It hasn't even been a week since Toronto Hydro CEO David O'Brien made it known that Wanda Liczyk is on a paid leave of absence from her $320,000-a-year job as the company's senior vice-president and chief financial officer. But around the public utility's Carlton Street headquarters, they're already talking in the past tense whenever Liczyk's name comes up. Which is a lot these days.
"There's no question, her absence is going to become permanent," advised one reliable source very much in touch with what's happening on the local power scene. "She will not be returning to work."
Unfortunately, it's likely going to cost Toronto Hydro close to $1 million to keep the embattled former city treasurer out of the office she moved into four years ago. This was just before the proverbial spit hit the fan regarding her involvement in the MFP computer leasing scandal and the awarding of millions in untendered consulting contracts to a former lover.
"Any way you slice it, it's going to cost taxpayers a big chunk of money," said another insider, who maintained Liczyk will almost certainly walk away from the post she landed courtesy of former mayor Mel Lastman with a severance package worth about $800,000 (the equivalent of two years' salary plus benefits).
"It's going to be expensive to get rid of her, but it's got to be done," the source confided.
Yes, Liczyk has become a public relations nightmare for both Toronto Hydro and City Hall, which appoints three councillors to the corporation's 11-member board of directors. She was a central witness in both phases of the judicial inquiry that Justice Denise Bellamy has been conducting at the East York Civic Centre for the past two years.
Part one was about her relationship with MFP salesman Dash Domi, but the tongues really started wagging when part two of Bellamy's probe began last month. Liczyk admitted she'd had a two-and-a-half-year affair with Michael Saunders, the U.S. consultant whose company was paid $3.8 million to push a computerized tax-billing system he'd developed. It was then that Mayor David Miller asked the city solicitor for an opinion on the city's legal position as a shareholder in Toronto Hydro.
Miller has received a preliminary report from the law department, but would not comment on the contents when asked about it earlier this week. However, sources indicate that City Hall will now wait until Bellamy issues her report at the conclusion of the inquiry early next year before taking any action in concert with Hydro brass.
"It gives them better cards to play with," a well-placed insider said. Several sources indicated the contract the former treasurer signed when she joined Hydro stipulated that there were no skeletons in her City Hall contract that would come to haunt her new employer. If so, Bellamy's report could give the utility a reason to terminate Liczyk with cause and avoid a huge payoff.
Another school of thought suggests that Hydro - and by extension Miller and city council - will simply use the inquiry's conclusions as a tool to negotiate a reduced exit package for Liczyk. Considering Bellamy's two-pronged inquiry will end up costing city taxpayers in the neighbourhood of $15 million, there's apparently little taste for a protracted courtroom battle with the former treasurer's lawyers that could conceivably push the overall bill even higher.
Miller may well have provided the impetus for the MFP inquiry, but as one knowledgeable source pointed out, "At some point he's going to want to move beyond this.'
Miller's just a little more than six months away from the midpoint of his first term. Six months after that, Miller will start switching to re-election mode.
By then, Wanda Liczyk will be long gone from Toronto Hydro. And so, we are led to believe, will be the remnants of the Lastman-era board of directors that gave her a job in the first place.