Forget about the Gravy Train. The Toronto Sun January 31, 2011 firstname.lastname@example.org
You might say one retired councillor enjoyed the Gravy Plane before he rode off into the sunset last November. During his last four months in office, ex-TTC chairman Adam Giambrone spent an obscene $9,307.08 jetting around the world attending seemingly obscure transit conferences.
The Giambrone Farewell Tour took him to Rio de Janeiro in late August; to Vienna, Austria in September and Madrid, Spain in mid-October. Finally he landed in Milan, Italy in mid-November — a mere two weeks before his term ended.
According to information provided by the city’s Council Services section, the former TTC chairman — also considered mayor David Miller’s protege — barely had time to unpack when he arrived back from Rio on Sept. 5 before flying off, once again, on Sept. 8 for Vienna.
In at least two cases — his trips to Vienna and Madrid — Giambrone either arrived three to four days before the conference started or stayed three to four days after the proceedings ended. Based on the claims he submitted, it does not appear he charged taxpayers for the extra days’ stay.
All claims have been paid, council services director Winnie Li confirmed by e-mail Wednesday.
Giambrone, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, was one of the international keynote speakers at the three-day Urban Transport World Brazil conference held from Sept. 1-3.
According to the program, he was booked to speak both on a panel about single-card fare systems and to give a talk about how successful Toronto has been integrating subways, buses, light rail, streetcars and transit for the disabled.
His conference bio boasted the chairman had overseen “a renaissance in public transit” and Transit City has been “eagerly supported” by the public.
Although the conference organizers were supposed to cover any costs beyond his airfare of $1,273.55 — or so I was told by a TTC spokesperson last July — the city ended up picking up his entire $2,054.26 tab.
In September, Giambrone attended a two-day conference of the International Institute for Information Design (IIID) in Vienna on Traffic, Transport and Social Media — that is, how transport providers can use social media to better communicate with their customers.
His six-day trip to Madrid from Oct. 14-20 was to be present at the 10th annual Light Rail conference and study tour of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP).
The departing chairman capped off The Giambrone Farewell Tour with a jaunt to Milan on Nov. 15 to attend the 9th Annual ID (identification) World International Congress. According to the conference literature, Smart Cards was one identification technology on the agenda.
While he attended that conference, his City Hall office — piled high with packed boxes — was essentially closed for business.
TTC general secretary Vince Rodo confirmed by e-mail Thursday the Commission did not cover any costs over and above what Giambrone claimed for the four conferences.
Nevertheless, Giambrone — who has come under fire already in recent weeks for charging one-on-one French lessons and farewell Christmas cards to his office budget — also had access to a special $125,000 fund as TTC chairman. How he spent that fund won’t be available for weeks, said Rodo.
Deputy mayor Doug Holyday, who is in the midst of a complete overhaul of council’s expense policy, said it’s clear Giambrone was someone who “just didn’t give a damn” what taxpayers thought of him before he left office.
“It’s absolutely mindboggling that someone would have the gall to take four trips on the way out the door,” he said.
Holyday said he fully intends to put in new rules that will stop these kinds of abuses from happening — even though common sense should dictate that councillors not do this kind of thing.
New TTC Chairman Karen Stintz said she has already indicated to Chief General Manager Gary Webster that she has no intention of travelling to two transit conferences coming up in San Francisco and Dubai in the next few months — and he should remove any kind of travel stipend for her from the TTC budget.
So far, Ana has played a coy game of 'sort of'' being on the inside with the 'right' faction at City Hall - likely in the hope it gives her more power and influence to help constituents - rather than being recruited by the 'left wing kooks' faction (Thanks for the polarizing label, Don Cherry). She sits between Fordite inner circle councillors Michael Thompson and Denzil Minnan-Wong when council is in session, and can often be seen being coached by them (some might say 'seduced by the dark side', but its too early to tell).
She has carried out campaign promises of holding town hall consultations so far and is definitely more accessible than the previous ward councillor.
She hasn't hit on any really tough issue yet that might pit ward18 against wider Ford-city interests, which would tell us more about her political capital 'fighting prowess' ...
The only thing close to that is this letter she sent to TTC Chair Karen Stintz mildly pleading for no route cuts in the ward for Downsview and Dupont buses: