that some sort of authoritarian behaviour by certain senior staff (which clearly referred to Mr. Barrick) had taken a ‘blowtorch’ to the rules that govern the City,” the letter states.
It continues: “As you know, Mr. Barrick was terminated two days after the publication of the open letter. The clear implication to the public is that Mr. Barrick was the ‘threat to democracy’. Council is responsible for creating that false impression to the public.”
The letter alleges rules were not properly followed when Barrick’s contract was terminated. It says he was pressured to sign a deal on the day of his dismissal.
Documents show Barrick was brought to Brampton by Mayor Patrick Brown.
At an August 2019 Brampton special council meeting called by the mayor, Brown made his move to get Barrick the CAO job. He presented a motion that gave his office the power to select the recruitment firm to hire the CAO, noting that as mayor he serves “as the chair of the committee” doing the hiring. There is no provision in the Municipal Act that states the mayor is to chair the committee that hires a CAO.
Closed session minutes from the August meeting show Odgers Berndtson, one of the world’s largest search firms, was originally asked to complete the hiring, but it was later claimed that the firm was “no longer available”. At the next council meeting, the firm was dropped. Minutes from the closed session of the September 11, 2019, City Council meeting show Feldman Daxon would be used instead.
Information obtained by The Pointer suggests Barrick, Brown’s preferred choice, was always destined for the CAO job.
The interview process for the new CAO took place at the Hilton Garden Inn in Brampton on October 17 and 18, 2019. All selected candidates were invited and put through rounds of questioning. According to documents, the interview process concluded at 5 p.m. on Friday, October 18; on the same day, the City announced Barrick’s hiring.
David Barrick was hired under Patrick Brown who oversaw the process.
(Screenshots from the City of Brampton)
“Any settlement must take into account the fact that his career has likely been damaged beyond repair,” the letter from Barrick’s lawyer claims.
The events leading up to Barrick’s dismissal, his lawyer writes, have made the former CAO unemployable. “His reputation in the community has been irreparably tarnished,” one line reads. Another adds: “Since the termination of his employment Mr. Barrick has attempted to reach out to various recruiters that he has dealt with over the course of his career. What he has been told repeatedly is that his name and reputation are currently toxic.”
Barrick’s lawyer argues the former CAO enjoyed a glowing career at Brampton City Hall. The letter lists Brampton’s tax freezes, contributions to reserves and funds set aside for hospital expansion as highlights.
Former CAO David Barrick's alleged actions inside City Hall led some residents in Brampton to call for his firing.
(Canadian Sath TV)
The latest budget, which froze taxes for the fourth consecutive year in Brampton, cancelled funding for a variety of projects, including the Centre for Innovation and a fire station planned for Heritage Heights. It also dramatically reduced promised infrastructure levy increases in the initial budget proposal from Barrick. Crucial levies to ensure proper investment in key City-owned assets were cut even further to zero in a motion put forward by Mayor Brown. The budget document praised in the letter by Barrick’s lawyer was widely criticized by community members and financial officials outside City Hall who warned that the cost of Barrick’s decisions would overwhelm taxpayers in the future.
“Brampton businesses are losing confidence in the City's ability to plan because of the shifting numbers that seem to shift very quickly,” Glenn Williams, a seasoned accountant speaking on behalf of the Brampton Board of Trade, which represents hundreds of businesses in the city, told councillors in December. Speaking about a budget document prepared under Barrick, he highlighted contradicting information in different reports and last-minute publication of documents as some of the alarming concerns.
“The Board of Trade expects better,” Williams said.
The letter from Barrick’s lawyer to the City of Brampton also points to the City’s AAA credit rating, a place on the Forbes best employers 2021 list and the pandemic response as other achievements. “His most recent performance review by Council was very positive and highlighted in detail his achievements and deliverables,” the letter states.
It’s unclear what Barrick did to help the pandemic response in a city that was a national hotspot throughout much of the public health crisis.
Questions were raised when he initially claimed the pandemic would not have any deep impacts on the City’s budget, and unlike most municipalities across the country, Barrick failed to account for financial shortfalls caused by the loss of certain revenue due to the crisis.
Over the past two years, Barrick has clashed with councillors who questioned his actions.
At the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, Barrick moved the freedom of information function out of the City clerk’s office and placed it under his own authority. Under provincial legislation, the freedom to obtain information that should be made available to the public is guaranteed, and the process to access this information is supposed to be completely independent, overseen by either Council or a head designated by Council. In Brampton this was City Clerk Peter Fay, before Barrick violated the rules and moved the function under his own authority.
Barrick repeatedly told council members the City’s privacy office, which oversees the freedom of information function, reports to the commissioner of legislative services and not to the CAO or his office. According to an internal organizational chart obtained by The Pointer at the time, the privacy office that was briefly handling the freedom of information function was under Barrick, as of December 2020, before councillors were forced to confront him and restore the reporting line to themselves through the clerk’s office.
The Charter that governs the City’s internal audit function was altered shortly after Barrick’s arrival. The document was updated to detail a new reporting structure, stating audit reports will be shared with divisional heads or commissioners of a department, along with the CAO, before being presented to the council-led audit committee. “The CAO will be advised prior to Internal Audit sharing internal audit reports and/or related information with the Audit Committee.”
Councillors raised concerns that the change would undermine the independence at the heart of the audit oversight function. “I have a major problem with that,” Councillor Jeff Bowman said at the time. “That is not transparent… there's no way that should be happening.”
Screenshots from Brampton whistleblower Gurdeep (Nikki) Kaur also show Barrick hired an employee who would “grind” other staff members out.
On a separate occasion, he directed Kaur to approach one man, Brett Bell, a political ally of Brown, to do work on a municipal development contract for the City of Brampton that should have been procured through an open bid tendering process.
Texts between whistleblower Nikki Kaur and former CAO David Barrick.
Kaur alleged Barrick had instructed her to reach out to just one consultant, Menes Company (MenesCo), for the job to develop plans for a Municipal Development Corporation. The company was run by Bell, who has ties to the PC Party once led by Brown, and the two men have known each other for two decades. Bell has no background in municipal development or real estate and did not even have his own consulting company when Barrick directed Kaur to contact him to do the work for the City.
A set of Whatsapp messages Barrick sent Kaur show he sent her the name, email address and contact instructions. “Contact: Brett Bell,” one of the texts reads. Bell was approached by the City on January 9, 2020 but did not even have a registered company at the time. MenesCo was incorporated on January 11, 2020, two days after he was tapped for a contract worth around $300,000.
After he was fired on February 11, Barrick is now making 12 demands to the City of Brampton.
He has asked for $40,000 to “engage in education courses” and to be set up with six months of outplacement services through a human resources firm. He is also demanding $250,000 in damages and for the City to absorb all the costs associated with selling his Brampton condo. He is asking Brampton taxpayers to pay out certain expenses, including legal fees when he was under investigation for the allegations brought forward by Kaur, and five days of vacation accrued during the pandemic.
He wants 36 months of salary, including “regular increase[s] to his base compensation” and “a positive letter of reference along with an undertaking that all oral commentary about him will also be positive”. Barrick’s lawyer says the former CAO can provide a draft copy of the reference letter he would like.
“Mr. Barrick requires a public commentary be issued by Council providing a recognition of his very positive service and outline of achievements as CAO of the Corporation,” one demand details. “This is vital to Mr. Barrick to try to at least engage in some attempt at repair of his reputation.”
Barrick has also requested Brampton to legally defend him for any claims made against him while he was CAO. In exchange for positive public commentary, Barrick says he “would agree not to make any negative comments not only about the Corporation and its employees, but also about members of Council.”
A spokesperson for the City of Brampton declined to comment. “The City does not cite details about individuals or the status of their employment,” an emailed response stated.
Email: [email protected]
Tel: 647 561-4879
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