Inside Job Part 2: Controversial Brampton CAO handed $218K in City contracts to former Niagara political ally

·13 min read

Brampton CAO David Barrick, who was fired from his job in Niagara following a series of controversies and a hiring scandal that rocked the region, gave $218,259.50 worth of City contracts to a man named Tony Quirk, one of his closest allies when the two served on Niagara Region Council together.

The payments were handed out last year, and it remains unclear why Quirk was hired to do work for Barrick after the two operated hand-in-hand for years, pushing the same political agenda while they both sat on Niagara Region Council between 2014 and 2018. Barrick represented Port Colborne and Quirk was elected in Grimsby. Both had deep ties with the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. Quirk was a Regional VP for the Party from 2008 to 2010.

Despite his involvement in the hiring scandal and being fired from his job at the Niagara conservation agency, Barrick was hired as Brampton’s top bureaucrat under a process led by Mayor Patrick Brown, the former leader of the Ontario PCs.

Shortly after he started, the first invoice sent to the City of Brampton by Quirk, under the company name Q Project Management, was in December of 2019, about a month after Barrick began.

The invoice states the work was for “Services related to Confidential and Educational Consultative Services”.

It lists Barrick’s CAO office as the focus of the work, for a total of $39,550, including HST.

Q Project Management was not registered as an Ontario company at the time, according to the provincial business name registry report obtained by The Pointer from the government website. Quirk registered it as an Ontario corporation on February 7, 2020, two months after he sent the first invoice. His home in Grimsby is listed as the mailing address for the business.

Three City of Brampton cheques totalling $110,288 were sent to him by the end of February 2020, for work he did for Barrick, according to the FOI documents.

It is unclear what, specifically, Quirk did. There is no work produced by him included in the FOI documents the City provided.

Councillors who spoke with The Pointer said they were not aware of any work done by Quirk and they were not familiar with his name until The Pointer sent them questions.

The City provided a one sentence response to an extensive list of questions about Quirk, Q Project Management, the procurement process used to hire him and why he was given $218,000: “All City policies and procedures were followed for selection of vendor and work completed,” Natalie Stogdill, a City spokesperson, wrote in an email.

Mayor Brown did not respond.

Barrick did not respond to questions specifically directed to him. Quirk also did not reply.

They were described as former colleagues on Niagara Region council who worked “very, very closely” by a former member who often sparred with them.

“It’s a matter of public record that Tony Quirk was the chair of audit committee of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority while Mr. Barrick was in charge of finances at the NPCA,” Dave Augustyn, the former mayor of Pelham, who sat on Niagara Region council with Barrick and Quirk from 2014 to 2018, told The Pointer.

“Mr. Barrick was hired by his colleagues on the NPCA board prior to the 2014 election. When Tony Quirk was elected later and sat as chair of audit for NPCA he would have been receiving reports from Mr. Barrick. They were also serving on regional council together from 2014 to 2018.

“Mr. Barrick was chair of finance committee, Tony was chair of audit committee. They were very much aligned. They supported each other’s motions. They worked very, very closely.”

When Barrick was given the Brampton CAO job, Quirk told a local Niagara newspaper, "I know he will make an excellent addition to Brampton’s team. Brampton’s gain is Niagara’s loss. His talents and expertise will help Brampton maintain their pro-growth, low-tax agenda.”

Barrick and Quirk were commonly described in local newspapers as part of a “cabal” of Conservative politicians and bureaucrats in Niagara who pursued the same agenda. Some of them were exposed in the Ontario Ombudsman’s damning “Inside Job” investigation report, for rigging the process to hire the former Niagara Region CAO, Carmen D’Angelo, another member of the cabal.

Quirk was not implicated in the report.

Along with Barrick, Quirk became the focus of a local citizen-led effort to remove the aligned members from Niagara Council, through the 2018 municipal election. Quirk lost his seat. Barrick did not run and was fired from his job at the NPCA.

After Brown brought Barrick to Brampton, and shortly after the first three cheques were sent to Quirk, the City issued a Request For Proposal under Barrick’s CAO office sometime around the spring of 2020, for more work, described as “professional consulting for City of Brampton Service Inventory.”

The project totalled $107,971.50 after HST and Quirk’s company, Q Project Management, was one of two companies invited to bid for the contract, despite its lack of experience in the area of organizational restructuring and municipal corporate service delivery.

His company had just been registered with the Province.

The bid in July by Quirk, shows QPM as the primary submitter, in “association” with a secondary company, Performance Concepts Consulting Inc., which does have experience in the area.

In the bid, Performance Concepts lists its completed projects, focusing on performance measurement, organizational reviews, and strategic planning, among other areas of experience. Quirk only lists an “organizational review assignment” he completed for the City of Brampton earlier in the year, when the company wasn’t even registered.

The bid submission states, “QPM has pivoted to focus on municipal clients looking to transform/improve municipal service delivery processes,” adding that “As of 2020, Tony provides municipal restructuring advisory services.”

He won the contract, and has already been paid the $107,971.50.

It involved identifying municipal services in eight City departments, the 2020 capital and operating budgets for each service, putting them into one of three categories (legislatively mandated, essential, or discretionary) and preparing a report for staff and council to approve.

The section in the RFP’s bidder declaration asking if a conflict of interest existed was left blank.

Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, told The Pointer Barrick should not have allowed the RFP for work directly done for him, knowing that a close associate was invited to bid and eventually was awarded the job working directly with the CAO.

“The whole purpose of conflict of interest is to prevent you from acting in your own private interests or the private interests of a family member, friend, or associate.”

Conacher said, “By taking part in a decision like this, you don’t just violate conflict of interest law, it provides a lot of the evidence that you may be in a breach of trust.”

The contract administrator for the project and the man who handled the RFP for Barrick was Maciej Jurczyk, a senior manager in the CAO’s office. Jurczyk was hired in Brampton, from Niagara Region, after Barrick became CAO. Jurczyk’s name is listed on all four invoices QPM submitted for the project. The documents indicate Robert D’Amboise, who was filling in for a colleague, was tasked with ensuring the invoices were sent to the City’s accounts payable department. D’Amboise told them payments to Quirk had been approved and cheques should be sent out, according to his emails in the FOI documents.

D’Amboise also works for Barrick, he also formerly worked for Niagara Region, and along with Jason Tamming, Brampton’s director of strategic communications, culture and events, was implicated in the Ontario Ombudsman’s scathing 2019 “Inside Job” investigation report.

The probe found all three worked internally to get D’Angelo the Niagara Region CAO job. Tamming and D’Amboise, according to the shocking evidence, were involved in providing D’Angelo with the questions and answers for the CAO interview process. Tamming was fired by the Region, D’Amboise left on his own.

The St. Catharines Standard also reported Quirk was one of two NPCA board members on the hiring committee that recommended D’Angelo for the position.

Brampton councillors The Pointer spoke with had no knowledge of the work given to Quirk, and none had ever heard of him. They are now calling for an investigation into the latest controversy with Barrick at the centre, since Mayor Brown oversaw the process to hire him in late 2019.

The mayor has defended Barrick throughout a series of troubling decisions by the CAO and even misled the public about his involvement in the Niagara hiring scandal, wrongly claiming he was not implicated in the Ombudsman’s investigation report.

Brown had Barrick hired despite his involvement in the fraudulent hiring scheme and despite his complete lack of experience.

Barrick had never even run a small municipal department for a city before Brown chaired the hiring process that gave him the top job in Canada’s ninth largest municipality, responsible for some 5,000 employees.

The Pointer’s FOI request was made after the accountability function was restored to its proper process, following Barrick’s illegal move that placed the FOI function under his control. When Council found out what he had quietly done last year, in violation of provincial law that states only council can determine who oversees the crucial accountability function, some members expressed their anger at the CAO and swiftly removed the FOI process from his control, recently restoring its independence, with reporting directly to council.

The documents in response to the FOI request on Barrick’s use of Brampton taxpayer funds to give contracts to Quirk, show the CAO began hiring his former political ally to consult for him almost immediately after he started.

Though Quirk has used "Q Project Management" as his company name since doing work for Barrick, his LinkedIn page lists the name as Q Property Management and his experience listed in the FOI documents includes "designing, building and installing industrial air pollution control equipment".

Councillors The Pointer spoke with said they never heard of either company.

“We have had enough stories, there’s enough smoking guns that council needs to realize there’s an issue here that we need to deal with,” Councillor Jeff Bowman said, after learning of the $218,000 paid to Quirk.

Some of his council colleagues also expressed anger over Barrick’s conduct.

“There were a lot of problems at the Region of Niagara that we only found out about after the CAO was hired,” Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon said. “Now, we have some of the same staff involved in what happened in Niagara working for the City of Brampton. Council needs to protect the Brampton taxpayer and get to the bottom of what seems like a pattern of disturbing recent practices.”

Barrick recently tried to remove the internal audit function from council’s oversight, attempting to put it under his control, before councillors found out about it.

His handling of a consulting contract to create a new municipal development corporation also drew the ire of councillors when they recently found out Barrick had quietly hired a long-time Conservative political associate of the mayor for the job.

The project schedule included in the RFP for the service inventory work says the final report should have been presented to council in the last week of October. The Pointer has been unable to find any record of this presentation on Council agendas for October or November.

Councillors The Pointer spoke with said if any wrongdoing did occur, action must be taken. “The taxpayers of Brampton voted for open, honest and transparent government. Any incidents contrary to those principles should be investigated to the fullest,” City Councillor Charmaine Williams said. She urges any one with proof of wrongdoing to come forward and supports a full investigation.

Councillor Martin Medeiros is calling for the same.

“I am unaware of this relationship and I do believe this shows poor judgement by staff as the optics is concerning not only for Council but for the residents of Brampton.

“I was not aware of this. Council moved a motion, moved by Councillor (Michael) Palleschi, which instructed staff to report to council any subsequent contracts under $100,000 related to an original contract under $100,000, essentially trying to stop what seems to be contract splitting.”

Medeiros said he’s growing increasingly frustrated with Barrick.

“I do not recall ever voting on the hiring of Tony Quirk or ever were we told about the optics and possibility of conflict of interest.

“Ultimately, I am concerned of the poor judgement shown by all staff involved, contract splitting which seems to be intentional to avoid coming to council for approval and finally the effective stewardship and protection of Brampton Taxpayer dollars.”

It’s unclear what council will do to get answers, now that Barrick controls all staff and has placed people loyal to him in key bureaucratic positions.

“If these two individuals were very close, even a perceived conflict needs to be dealt with,” Bowman added. “I want to find out why council was not notified (of the work being given to Quirk).”

Barrick introduced a fresh organizational structure in March 2020 that included a new “Legislative Services” department. The Pointer previously reported these new changes led to multiple staff members being laid off because “organizational efficiencies” meant their positions were no longer needed. It’s not clear if this was tied to Quirk’s advice.

The Pointer was unable to find any of QPM’s contracts in publicly available procurement reports. The Pointer obtained an email in the FOI documents from Mikkel Marr, the director of organizational performance and strategy, and Jurczyk’s boss, to the FOI coordinator stating details of QPM’s procurement were included in a file attached to the email that is part of the package responding to The Pointer’s request. But the attachment is not included in the package.

The only piece of information The Pointer found illustrating how much the CAO’s office spent on consultants last year was from a November budget committee presentation. In the first three quarters of 2020, $343,000 was spent, more than any other department.

It’s not clear why payments for at least one of the projects, under the RFP, were split up or if doing so violated the City’s purchasing bylaw. Contracts greater than $100,000 before taxes require approval from council before a final agreement can be reached, according to City bylaws.

Medeiros emphasized that it’s up to elected officials at City Hall to protect residents and their hard-earned tax dollars.

“Ultimately, council needs to be held accountable and action must be taken by further investigation and confirmation of facts.”

Email: nida.zafar@thepointer.com

Twitter: @nida_zafar

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Nida Zafar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer