Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Friendship Part (2)

We have been talking about friends, friendship and business associates and the seeming new issue of how that fits in with conflict of interest. The question then arises whether a member of Council needs to recuse himself/herself if a "friend" issue comes up.

Clearly, as I Blogged previously, Mayor Francis seems to think it is a big deal. So do the Integrity Commissioner and those anonymous Leakors who tried to discredit Councillor Jones.

Let us now deal with a real friend of Edgar (aka Eddie) not someone who may or may not be. What I will be dealing with is all public information, something that anyone could have found using the Internet.

The City Clerk provided this specific answer to me when Edgar declared an interest in a Tunnel matter but did NOT state the general nature thereof:
  • From: Ed Arditti
    Sent: February 6, 2008 10:48 AM
    To: Galvin, Mark
    Subject: Declaration of Pecuniary Interest
    Importance: High

    I noticed that the Mayor declared a pecuniary interest twice with respect to matters involving the Duty Free Shop at Windsor Tunnel Commission meetings. However, the Minutes did not disclose the general nature thereof as is required by law.

    Accordingly, as Acting Executive Director, would you please let me know "the general nature thereof" as is required by the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

  • ----- Original Message -----
    From: Critchley, Valerie
    Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2008 12:40 PM
    Subject: FW: Declaration of Pecuniary Interest

    Good Afternoon:

    Thank-you for your inquiry which has been directed to me for response.

    I can advise that the Mayor has always been cautious to take the high ground with respect to any possibility of an actual or perceived conflict of interest and has always chosen to excuse himself from any discussion or voting on any matter related to the Duty Free Shop. The basis of his caution is his personal acquaintance with Abe Taqtaq, his former campaign manager. Also, while the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act excludes matters that are remote and insignificant, the Mayor has also noted that his spouse is a tenant in a building that Mr. Taqtaq has an interest in.

    I trust this answers your inquiry and remain,

    Yours Truly,

    Valerie Critchley
    City Clerk
    Corporation of the City of Windsor

The gentleman mentioned is Abe Taqtaq.

What a nice choice of words "personal acquaintance." Whatever that means, as you shall see, dear reader, it is much closer than that. And we'll talk about that building where Edgar's spouse is a tenant subsequently. Just keep on reading.

You will note the reference to Mr. Taqtaq being Edgar’s former campaign manager. Here is what Edgar said about his campaign team after he successfully won his first term as Mayor:

Respecting the Tunnel Duty Free Shop, I saw this

  • “Marwan Taqtaq
    (BS '65) For the past 21 years, Taqtaq has operated the Windsor Tunnel Duty Free Shop on the US-Canadian border. He recently participated in building a community medical center.”
  • Abe Taqtaq is vice president and general manager at Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Duty Free.

It is this position that may have caused and may cause Edgar significant "friendship" issues.

Edgar has not always taken this perspective in dealing with matters involving the Taqtaq interests. Consider this involving Coltaq Developments in which the Taqtaqs were involved:

No pecuniary interest declared by Edgar on this matter and he must have voted too. Note that he did declare a pecuniary interest in matters involving Miller Canfield when he was working there as an articling student.

On another occasion in August, 2003, we saw this where Edgar actually introduced a Motion respecting Coltaq. Obviously, he did not declare a pecuniary interest:

At the time, here is what was going on about those lands:

  • "Windsor Star 06-02-2003

    Route debate delays plans; Critics say land tied up unfairly

    Deputy Mayor Gary McNamara is upset that a "set to go" 351-home subdivision has been tied up because of its location within an "opportunity corridor" that years from now may become the route to a new border crossing.

    The Coltaq Developments subdivision is the largest the town has seen in years, on farm fields bordered by Highway 401, Highway 3 and Outer Boulevard. It went through all the regulatory hoops more than four years, but then ran up against Ministry of Transportation concerns that halted its final approval by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

    "This property is at a key location that (if the subdivision was allowed to proceed) would significantly reduce the viability of several corridors," a Transportation Ministry spokesman said recently."

And then this:

  • "Windsor Star 08-06-2003

    Developers angered by delay; Subdivision in limbo because land is within one of five possible border routes

    Investors who have been trying for five years to get a 350-home subdivision built are upset the City of Windsor is opposing the project.

    On Aug. 20, when an Ontario Municipal Board hearing starts, Tecumseh will be supporting the Coltaq Developments plan for its 85 acres bordering Highway 3, Outer Drive and Howard Avenue.

    Windsor will be siding with the Ministry of Transportation, which doesn't want the subdivision developed now because the land is within one of five transportation corridors which may be chosen as the route from the 401 to a new border crossing...

    If the government wants to prevent the land from being developed, it should expropriate it and pay a fair price, said Abe Taqtaq, a partner in Coltaq with contractor Mario Collavino."

All's well that ends well. It would seem that the Motion making Windsor neutral might have been helpful since the Province bought the land

  • "08-20-2003

    Province to purchase land; 85 acres in potential border corridor will be bought and not frozen to development

    The province has agreed to buy 85 acres of prime subdivision land located within one of five possible border crossing corridors.

    The agreement, which is still not finalized, makes an Ontario Municipal Board hearing, scheduled to start today in Tecumseh, unnecessary. Lawyers for the developer and the province are expected to ask for an adjournment...

    The Ministry of Transportation office that deals with media inquiries was closed on Tuesday because of the government's energy conservation measures. Abe Taqtaq, general manager of developer Coltaq Developments, said he hasn't received anything in writing about the agreement.

    "I'd love to make a comment, but I can't until I get something in writing," he said.

    Coltaq has reported spending about $2-million buying and planning the subdivision on the parcel of land bordering Highway 3, Outer Drive and Howard Avenue."

Someone may want to follow up to see if Coltaq or its principals or related organizations made contributions to the Mayor's campaigns too and where their office was said to be located. That can be a concern too if there is an "exceptional case" as you shall see subsequently in another BLOG.

In case you think the name Collavino is familiar, it is. PCR Contractors, a Collavino company, built the East end arena. I am sure you remember this:

  • "09-22-2006

    New arena proposal challenges Ice Track: Family, Killer Bs offer 6,500-seat, $50M idea

    A prominent Windsor construction family has teamed up with a Toronto architectural firm to propose a 6,500-seat arena and three ancillary ice pads in a taxpayer-funded project that will cost less than $50 million.

    Brothers Paolo and Renzo Collavino, whose father was co-founder of the Collavino construction company, are behind the project, which was quietly submitted to city officials back in August.

    The Collavinos, acting as general contractors through their firm PCR, would be responsible for building the arena using plans provided by Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects (known locally as the Killer Bs). The city would own and operate the facility. No location was announced.

    "It's no secret Windsor has been looking for an arena for a long time," Renzo said Thursday. "I've had this idea for a while -- I never had a reason to bring it out until the council resolution."

The Taqtaqs and Collavino through PCR have had other business relationships together too. Take a look at these photos which were Collavino projects.

Those buildings will have an interesting role to play in the "friendship" debate as you shall see in subsequent BLOGs.