Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Friendship (The Epilogue)

I trust that you enjoyed reading my 5-Part Series on "Friendship" in Windsor. In a separate BLOG, below, I am putting all five individual BLOGS together for easier reading for you, dear reader.

I wrote about friends, friendships and business associates and the seeming new issue of how that fits in with conflict of interest. The question arises when and under what circumstances does a member of Council need to recuse himself/herself if a "friend" issue comes up.

It makes it plain, if you read the BLOGs all at once, to understand the issue much better and what the consequences can be to our City. It also provides an approach to solve the problem.

I did not just want to write the BLOGs and leave it. Accordingly, I have completed a "COMPLAINT OF VIOLATION OF CODE OF CONDUCT" and submitted it to the Integrity Commissioner for a decision. It arises out of the actions of a member of Council (not Councillor Jones). He has already acknowledged receipt of it.
  • The Windsor media reported:

    "Appointed to the job last year, Basse said any investigation can reveal new information that requires separate inquiry. "I can’t ignore it," he said.

    "integrity commissioner Earl Basse informed council behind closed doors Monday night that he’s looking into hundreds of phone calls allegedly made by a councillor to a union leader during the civic strike, the news was being reported.

    The Star has learned from a number of sources that the phone log in question lists calls made on Coun. Ron Jones’s cellphone to CUPE Local 543 president Jean Fox."

    My understanding is that the question is whether Councillor Jones should have recused himself during the CUPE strike because of his "friendship" with the Head of one of the striking Windsor CUPE locals.

    The Mayor confirmed the point stating:

    ""The issue in front of us is discussions that were taking place with the head of CUPE in the middle of negotiations. That is an important distinction to be drawn here."

    In other words, mere “friendship” in itself may not be a concern but “friendship” with more such as dealing with the City can result in disqualification from participation in a matter whether it is a strike or a business deal.

    As you know Windsor's Code of Conduct states:"


    No member of Council shall use the influence of her or his office for any purpose other than for the exercise of her or his official duties.

    Examples of prohibited conduct are the use of one’s status as a member of Council to improperly influence the decision of another person to the private advantage of oneself, or one’s parents, children or spouse, staff members, friends, or associates, business or otherwise."

    In addition, BELLAMY INQUIRY RECOMMENDATIONS are incorporated by reference and shall form part of this Code of Conduct


    The recommendations made by Madame Justice Bellamy with respect to Ethics as a result of the "City of Toronto External Contracts Inquiry" as set out in Appendix B to this Code of Conduct [Should it be "SCHEDULE "C" instead] are hereby incorporated by reference and shall form part of this Code of Conduct

    Included are these provision:

    1. The City should expand its current code of conduct for councillors and its conflict of interest policy for staff to include broader ethical considerations.

    2. The codes of conduct should go beyond the minimum standards of behaviour and set out the highest ideals and values toward which all public servants should be working.

    21. Councillors and staff should be made aware that it is unacceptable for them to act on a matter in which they have either a real or an apparent conflict of interest.

    22. Councillors and staff should take steps to avoid as best they can both real and apparent conflicts of interest. For assistance, they should seek the guidance of the office of the integrity commissioner.

    Preferential Treatment

    30. Elected officials and staff should take all necessary steps to avoid preferential treatment or the appearance of preferential treatment for friends or family.

    The standard expected of a member of Windsor Council is very high and goes not only to real conflicts but apparent ones and the appearance of preferential treatment. "Friends" are included in this definition as well which is the basis I assume of the Jones investigation...

    I am not suggesting any illegal activities, any pay-offs, graft, under the table deals or bribes. Rather it is the very narrow matter; it is the issue of being a "friend" or perhaps a "business associate" that you have raised as confirmed by the Mayor. You may receive some guidance from a recent US Supreme Court decision as set out in Part 5 of my BLOG that seems quite applicable to the high standard expected of a Windsor Member of Council as well as the actions of a Judge in that case who recused himself"

    "Maynard withdrawing from Supreme Court case after vacation photos with Blankenship released

    "It is not enough to do justice - justice also must satisfy the appearance of justice," Maynard wrote in a brief memo filed today with the court.

    He added, "I have decided to voluntarily recuse myself from this case. I will recuse myself despite the fact I have no doubt in my own mind and firmly believe I have been and would be fair and impartial in this case. I know that for a certainty."

    Controversy erupted this month over Maynard's majority vote in the court's 3-2 decision that excused Massey from a $50 million verdict after photos surfaced showing the chief justice and Blankenship allegedly vacationing together in the Monte Carlo area...

    At least three of the photos show the men posing and smiling at seaside locations and sitting at an outdoor restaurant...

    In his memo released today, Maynard said he worries that the controversy that the photos have caused is the sole reason he's stepping aside.

    "Above all else, I am very concerned about how the public views this court," Maynard wrote. "Without question, the judicial branch of state government should always be held in the highest public confidence and trust. The mere appearance of impropriety, regardless of whether it is supported by fact, can compromise the public confidence in the courts. For that reason - and that reason alone - I will recuse myself from this case."

Do I expect a quick answer. Hardly, considering how long the complaint about Edgar (aka Eddie) and Kwame took to be resolved and that a Complaint from Chris Schnurr has not been dealt with yet since earlier this year.

In addition, Mr. Basse as the new Hamilton Integrity Commissioner has a new task it seems:

  • "Whitehead conduct to be investigated

    Emma Reilly
    The Hamilton Spectator

    Councillor Terry Whitehead's conduct will be investigated by the city's new integrity commissioner, council ruled yesterday.

    Whitehead's former assistant filed a complaint against the mountain councillor last week, alleging she had been mistreated. The woman, who has declined to comment on the issue, now works in the city's community services department. The decision came at last night's council meeting after a closed-door discussion on the issue."

I doubt if the matter will be completed before after the next municipal election. Perhaps I will be wrong.

In the meantime, members of Council who may be in such a conflict are able now on their own to take the honourable steps to resolve the matter. Let us see if that happens

Friendship--The Five Part Series

Friendship (Part I of A Five Part Series)

Did you feel the earth shake? In one momentous moment everything has changed in Windsor.

To be honest, it is the first optimistic moment I have had in a very long time.

Perhaps the border file will finally end and we can get our economy moving after so many years of hollow threats, mind's eye visions, inaction and stalling.

Perhaps we will look at proper priorities for this town of 200,000 and not grand visions and schemes to make us something we can never be but which sound terrific and prevent us from solving our real problems.

Just look at Annie's column today. First Henderson justifying Edgar (aka Eddie) breaking his two-term promise on Saturday and now this:
  • "Revealing hidden beauty

    The ugly towers, pipes and belts of Zalev Brothers scrapyard -- as Mayor Eddie Francis said, it looks like a bomb went off in the heart of Windsor.

    But it could be one of the most interesting places in the city.

    In some unusual and fascinating projects around the world, old industrial and transportation eyesores -- viaducts, street car repair yards, brick factories and iron mills -- and their detritus are being remade into new and inventive kinds of community and cultural hubs, from parks to museums.

    They honour urban history while becoming part of the new economy."

Vote for Edgar and our brownfields can be transformed like those in Dusseldorf, New York or Toronto. How many times will we hear the word "world-class" during the lead-up to the election next year?

We may finally have new leadership in this City to move us forward. Not next year but soon, almost immediately. And if it happens, it will not happen through the ballot box nor through a coup d'état.

We will owe it all to our Integrity Commissioner, Mr. Basse and certain leakors on Council whoever they may be. And most especially to our Mayor who has crystalized the matter in a way I never thought possible.

Of course, I am speaking about the leaked Report that Mr. Basse presented to Council, under what authority I still do not know but it no longer matters, that since Councillor Ron Jones and CUPE’s President Jean Fox were "friends," then the question was whether Jones should have recused himself from any involvement in the CUPE strike whatsoever.

"Friendship" became an issue for conflict of interest all of a sudden.

Then our Mayor confirmed it by helpfully chipping in during a TV interview:
  • "The issue in front of us is discussions that were taking place with the head of CUPE in the middle of negotiations. That is an important distinction to be drawn here."

As I Blogged:

  • “Oh my. A Pandora's box has just been opened by the Mayor not just with this but in other situations.”

Clearly, what the Mayor is saying that mere “friendship” in itself may not be a concern but “friendship” with more such as dealing with the City can result in disqualification from participation in a matter whether it is a strike or a business deal. That is the “important distinction” with a big difference that may impact this City, and the Mayor, dramatically.

Frankly, it makes Windsor even more like Toronto whose conflicts policy states:
  • "A conflict may occur when an interest benefits any member of the employee's family, friends or business associates."

Aren't Edgar (aka Eddie) and Mr. Basse suggesting that our rules go this far too now?

A nice exercise will be defining what a friend or business associate means.

Before anyone starts getting all excited, I am not the one who has made this an issue. Nor did Gord's "smear artists, conspiracy theorists, tire slashers, child harassers and professional moaners." The Integrity Commissioner as confirmed by the Mayor did.

I am not suggesting any improprieties. No illegal activities, no pay-offs, graft, under the table deals or bribes. Nope, it is a very narrow matter; it is the issue of being a "friend" or perhaps a "business associate" too that has now reared its head so we need to look at this concept carefully.

I can just hear the Clerk's voice now booming over the microphone before a delegation speaks at Council as part of the Proceduaral By-law:

  • "Are you now or have you ever been a "friend" or "business associate"of a Member of Council?"
Let us ask some obvious "friend" or "business associate" questions. Let’s think of some "friendship” and "business associate" possibilities with Edgar since he spoke on the matter and some big blockbuster potential deals since he has now made this an issue. As such, since he is so involved in virtually everything, we have to consider most of all of the major Windsor projects.

Consider the Miller Canfield firm where Edgar articled because this issue involved a member of that firm before. How would they fit in with this expanded definition? Remember the fuss over Michael Duben who was at the firm when Edgar articled there:
  • "Top candidate' was hired:

    City officials deny new senior bureaucrat got job because of links to the mayor

    Although Windsor's newest senior bureaucrat worked in the same law firm as Mayor Eddie Francis and was hired without an advertised national search, several councillors and the city's top civil servant say Michael Duben got the job on his merits alone...

    Duben said the only contact he had about the job was with Skorobohacz.

    "Eddie was quite surprised. I wouldn't put Eddie in that situation," Duben said of discussions with Skorobohacz...

    "I knew full well the mayor had articled with him," Skorobohacz said of Duben, a labour lawyer who also has represented developers and property owners dealing with the city...

    Skorobohacz said he did not discuss hiring Duben with Francis before meeting with councillors about it. Several councillors said the mayor expressed discomfort because of his personal relationship with Duben.

    "Eddie felt a little uncomfortable about the discussion," Lewenza said. "Eddie did not play a role in the discussion. He really took a hands-off approach."

    Added Ward 3 Councillor Al Halberstadt: "Eddie expressed a bit of fear that it would be seen as him going out and getting Duben."

Clearly, the issue was in some people's minds as far back as 2004, even after Edgar was long gone from the firm, because of a "personal relationship."

Is this still an issue? For example, a question that can be asked is whether Edgar is a “friend” or "business associate" of lawyer Jeff Slopen who is a Principal at Miller Canfield where Edgar articled. I have no idea if they are or are not. I mean to cast absolutely no negative aspertions against Mr. Slopen. It is an issue for a Member of Council to determine, not the friend. It's a real issue though.

I think it important to ask Edgar to confirm what the relationship is. Edgar had declared a pecuniary interest in the past when he articled at the firm and even afterwards, clearly for a different reason than friendship but probably as a "business associate" out an abundance of caution:
  • "Councillor Francis discloses an interest and abstains from voting on Planning Advisory Committee Item No. 3, being the application by Mid-South Land Developments Corporation to rezone the west side of Prado Place between Ontario and Raymond and the east side of Thompson Boulevard between Ontario and Raymond, to permit 8 single unit dwellings each, as the applicant is represented by the Miller Canfield Law Firm, where he recently completed his articles of clerkship "

I must admit I do not recall if he ever disclosed an interest in the border file when Mich-Can was involved since Edgar articled for Miller Canfield, the Mich-Can lawyers.

Since Mr. Slopen is also the lawyer for the owner of the Zalev lands and there are now discussions about buying or expropriating the property, if Mr. Slopen is a "friend" or "business associate" must Edgar now recuse himself and no longer be involved? Look at what has been said in the past so you can understand what Mr. Basse may have to deal with:

  • "Hamilton's model is exactly what we need to see happen here," said Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis. "It would allow us to identify the sites and bundle some of them as a package for developers."

    Francis said the city will need to seek government grants.

    "Our first step should be to establish a committee led by council but also including interested citizens to see if there is any interest on Zalev's behalf to discuss their site and its future," said Francis. "From my understanding, there is some willingness on the company's behalf to do that."

    Windsor lawyer Jeffrey Slopen, who represents Zalev, was unavailable for comment but has said in the past his client was open to discussions. "

  • "Zalev denies causing recent 'putrid' odours

    But the metal recycler said through lawyer Jeffrey Slopen that Zalev has not operated its hot briquette plant since Oct. 31 and could not be the source of the odours Dilkens said he noticed.

    Slopen, in a letter to council, said other industries could be the source of the odours."

  • "Zalev lawyer Jeffrey Slopen said the company is unaware of any current issues but would be willing to attend a meeting if invited.

    "We're trying to be a good corporate citizen," said Slopen, noting the company has responded to concerns of nearby residents in recent years. "Our view is that we aren't aware of any issues with the Ministry of the Environment."

    Brister asked city administration on Monday about the possibility of the city expropriating the Zalev property and building another east-west artery between Howard and Dougall avenues.

    "There has to be a municipal use to expropriate that land," said Brister."

What is the difference between the Jones-Fox relationship and the Edgar-Slopen one if they are friends or business associates?

What about with London’s Mr. Farhi? Are he and Edgar friends? Here is how they met according to the Star in November, 2006:

  • “Francis and Farhi met for the first time about a year ago at a wedding in London.

    Farhi contacted Francis shortly afterward to hear first-hand about the mayor's plans for Windsor.

    "A week later, he calls and says, 'Meet me at the Lear plant. I just bought it,'" Francis said.

    Farhi arrived in Windsor by helicopter and told the mayor he liked what he'd heard the week before about where the city was heading. "He's made that very clear to us, he wants to invest in Windsor," Francis said.

    About one month ago, Farhi was the one to get a call. It was the City of Windsor, wanting to know if he was interested in doing a deal with his land next to Lear.

    "I was very taken by their honesty, very taken by them coming and asking me to help" in the revitalization of downtown.

    He says he took "14 seconds" to say yes. "If it takes me more than 14 seconds to make a decision, it's a bad decision."

I recall Edgar being asked by John Fairley on Face-To-Face about whose wedding it was but Edgar declined to answer.

In passing, the issue for some reason was raised in a recent Henderson column where he went after "tortured souls and conspiracy theorists who hate Eddie Francis with a passion" over the issue. I have no idea who these people are other than as a strawman that can conveniently be raised. Actually, the issue arose because Edgar for years allowed it to be one, not because of anything else. But remarkably, note this comment by Mr. Fahri as quoted by Gord. Was it just an expression of language used or their relationship:

  • "I cornered Francis outside and asked about the rumour. He chuckled and called Farhi over.

    Did you know, he asked, that we're cousins? Fahri roared and gave Francis a crushing bear hug. "If you and I are cousins, my friend, there can indeed be peace in the Middle East," he cackled."

Don't blame me, blame Gord who gave us the quote. He knew exactly what he was writing too because he would be absolutely aware of the "friend" issue over Jones and Fox. Could this be the Sheriff giving us a big hint by directing the "enemies" of Edgar to read this statement?

We may need Mr. Basse to look into their relationship and also what the two gentlemen talked about since a few months before they met, we learned:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis and council took the arena plunge over the weekend and promised to do what has eluded a generation of political predecessors -- replace Ontario hockey's most ancient forum.

    Council voted 8-2 Saturday to start looking for a replacement for Windsor's 80-year-old arena, known by fans and cynics alike as the Barn...

    "We're now committed. I have faith this council is different," Francis said following council arena resolutions No. 106 and 107...

    A second resolution, passed without opposition, gives Francis authority to meet immediately with Windsor Raceway management to conduct "exploratory discussions" on its latest proposal to host the site of a new municipal ice arena.

    While the raceway is currently the only proposal on the table, council's motion also gives the mayor a green light to respond to "others as they may come forward."

Depending on what answer is given, should Edgar have had no involvement with the Arena and lands issues and should have no ongoing role? Should Edgar recuse himself now with the canal as well since Mr.Farhi has contributed money to the study and owns a key piece of property downtown right next to where it can go?

Do you understand where this can take us if Mr. Basse is correct in his analysis! Who knows where this "friends" and "business associate" concepts can lead us.

But let us deal with someone who is without question Eddie’s “friend.” But THAT is for another BLOG.

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.

Friendship (Part 3)

Merely being a friend or business associate of someone can now potentially give rise to an investigation by the Integrity Commissioner resulting in a member of Council being forced to recuse him/herself from being involved in some key matters in Windsor.

It seems that our Mayor seems to support that proposition given his remarks respecting Councillor Jones' friendship with Jean Fox during the CUPE negotiations.

Accordingly, if a Member of Council is in a position where a friend might somehow be involved in a relationship that could give rise to a conflict, it would seem that the Mayor would agree that the Member ought not to be involved. I assume that it includes himself too.

But what are the rules around this? Does the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act apply even though does it not mention "friends?" Is the language broad enough to cover this:
  • "When present at meeting at which matter considered

    5. (1) Where a member, either on his or her own behalf or while acting for, by, with or through another, has any pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, in any matter and is present at a meeting of the council or local board at which the matter is the subject of consideration, the member,

    (a) shall, prior to any consideration of the matter at the meeting, disclose the interest and the general nature thereof;

    (b) shall not take part in the discussion of, or vote on any question in respect of the matter; and

    (c) shall not attempt in any way whether before, during or after the meeting to influence the voting on any such question."

I believe that is broad enough to cover the kind of relationships we have been talking about. Let's assume it does. Even if it may not, Edgar and the City Clerk have made it so. Remember this comment from the City Clerk:

  • "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 am not so sure that I agree with the City Clerk about remoteness and it being insignificant. Moreover, there is another section that is important and is applicable:

  • "3. For the purposes of this Act, the pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, of a parent or the spouse or any child of the member shall, if known to the member, be deemed to be also the pecuniary interest of the member.

I showed you a photo of a building that Collavino's PCR built in a plaza on Dougall:

  • "Constructed two new buildings to house existing and new tenants, and prepared the site for demoliton of the existing structure for construction of an additional building."

The owner of the lands when the buildings were built was a company owned by the Taqtaq family. That Company was an amalgamated company. Mario Collavino was an officer and director of one of the companies amalgamating into the new Company but I do not know his role in the new Company, if any.

A unit in one of the buildings is occupied by the Mayor's spouse, Michelle Prince, where she runs her chiropractic clinic.

How did Ms Prince get there? She left her space on Howard Avenue and moved there.

Here are her new premises and you can tell who the leasing person was too at the Plaza:

Note that Mr. Taqtaq's phone number is that of the Tunnel Duty Free Shop. It is the same phone number as this building right across from the Tunnel that was for rent too that I Blogged about before:

As we can see, Edgar's spouse has an interest in the lands as a tenant. Edgar is deemed to have a "pecuniary interest" in it too.

Do not forget that not only is Edgar the Mayor but the Head of the Windsor Tunnel Commission as well. The Duty Free Shop rents space at the Tunnel from the City.

What do we have but Edgar and Abe Taqtaq being friends, having a business relationship as Landlord/Tenant through Edgar's wife and a relationship at the Tunnel.

What does this all mean? Keep on reading the next Part of my BLOG.

Friendship (Part 4)

Have you been reading each of the previous parts of the series so that everything is fitting into a context, dear reader? We are almost at the conclusion. Just two more parts.

We are looking at the concept of "friendship" and what impact it has on Members of Council and how Windsor is governed.

We have seen that it seems to be a big concern now thanks to the Integrity Commissioner and the Mayor. That question raised about Members of Council and major players in town needs to be dealt with in order to get clarification ASAP.

Given, Edgar's seeming confirmation of the issue, I decided to take a look at his particular situation and discussed the building in Dougall Plaza in the last BLOG.

Now let us take a look at the Tunnel where Edgar is the head of the Tunnel Commission and where the Taqtaq family leases their Store. However, the issue is much broader than a mere lease at the Tunnel as you shall see.

To be fair, when issues involving the Duty Free Shop have arisen, the Mayor has declared an interest at Commission meetings.

He was modest at first and did not disclose the "general nature thereof" so that is why I contacted the City Clerk for an explanation in the first place. It surprised me since the Mayor, as a lawyer, clearly knew the rules and has acted out of an abundance of caution both, it would appear, from what the City Clerk said and from his practice at Council:

No explanation given here.

Then he opened up more:

Former campaign manager is the reason given, or rather, "a member of his former campaign" without mentioning the person's name or title. Should the explanation have been broader? To include his spouse's situation as well perhaps?

Note, do you think as worded this declaration of pecuniary interest by Edgar fits right into the "friend" or "business associate" category? If so, then it explains why Edgar could easily make the remark he did respecting the Jones/Fox issue. He viewed it that way for himself already for quite a period of time.

But what do you think of this when Edgar was a Councillor:

Perhaps Edgar and Mr. Taqtaq were not friends then but how could Edgar participate and introduce a Motion to help obtain what Mr. Taqtaq wanted if they were?

Moreover, did the request to "abandon a standard" create a huge liability on the City if something went wrong? How could the City argue that it was acting in a reasonable manner by abandoning what the association said should be done? Hmmm, I wonder if this action concerned Mr. Sutts so that it was easier for him to suggest that the Tunnel be placed into a subsidiary company to limit the City's liability.

The reason I raise this is because the only major Agreement that the Three Levels ever agreed to on the border file shockingly did NOT deal with the Ambassador Bridge where the trucks were backed up but only dealt with the Tunnel. Phase One of the Let's Get Windsor-Essex Moving Strategy included only:

  • "Windsor, Ontario, March 11, 2004 - The Governments of Canada, Ontario and Windsor today announced new measures that are part of a joint $300 million federal-provincial investment to help improve the Windsor Gateway, Canada's busiest border crossing.

    Today's agreement identifies five initial project investments, including:

    Improvements to the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Plaza in order to provide for more effective traffic management, including the implementation of the NEXUS program;"

At the time, the decision to focus on the Tunnel made little sense to me. And the agreement was signed within months of Edgar becoming Mayor too.

The improvements are very important to the Taqtaq family because business was hurting at the Tunnel obviously with the reduced number of visitors:

  • "Traffic at the Windsor-Detroit tunnel remains in a slump, and the border crossing's retail duty-free store is feeling the impact.

    It's been this way for months, and while the list of reasons seems as long as the tie-ups some days, Marwan Taqtaq, who operates the Windsor Tunnel Duty Free Shop with his family and staff, remains optimistic.

    The pending redesign of the tunnel plaza is expected to provide better store access for vehicles."

The City has set aside $10M of taxpayer money for their share of the Tunnel improvements but we know now that more money is needed but we are not sure exactly why. I have speculated, and obviously with the number of years that have gone by with no action, more money is needed for expropriation since owners have sat in limbo.

I don't recall the City setting aside that kind of money for the Tunnel's border competitor, the Ambassador Bridge, to improve their operation as part of the Strategy. There never was a Phase II Agreement which presumably would have dealt with the Bridge.

As I have Blogged:

  • "Notwithstanding his assertion that “We're a public utility” in relation to the Tunnel, he is also the business competitor of the Ambassador Bridge. Does this competitive side of the Mayor help explain why we still have a border mess on Huron Church road? Why would he fix up that road when Goyeau is a mess and the Tunnel Plaza improvements are far from being done as both Dev Tyagi and Abe TaqTaq have told us recently."

  • "This was one of the projects for which the City wanted money. I thought we had set aside the funds years ago when the Phase 1 Agreement was signed with the Senior Levels. Each level was to put up $10M for the project

    Where are the City funds now? What happened to them? Do we have the money available for our share? If not, is the whole deal dead since the Senior Levels would not put their $20M into a project that cannot pay for itself.

    By the way, we do know that the costs of the project have increased dramatically above the $30M mark. We were told that at Council a long time ago by Mr. Tyagi. I speculated that it was due to increased expropriation costs as well as increased construction costs.

    Is this why the City has done little for years on this project: no more money. If so, why is Eddie wasting millions on trying to do a deal with Detroit if we cannot afford to improve the access to the Tunnel."

Mr. Taqtaq has to be extremely interested in the expropriations as well since we were told by the Star:

  • "Closing a portion of Goyeau Street to all but tunnel-bound traffic is being considered by the Windsor Tunnel Commission as a solution to the traffic tie-ups at Goyeau and Wyandotte Street East. The closure, which would affect Goyeau between Park Street and Wyandotte, would allow an expansion of the tunnel plaza and reduce the congestion during morning rush hour and at other peak crossing times.

    "The status quo simply isn't working," said Mayor Eddie Francis, who is chairman of the commission. "We don't want people to panic because it may not be feasible, but we have to find an alternative to a situation which has become intolerable for our citizens, for commuters and for tourists."

    The commission has requested a report from the traffic engineering department on the impact of closing the street and what it would do to traffic patterns in the immediate vicinity.

    Along the stretch of Goyeau being considered, the only building not owned by either the city or the Windsor Tunnel Duty Free Shop is a Burger King franchise opposite the tunnel entrance."

Go back up and look at the Council Minute of July 24, 2002. Isn't what the Mayor is talking about exactly what Mr. Taqtaq was requesting years before. Of interest, that request was not included at the time when Councillor Francis as he then was introduced his Motion.

Here is a rather astounding fact that I found in a Tunnel Commission Minute also:

I do not know if the property involved was the Duty Free Shop but presumably it had to be on the Tunnel's property and it claims that the Mayor's wife was a tenant there. Frankly, without knowing exactly which building is involved, it is hard to be able t0 comment about what the impact is on our discussion.

Remember that I wrote before a BLOG about the Windsor Mayors' [plural ie not just this Mayor] inherent conflict of interest over being Mayor and also being head of the Tunnel Commission. [BLOG October 25, 2005 "Windsor Mayors' Conflict Of Interest"]

  • "In other words, is there an inherent Conflict of Interest built in when the Mayor and Councillors are both a Tunnel Commission Chair or member and when they are also a member of City Council. On the one hand the Mayor can say from a Windsor-wide perspective : "We see the tunnel as a public utility while the DCTC sees it more as a profit-generating private operation." On the other hand when the Bridge takes away Tunnel traffic, he says as a true competitor "our traffic has gone to the bridge and we have to do a better job of convincing people that the tunnel should be their crossing of choice."

Obviously the Bridge and City are competitors here but are the homes on Indian Road, the various by-laws the subject of OMB appeals, the Sandwich Community and so on all part of this as well? What about the US$75M deal proposed by Edgar with Detroit for Windsor to control their half of the Tunnel, how does that fit in with all of this friendship concept?

Remember the outrageous sum that the City received when Brighton Beach was sold to the Feds at a sum that seemed overly generous, $34M as opposed to around $5-$6M: As the Star reported:

  • "City council will use $6 million from the deal to pay off its legal costs for Toronto lawyer David Estrin and others incurred during the last five years of the border road debate, with the rest of the money being directed toward the city's capital budget and replenishing municipal reserves, said Mayor Eddie Francis...

    The mayor said the transaction is another indication of council's support for the Brighton Beach location for the next Windsor- Detroit bridge. The city has opposed a twin span proposal by Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun."

Naturally, if there was no DRIC Bridge, the City's land would not have been needed and never would have been sold. Was that one of the reasons why the City has been so aggressive against the Bridge Company? And all of that Estrin money for opposing the Bridge Co. is being re-imbursed in effect by the party blocking the Bridge Co. moving forward as confirmed by Governor Granholm.

Has the border file now become even more confused given the relationship amongst Edgar, his wife and Mr. Taqtaq?

Given all of this uncertainty and confusion, how can Council allow Edgar to be their main negotiator with the Senior Levels and the Voice of Council? How does the Mayor justify remaining in that position given his friendship and business relationship with the Duty Free Store owners who helped him get elected Mayor in the first place?

Clearly, we need a way to deal with these types of issues and a way to find an answer to all of this. And there is one. Just read the conclusion of the Series.

Friendship, The Conclusion (Part 5)

I trust that I, at least, have made you do some thinking over the last 5 days.

You will need to read right down to the end of this BLOG for you to appreciate how difficult a matter the friendship issue is and how it has been dealt with in other situations.

I will repeat again. Neither I nor any of Gord's "smear artists, conspiracy theorists, tire slashers, child harassers and professional moaners" brought up this controversy over friendship. The Integrity Commissioner as confirmed by the Mayor's statement did.

I am not suggesting any improprieties. No illegal activities, no pay-offs, graft, under the table deals or bribes. Nope, it is a very narrow matter; it is the issue of being a "friend" or perhaps a "business associate"that has now reared its head so we need to look at this concept carefully.

The friendship/business associate matter is not a legal concern for anyone except a member of Council. He/she has the legal responsibility to declare the pecuniary interest and follow what the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act requires.

Mr. Basse stirred up a hornet's nest as far as I am concerned with his still not released to the public Report on whether Councillor Jones should have recused himself and not been involved in anything to do with the CUPE matter due to his friendship with Jean Fox, the President of one of the CUPE locals.
I have spent some time looking at the Mayor and his friends and business relationships because of his key role in the City. More importantly, he confirmed the concern raised by the Integrity Commissioner about Councillor Jones and friendship
  • "City councillor Ron Jones has hired a lawyer to defend his interests against allegations of wrongdoing that may emerge from an investigation into hundreds of cell phone calls to CUPE union president Jean Fox during the 101-day strike by municipal workers.

    Jones insisted repeatedly Saturday there has been nothing “inappropriate” in his relationship with Fox — either before, during or after the strike...

    His calls and friendship with Fox date back years and many of the calls occurred around his prostate cancer surgery in February, while others focused on supporting Fox while she obtained a restraining order in court against an anti-CUPE protester, Jones said."

However, our Mayor claimed as I Blogged previously:

  • "The issue in front of us is discussions that were taking place with the head of CUPE in the middle of negotiations. That is an important distinction to be drawn here."

It would seem that the Mayor is of the opinion that even if the calls were purely "innocent," since there was an important City matter involved, that makes a big difference.

If Councillor Jones should have recused himself then from the CUPE strike matter because of "friendship," using Edgar's own logic, should the Mayor be required to do so on the border file, the Arena, the canal, the Zalev properties and so on? Clearly, if "friends" or "business associates" are involved in a City matter, using Edgar's perspective, what choice has he but to recuse himself and to permit new leadership from the City to take over.

As Gord wrote, perhaps this is exactly what Windsor needs, a "vanilla man" who, along with one or two other Councillors, would form an executive team who will not go to war against everyone but who might actually accomplish something:

  • "And make no mistake. Marra is a nice man. Polite. Well-spoken. Amiable.

    Those are fine qualities, even if Coun. Alan Halberstadt described him as "a bit vanilla." But is that what Windsor needs in 2010 and beyond, a nice guy to manage the corner office and keep everyone placated, if not happy? Under normal circumstances, I would say yes. Maybe it's time for a healer and soother who won't ruffle too many feathers and can get along with Liberal friends at Queen's Park."

Do you understand now why in the first BLOG I mentioned about the earth shaking and why I was optimistic finally. We would have people in charge who would view our issues differently and who would actually try to achieve a solution rather than constantly being at odds with everyone to our economic detriment!

What are we to conclude from this discussion? I think it is simple. We need a stated case to a Judge or a judicial inquiry to detemine how far the conflicts of interest policy spreads in our political arena.

Will it be expensive to do? I would expect so unfortunately. Here is what the inquiry into the issues surrounding Mayor Hazel McCallion may cost:

  • "But inquiry lawyer Will McDowell warned "a great deal remains unknown" about the issues and the commission's focus will evolve as new information emerges.

    The inquiry is now adjourned for preparatory investigative work.

    It is to resume no later than March 1.

    Its $2.5 million budget compares with the original Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry into municipal corruption, which ran for 214 days, cost $20 million and had about 60 lawyers acting for the 22 parties.

    Cunningham said his inquiry will differ from such prominent ones as the Walkerton water scandal and Air India bombing.

    Those inquiries, he said, set out to determine what caused those tragedies and how they could have been prevented.

    "On the other hand, we set out to examine certain transactions and relationships," he said.

    "These may well be important matters, and they are certainly matters of contention."

    Cunningham framed the two broad areas to be investigated:

    The context, history and conduct of city business as it related to a purchase and sale of a 3.5-hectare parcel of land owned by OMERS that involved Peter McCallion and World Class Developments.

    (The deal involved private meetings between Mayor McCallion, the developer and OMERS, while zoning of the land was still before council. OMERS subsequently sold the land to the city, which in turn leased it to Sheridan College.)

    The circumstances surrounding an agreement that gave OMERS, a 10 per cent shareholder in Enersource, a controversial veto."

Friendship, business associates....does the Mayor now have to back out from a number of major transactions in this City? Given the Basse comments and Edgar's own words, Edgar (aka Eddie) has no alternative in my opinion but to recuse himself from some or all of the matters until the issues are clarified or risk negative comments from Windsorites during the entire election year until we know what the line is that should not be crossed.

Take a look at this story and see how something that is legal and innocent can take on an ugly and dirty side very easily:

  • "Friends in high places

    In Canada, business influence appears at all levels of government. The biggest single donors to the election campaigns of municipal leaders are property developers. Is it because property developers as a group are more concerned about the democratic process than others? It might be. However, it seems likely that the donations are also made because municipal politicians control the zoning and development of land.

    That's why a group in London, Ontario is asking questions. George Sinclair of the Urban League of London thinks there's a "troubling" connection between donations made to candidates for city council and a subsequent vote.

    Prior to the November 2003 municipal election Shmuel Farhi, president of Farhi Holdings Corp., made total donations of around $5,000 to about a dozen candidates. Two weeks later, Council voted 10 to six to allow Mr. Farhi's company to demolish the former home of baseball legend George (Mooney) Gibson. Of the 10 who voted in favour of the demolition at least six received donations from Mr. Farhi. Of the six who voted against, only one accepted a donation from Mr. Farhi.

    The developer told the London Free Press that his sole motivation "is to help people who spend a lot of time and effort to make the municipality a better place to work and live." Mr. Farhi added that the timing of his contributions was "pure coincidence."

Would that defence work for Mr. Farhi today in Windsor given his "friend" comment about the Mayor? Could our Mayor claim that his and his wife's relationship with a "friend" and "business associate" when dealing with City matters are of little concern? It is not an easy question to answer.

Take a look at this story commenting on a US Supreme Court decision . It is based on the US Constitution but the reasoning could be very applicable here. It shows how friends and business associate questions can be dealt with in a logical fashion. Of course, what is reasonable to one may not be reasonable to another. But it is a start:

  • "Judge Should Have Recused Himself in Case Involving Contributor, Court Rules

    The 5-4 ruling, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, is a victory for groups interested in curbing the influence of money on judicial elections.

    The Supreme Court ruled Monday that West Virginia's chief justice should have stepped down from a case involving his campaign's biggest financial supporter.

    The 5-4 ruling, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, is a victory for groups interested in curbing the influence of money on judicial elections.

    "In all the circumstances of this case, due process requires recusal," Kennedy wrote.

    Kennedy's opinion was joined by the court's more liberal justices.

    "There is a serious risk of actual bias when a person with a personal stake in a particular case had a significant and disproportionate influence in placing the judge on the case by raising funds or directing the judge's election campaign when the case was pending or imminent," Kennedy concluded.

    The case closely resembles the plot-line in novelist John Grisham's 2008 book "The Appeal."

    The case examined Justice Brent Benjamin's decision not to recuse himself from a $50 million lawsuit involving the man who spent millions of dollars to get him elected to the bench. The losing side in the West Virginia mining case before Benjamin argued he should have stepped aside for his "probability of bias" in the case, which involved Massey Coal.

    Massey's CEO spent $3 million in ads to help Benjamin's election.

    The Supreme Court had previously only recognized the need for recusals when judges have a personal financial interest or some other closely held personal connection to a case. Monday's opinion expands that reach."

Justice Anthony Kennedy speaking for the majority sets out the approach and how to handle matters:

  • "Under our precedents there are objective standards that require recusal when "the probability of actual bias on the part of the judge or decisionmaker is too high to be constitutionally tolerable...

    Not every campaign contribution by a litigant or attorney creates a probability of bias that requires a judge's recusal, but this is an exceptional case...

    Much like determining whether a judge is actually biased, proving what ultimately drives the electorate to choose a particular candidate is a difficult endeavor, not likely to lend itself to a certain conclusion. This is particularly true where, as here, there is no procedure for judicial factfinding and the sole trier of fact is the one accused of bias. Due process requires an objective inquiry into whether the contributor's influence on the election under all the circumstances "would offer a possible temptation to the average . . . judge to ... lead him not to hold the balance nice, clear and true..."

    Although there is no allegation of a quid pro quo agreement, the fact remains that Blankenship's extraordinary contributions were made at a time when he had a vested stake in the outcome. Just as no man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, similar fears of bias can arise when--without the consent of the other parties--a man chooses the judge in his own cause. And applying this principle to the judicial election process, there was here a serious, objective risk of actual bias that required Justice Benjamin's recusal...

    But, as we have indicated, that is just one step in the judicial process; objective standards may also require recusal whether or not actual bias exists or can be proved. Due process "may sometimes bar trial by judges who have no actual bias and who would do their very best to weigh the scales of justice equally between contending parties." The failure to consider objective standards requiring recusal is not consistent with the imperatives of due process. We find that Blankenship's significant and disproportionate influence--coupled with the temporal relationship between the election and the pending case--" ' "offer a possible temptation to the average ... judge to ... lead him not to hold the balance nice, clear and true." ' " On these extreme facts the probability of actual bias rises to an unconstitutional level.

    The Court was careful to distinguish the extreme facts of the cases before it from those interests that would not rise to a constitutional level."

What was intersting in this case also is that another judge recused himself because of friendship and some photographs:

  • "Maynard withdrawing from Supreme Court case after vacation photos with Blankenship released

    State Supreme Court Chief Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard will withdraw from the court's reconsideration of a decision that favored Massey Energy, a coal company run by his longtime friend Don Blankenship.

    "It is not enough to do justice - justice also must satisfy the appearance of justice," Maynard wrote in a brief memo filed today with the court.

    He added, "I have decided to voluntarily recuse myself from this case. I will recuse myself despite the fact I have no doubt in my own mind and firmly believe I have been and would be fair and impartial in this case. I know that for a certainty."

    Controversy erupted this month over Maynard's majority vote in the court's 3-2 decision that excused Massey from a $50 million verdict after photos surfaced showing the chief justice and Blankenship allegedly vacationing together in the Monte Carlo area...

    Caperton wanted Maynard off the case because of the justice's decades-long friendship with Blankenship. He also wanted Maynard to withdraw his majority vote from the decision...

    At least three of the photos show the men posing and smiling at seaside locations and sitting at an outdoor restaurant.

    It's unknown who took the photos, which were dated July 3-5, 2006 - a time when Massey had an appeal pending before the Supreme Court...

    In his memo released today, Maynard said he worries that the controversy that the photos have caused is the sole reason he's stepping aside.

    "Above all else, I am very concerned about how the public views this court," Maynard wrote. "Without question, the judicial branch of state government should always be held in the highest public confidence and trust. The mere appearance of impropriety, regardless of whether it is supported by fact, can compromise the public confidence in the courts. For that reason - and that reason alone - I will recuse myself from this case."

All this is very interesting you might think. Think about what I have written in the past 4 BLOGS and apply the facts to what the US Supreme Court said. Then if you think you have the correct answer, consider this photo in addition. It is of the Abe Taqtaq wedding party with Edgar as one of the important members of that party.

What is your answer now? What should be done on the many key areas in which the Mayor is involved? Should the Mayor at least on everything to do with the border continue to be the Voice of Council or recuse himself now because of the Taqtaq relationship. Or not!

In this instance you, dear reader, are the Chief Justice in the Court of Public Opinion in Windsor:

COURT CLERK: How say you. Is this one of those "exceptional cases or not? In this case YOU are the Judge"

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More On The 400 Audit

Some additional thoughts on what happened yesterday with the 400 Building audit report.


Is it true that someone wanted changes to be made to the Audit Report at the in camera Audit Committee meeting at 10:30 yesterday? I wonder what those changes were and who was the one who wanted them made and why?

I expect that in order to make changes, their procedure would require a reconsideration of the Report. My guess would be that there were not enough votes to get that reconsideration.

When exactly was the Audit Report printed for distribution to the public? Was it really done after 3:30 p.m. yesterday?


Can't the Mayor keep his nose out of other people's business? Does he have to micromanage everything including matters that are none of his business.

The Star reported:
  • “But Mayor Eddie Francis, who is not a member of the audit committee, said he spoke with the office of the Auditor General of Ontario and the KPMG lawyer about the importance of releasing all of the report sooner rather than later.

    “The public had an expectation that all these issues would come out, and that the entire audit would come out,” Francis said. “It was important, from my perspective, that the public expectation be met…”

    Francis noted that the audit committee acts independently of city council.”

If that is the case, then why did Edgar intervene? Isn’t this an improper intervention in the audit process? It is exactly what he did in the WUC matter when he called up the Auditor General and had a private conversation with him.


Our ex-CAO is a really lucky guy, winning the lotttery and not having to buy a ticket.

The CAO of Innisfil left his job at the end of June, a couple of weeks before the near riot involving CUPE workers. John Skorobohacz was able to get that job and take his multi-multi-thousand dollar severance payment from Windsor taxpayers with him even though he resigned. How fortunate!

He had a bit of an inside track since

  • “Skorobohacz had only been gone six months from his Windsor city clerk's position -- to take on the CAO's job at the Town of Innisfil near Barrie --when he was hired back by a new mayor and council.”

I wonder if John will still think that the near riot was the low point of his professional career after he reads what KPMG has to say about his role in the 400 building audit. It was not very complimentary at all. The Star did a nice number on him too. But then again, he is not around to defend himself so it was easy.

The KPMG comments came in relation to explaining the long delay in having the 400 building audit completed. Here are a few of the comments that were made:

  1. The former CAO does not appear to have provided his support for the project, and the City Auditor was never able to get access to the records required to complete its audit before preparing to his April 2007 draft report.
  2. We found a number of instances demonstrating a strained relationship between the former CAO and the City Auditor as well as between the former CAO and the Audit Committee.
  3. October 11, 2005 -- -- CAO receives a proposal from Brodel Management review the City’s performance with respect to project planning and implementation of the 400 CHS building
  4. Early October, 2005-- -- the CAO and City Auditor meet to hold an audit the entrance meeting. The purpose… is for the auditor to gain support of the CA over the project

    It is clear that this required support was not received
  5. October 13, 2005 -- --in our view, it would be expected that these types of records would be readily available, requiring minimal time or resources from Administration to produce.

    The response from the former City Engineer was:

    “There are simply no resources available to assist with the audit at this time or at any time in the foreseeable future.”
  6. Mid-October to mid–November-- -- a representative of Brodel interviewed approximately 20 City Administration and management staff… these interviews appear to have been authorized by the CAO. It appears inconsistent that all of these individuals could be made available to assist with the Brodell review when they were not available to assist with the Audit process
  7. April 3, 2006… it appears to be indicative of an atmosphere of mistrust between Administration and the City Auditor.

And it goes on and on and on… However, we learn that on April 13, 2008

  • “The Mayor also apparently reviews a copy of the draft audit report around this time.”

I very much liked this finding of KPMG.

  • “We found no evidence of the mayor or council intervening in the audit process.”

That is a perfect bureaucratic response that does not say that they did not intervene, only that KPMG could find no evidence of it.

You can read the rest of the Report for yourself. It is not very long.


It seems that Ms. Federica Nazzani, Holy Names grad and Airport General Manager is no more. It is now President and CEO Nazzani.

Remember, she was the one who had the great successes such as:

  • "YQG is not being recognized as a cargo airport by either forwarders or shippers

  • Lufthansa "hadn't known it [the Airport] existed before being hired to study it, which is disquieting"

  • Lufthansa told Council when delivering their report that YQG is:
    "Small and practically unknown to the greater airline world."

  • "Francis said some of the freight forwarders -- those who are hired to handle cargo for customers -- contacted during the study weren't even aware Windsor's airport is open for business."

But to me her biggest claim to fame is:

  • "Airport records two years late

    Audited statements for 2007 and 2008 by the operator of Windsor Airport were not turned over to the city's external auditor KPMG until after the accounting firm raised concerns Thursday during the city's audit committee meeting...

    "I was pleased to hear the information was made available to KPMG, but why the delay?" said Coun. Bill Marra, another audit committee member.

    "The information was not forthcoming and (KPMG) was waiting a lengthy period of time for it. This certainly seems unusual. The bottom line it's been resolved, but the auditors were concerned enough to identify it as an issue."

    Airport board member Coun. Drew Dilkens said they have been clueless over YQG audited statements of the last two years being incomplete and withheld."


More messes:

  • the City breached its implied obligation under the “bidding contract” to treat all bidders fairly and evenly. Further, the City breached the “bidding contract” with the bidder which submitted a compliant bid (Eagle) when it awarded the contract for Part A to a bidder - Monarch – which had submitted a non-compliant bid.

  • With respect to the award of a contract for WPS, the City did not follow by-law 9-2000 and sole sourced the furniture purchase to the supplier awarded the contract for Part A, namely Monarch.

  • It appears that Tayco, Eagle and Artopex (the last being the supplier to Mayhew and Eagle) all complained to the City about the process but have not subsequently commenced proceedings (so far as we are aware) to pursue perceived rights. The City has an arguable limitations defence should claims be asserted by any of these three parties.

  • (iv) What Are the Implications of Making the Issues Respecting the Tender Public?
    The issue is one of risk management. The City will have to assess the likelihood that any of the bidders will take action against the City. If the assessment is that there is no serious chance of a bidder taking action (keeping in mind that only one bidder can recover substantial damages), then the report may be made public, from a purely legal perspective.If the City is concerned that one or more bidders will bring an action against the City, then the City may consider either redactions from the report or preserving the report as an in camera document.

    The City should consider not making the report on the Tender public at all. Owner errors in running bid processes – stemming from a lack of understanding of the “bidding contract” – are very common. The difficulties with the Tender do not involve any form of outside interference with the process. Canada obtained the furniture it wanted from the lowest pre-qualified bidder (although not necessarily the lowest compliant pre-qualified bidder).

  • Miller Thomson LLP has advised that there is nothing unlawful or extraordinary about a municipality using outside consultants, such as experienced architectural firms, for the procurement of specialized items such as specific kinds of furniture. However, the work of these consultants is normally very closely coordinated with the municipality's purchasing department. Due to insufficient levels of staffing in the City’s purchasing department at the time, that close coordination did not occur in this case.

  • a) The impacts of the errors on the furniture tender are similar to those that occurred on the RFP award, which are covered 400 CHS Report I-A.

  • b) There was a measurable financial cost to the City for the errors made.


It is not enough to stall off audit reports for years; let’s kill everything until after the next election.

Our Mayor has stated:

  • “Asked if he thinks the way the audit committee functions needs to change, Francis said yes. “I said that way before this report came out, and way before — long before — the invoice came out.”

    Francis said this is likely the first major project undertaken by the audit committee, and there needs to be redefinition and refinement “so that there’s a clarity of roles and expectations.”

    Among the audit committee members are city councillors Bill Marra and Alan Halberstadt.

    Francis said it’s his belief that the audit committee should be free of politicians.”

I would have thought that the proper answer, given the mess that has been revealed in several audits recently, is to beef up the Audit department and not worry so much about the Audit Committee itself.

I do not remember the Mayor being concerned about this issue when the Audit Committee was invisible during the Windsor Utilities Commission fiasco when his actions were being looked at closely.

I wonder if the Arena audit will be next.


  • “Asked if he thinks the report was worth it, Francis said that audits are useful tools — but he added: “I need to put this in perspective. This project is three-quarters of a decade old. This project started in 2002... There has been a lot that has changed in this corporation since then.”

    Francis noted that several of the report’s recommendations have already been implemented by the city, and that the value of an audit is dependent on its timeliness.

    “I believe this audit has taken a very, very long time,” he said."

Unfortunately, the Audit revealed that there are many weaknesses that our Mayor has not looked at and still remain outstanding.

But who cares. Just read mini-Gord's column today.

The Real 400 Building Audit Scandal: The Arena

Angela Berry has done taxpayers a great service. Her Audit Report is a tale of massive City incompetence that has cost taxpayers millions of dollars in the 400 Building (although that amount has not been calculated) and will have cost us millions more in projects that followed because the Dunbar lessons were never learned since they were kept hidden for years.

Here are some figures you might consider to understand what I mean:
  • "Vindella’s original price per sq ft was identified as $182.50. Mady’s was $164. After adjustments: Vindella’s overall price is $154 per sq ft. Now Mady’s price is $157 per sq ft.

    Keep in mind this is for a 10 storey building. If we adjust for the difference in cost between a 4 storey [Vindella] and a 10 storey [Mady] building… makes Mady’s final price $126 per sq ft.

    Even if this adjustment were not made, Mady’s’s final price was $157 per sq ft with a huge score advantage in the assessment matrix over the Vindella proposal which was $154 per square foot.

    If Mady had the opportunity to revise his proposal to a 4 storey building, it is reasonable to assume that his price would have come in a much less than the $154 per sq ft of Vindella."
The Mike Dunbar Audit must be released to the public immediately and all the events surrounding it must be investigated thoroughly even if it takes a judicial inquiry to do so.

In my opinion, his report is fundamental to understanding why there was such a huge rush to get the arena deal signed, sealed and delivered before the new City Council took over in 2007. Those details will be outlined below.

And it has nothing to do with Project Ice Track moving to Tecumseh either.
  • "Dunbar, a whistleblower in the MFP financing scandal, had "limited access to the project records and project staff to provide clarification and answers to all questions," but taxpayers still don't know why and whether to blame personalities or systemic failings.

    Was the auditor asking the wrong questions of the wrong people before all the files had been closed?

    Did administrators -- taking their cue from the top -- treat his legitimate queries on behalf of taxpayers as more meddlesome than meaningful?

    Did they dodge phone calls and duck under desks when the auditor came knocking on their office doors?

    "He obviously ran into roadblocks, administrative roadblocks, in getting information," said committee member and Ward 3 Coun. Alan Halberstadt.

    "That's emerging as a huge issue in this whole audit, as it should be. The city auditor, the auditor general, should have unfettered access to information. In this particular case, it didn't happen."

    That's disturbing and should have been rectified in a sternly worded memo to staff from Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis or CAO John Skorobohacz.

    Administrators finally provided auditors late in 2008 -- three years after the building opened and nearly two years after Dunbar's probe -- with "increased access to records, personnel and physical properties" including "11 banker boxes of physical records" and a "large volume" of electronic files."

This BLOG is another long read and I hope you believe it is worth it. You will have time to read it during he holidays after stuffing yourself full of holiday goodies when you have all the time in the world, right! It will give you a completely different perspective about why the 400 Building is a scandal. It really has nothing to do with what the auditor is disclosing in the audit report about the building. It is so much more than that.

Oh I don't expect anything earth-shattering in the Dunbar Audit that the just released audit report will not cover. Angela Berry as Lead Auditor will do a very good job I am sure. However, it is important to know what City officials knew in late 2006 BEFORE the decision was made to build the East End arena.
Why is this so important? As the Star Editorial said in July, 2008:
  • "Though audits are wrongly regarded by some as "witch-hunts," Francis rightly pointed out audits help define deficiencies and strengths so lessons can be learned and processes improved.

    In Windsor's case, for example, experience gained during the construction of the 400 building, which ultimately cost $6 million or 22 per cent more than projected in the original budget, would have proven useful during the construction of the $65-million arena."

I suspect that they knew everything about what was in it and maybe even more. What is the consequence:


That is the scandal legacy of the 400 Building.

That project was an unmitigated disaster that opened up the City to a number of lawsuits that probably would have been successful. Just read the comments from the report that I am posting below and weep.

I feel vindicated now. There is even more that I should have written about to the Minister than I knew then:

    October 4, 2006

    Ed Arditti, resident

    Ed Arditti, resident, appears before Council to request that Council reject the recommendation by Administration approving the PCR Contractors Inc. guaranteed fixed price proposal at $47,920,000 for construction of the east end recreation complex, stating that all potential offers need to be fully explored before making any viable decision, and concludes by expressing concern over the use of sole-sourcing as opposed to the requirements of a full RFP process, and suggests that perhaps a judicial review of the entire process undertaken with regards to the arena file needs to be initiated.
  • 10-19-2006 Windsor Star

    A South Windsor resident wants the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to investigate what led city council to approve a plan for an east end arena. But it might be a tough sell convincing the ministry to look into the matter.

    Ed Arditti, a lawyer and community activist, who writes a daily political web log on municipal issues, wants the matter referred to the Ontario Municipal Board. He sent a 22-page letter Wednesday to the ministry outlining his concerns which centre on conflict of interest issues and what he says are violations of the city's purchasing bylaw.

    "I'm giving him 22 pages of what I consider to be good facts, which should raise questions that people ought to be concerned about, including the minister," Arditti said during a news conference.

How could this possibly be and why:

Remember how this all began... the positive story that we were told. As I wrote before:

  • "Back in February of 2006, the Star reported:

    "Councillors approved a report by an independent consultant who found the building was constructed under budget and filled an important need by bringing several city departments under one roof. "Overall, the assessment was that it was done well" and it met the objectives of the city, said John Skorobohacz, the city's chief administrative officer...

    Skorobohacz said the project came in under budget and the city will have an extra $1 million, based on projected revenues and operating expenses.

    The contractor wrote a Letter to the Editor in which he said:

    "After much speculation, allegations and innuendoes, it is vindicating to read in The Star report of Feb. 7 that the municipal building at 400 City Hall Square was constructed under budget. Not that we, the design builder, had any doubts about the conclusions now reached by Coun. Fulvio Valentinis, the independent consultant and the city's chief administrative officer."

    One might want to call up that independent consultant and ask him if he still believes what he said based on this Audit. I certainly believe that the CAO needs to be confronted publicly at Council and asked how he could make his comment. It has to be based on something.

Interestingly, here is what the Auditor said about that consultant's Report:

  • "In October 2005, the City of Windsor hired Brodel Management to conduct a review of the new building using a very limited scope for the review. The proposal to conduct the review stated that “The primary focus of this review is ‘what did we learn’ and ‘how do we do things better?’”

Brodel Management was paid $13,811 to review the construction of 400 City Hall Square. And remember how another consultant hired pushed Council to sign on the dotted line or else regarding the arena:

  • "Greg Curan, representing Curan McCabe Ravindran Ross Inc., appears before Council to provide an overview of their cost review for the proposed Greater Windsor Recreation and Sports Centre, and concludes that overall, PCR’s Design Build proposal of $47,920,000 excluding GST is a fair market value for the project given the scope included, and that the budgetary allowances for “fit-up costs’ and “site servicing costs” are reasonable, and reiterates that should the project be delayed, there would be a potential for the cost of the project to increase."

Let us acknowledge that the 400 Building project was a disaster.

Interestingly, there was mention of the names of Councillors from the past but very few references to the names of Councillors on Council today who were participants in directing the 400 Building project. Councillor Valentinis as I wrote before, as an example, was the only Councillor who was there throughout. He was the Councillor who was involved in the project from start to finish and its biggest defender. If it turns out to be a mess, then he takes the blow and just before an election too.

I’m so glad that these Councillors were protected so that we don’t know whom to blame for this entire screw-up.

I do not recall seeing anything in the Report about the Administrative failure re St. Clair College not coming to the building.

We knew that it was going to be such a disaster because of the failure to deliver the Dunbar Audit by pretending that it really was a draft report, not a final one and that it was incomplete.

Let us accept what the Audit stated that it covered the grounds set out in Dunbar.

We have now an explanation why the City did not want to reveal the Dunbar Audit back in 2006 or 2007: there was a real risk of a City being sued by one or more of the unsuccessful bidders on the project:

  • "EllisDon was aware of its legal rights. The City is fortunate not to have been sued... Such legal proceedings would have imposed significant costs on the City in terms of legal expenses and potential damage claims, not to mention the political and reputational cost to the City...

    Unless there is something we do not know, any claim by EllisDon for breach of the "bidding contract" expires six years after its recognition that it had a claim. At some point prior to October 30, 2002 – when EllisDon wrote to the then Mayor – it recognized it had a claim. We believe any claim which EllisDon might be able to make on this RFP is now, in all likelihood, statute barred as being beyond limitation period."

All the nonsense that we were fed for years including Administration not talking to the City Auditor and the missing boxes of documents were that, nonsense. Mere diversionary tactics. Play the poor citizens. They won't know any better.

Should we congratulate our brilliant Mayor and Administration for not releasing the Report until this time so that the likelihood of a lawsuit is minimal? You can do it if you choose to do so, dear Reader, but as for me, I choose not to be misled by the people who govern me even if it is supposedly to my advantage.

Here's the problem though. They forgot about Chuck Mady who, if you read the report carefully, was royally screwed. Now that the facts are out there, facts that he never could have known about, he can sue and win easily:

  • According to project documentation, given fair presentation of financial facts, Mady was the lowest priced proposal at this time.
  • On the RFP assessment matrix, Mady scored second to EllisDon while Mady's price was lower than all prices. Notwithstanding, Mady's proposal was not shortlisted.
  • Mady was given no opportunities to submit an additional proposal while Vendela was given the opportunity."

Oh my aching taxpayer pocket-book!

I had heard a long time ago that this was supposedly a real risk to the City but a few phone calls I made told me that the real risk was inconsequential.

Let's get real. One of the practical issues which any party must consider before commencing an action is the cost to bring the lawsuit compared with the potential recovery. Moreover, a supplier to a large customer does not help his cause by suing its existing and prospective clients. There are business deals to be done in the future and few contractors would sue a major customer like the City and risk being shut-out from new jobs.

I think there was another reason why the audit took so long to come out. As I said above, so the arena could be built as I will demonstrate below.

By not releasing the Audit in a timely fashion, in fact there was an adverse consequence that may well have impacted us drastically. By not revealing the facts in a timely manner through the Dunbar audit, the City could not learn and may well have committed the same sins as in the 400 Building project and more in the construction of the arena.

What I am going to set out now are a number of comments made in the Audit Report that I believe that you should read along with my comments. I have no intention of going through 200 pages of the detailed Audit Report in this BLOG but rather choose to give you an overview of the comments made to show how much of a mess this City has been under in the past and frankly, has not changed very much under two terms of Edgar (aka Eddie).

If it makes you sick to your stomach to see the incompetence, then imagine what may come as other audits are undertaken.

  1. While the audit findings of the project events are concerning, the root cause of what took place is that the City’s governance structure at that time was not as robust as it should have been. It was significantly fragmented creating an environment ripe for exposing the City to unnecessary risk and cost. The criticisms in this report reveal that risk. The report recommendations should assist the City to improve its performance on similar large and/or complex procurement projects and to improve on the quality and usefulness of information reported to Council for decision-making purposes. [Opportunity lost on the arena]
  2. We were able to identify significant risk and control weaknesses in the City’s governance structure, to present an inventory of what the City has done since 2002 to improve the weakened control conditions, and to develop recommendations towards improvement on serious risk weaknesses that exist today. [Unfortunately, most of the so-called improvements took place in 2007 and beyond after the arena deal was signed!]
  3. The recommendations of the report speak to a call for reform to the City’s governance structure and its support systems. The main audit report demonstrates the need for such change, through findings and detailed discussions of the decisions and actions of the City during the project Design/Build RFP and Main Furniture Tender processes. [There is still a need to reform.]
  4. These serious problems faced by the City prompted the decision of Council to step into the role of Administration in undertaking a review of the RFP responses in developing a short list of the RFP proponents for the 400 CHS project. This action took place in the midst of Administration managing the RFP process and created an environment of conflicting processes, unfair practices frustration and intimidation. [Hmmm Council was in charge of the arena project supposedly too]
  5. Certain practices used by the City – both staff and Council members – during the RFP process through to the award of the contract of the selected proponent, were unfair and were in contravention of the laws that govern the City of Windsor. The audit assists in providing recommendations to address the risk of the City making the same mistakes in the future. [Well, looks like we blew that on the arena deal since the Dunbar audit was never released!]
  6. Therefore, by using the examples of the past from which to learn important lessons, the audit can help prevent the recurrence of structural weaknesses in the City's governance system [As above, we blew it again]
  7. Administration did not provide Council with a strong business case with a defined critical overview of the prospective financial and environmental impacts, risks of, or alternatives to the project. [Failure of Administration that we also saw in the CUPE strike]
  8. Anyone preparing information for Council, which is intended to be acted upon, has a duty of care to take all reasonable steps to ensure that what is prepared for Council is done so with great clarity, is unbiased and includes all relevant information and that is material to the decision. The reporting to Council in this case was unclear, weak in disclosure of relevant material information in some areas was inconsistent. [Damning indictment of Administration. Same issues now with the CUPE strike? And with what else? Should heads roll?]
  9. Additional causes for the problems include, that the situation resulted in considerable confusion and inconsistency regarding the respective roles of individual members of Council and the Administration on the committee appointed to oversee the RFP process. And that throughout the 400 CHS procurement processes, Council members and some senior staff members came to demonstrate a low level of awareness and understanding of some of the most basic principles of the laws governing the City. [[Has anything really changed now?]
  10. The overriding concern of the findings presented in this audit report is that weaknesses in the City’s governance structure and support systems, compounded by a low level of awareness and understanding of the principles of some of the laws governing the City, have led to an ongoing problem for the city of Windsor. While a great deal of progress has been made since 2002, they were still a significant level of risk that remains today [Obviously, since this report is long overdue by years!]
  11. The central conclusion of the review was that certain practices used by the City, both staff and Council members, during the RFP process through to the award of a contract of the selected proponent, were unfair and were in contravention of the laws that govern the City of Windsor…. There is concern that the environment and culture of the City during the 400 CHS project fostered the pressure, opportunity and the rationalization to bend or go around the rules. [I would be willing to wager it was just as bad or worse on the arena deal where political lives were at stake]
  12. The adverse impact of this type of risk environment is the strongest in times where it matters the most, when the city is in the process of making important, time sensitive and except expensive decisions. Given the ongoing high volume of work and activities, there is a concern that this is a regular risk scenario for Council and Administration at the City of Windsor and that is our strong recommendation that this negative culture and governance environment be immediately addressed. [It has to be even worse now with high unemployment, fiscal pressures and Edgar's hugely expensive and absurd mind's eyes visions dominating the scene]
  13. … the result was unfair and caused the risk of costly lawsuits against the City, members of Council and members of senior administration.
  14. Because of the problems in the governance structure, Council and some members of Administration were without access to critical information that would have presented them the opportunity to help the City make alternative, or better, decisions [How does City Hall secrecy with information being kept from Council in a timely fashion fit into this?]
  15. Through this audit, we have raised the awareness that in today’s environment of municipal transparency and accountability, both Council and senior Administration are at risk of making decisions without access to the best information available to the point where serious errors may be made and serious risk may be invited. Both Council and senior Administration are at risk of being held legally and professionally responsible for errors that take place in the name of the City of Windsor [Damning indictment of City Hall failure and the legal consequences to taxpayers.]
  16. The problem was, and remains, the weaknesses of the City’s governance structure. Focusing on the structural problems… the audit recommendations call for reform to the City’s governance system. [So much for Edgar's campaign promise of many years ago when he first ran: "Too often, a very important segment of our community’s management equation – your elected representatives on City Council – have not been trusted with key information. As Mayor, I will ensure that Councillors are always informed, not neutralized. I will strive to consistently build a collegial atmosphere, not an autocratic one, between the Mayor and the ten Councillors.]
  17. And… the second is more long-term: effect the changes needed to prevent the City from making the same mistakes in the future. [Remember MFP, Canderel etc. Here we go again]
  18. Council members and some senior staff members demonstrated a lack of awareness and understanding of some of the most basic principles of the laws governing the City.
  19. The City Solicitor was impeded from carrying out the legal duties of his senior legal position
  20. The City is fortunate not have been sued by EllisDon when it was passed over… Such legal proceedings would have imposed significant cost on the city
  21. A best practice of project management is that a successful project starts with a solid business case, one that justifies informed, high-level support that later, everyone else can also see reason to support. We did not find evidence of a comprehensive business case being presented to Council for informed decision-making purposes for this project. The decision to proceed does not appear to have been based on a defined critical review of the prospective financial and environmental impacts, risks of, or alternatives to the project.
  22. The cart was put before the horse when the project was approved before the project was planned… between the "idea" and the "reality" phases, the critical steps taken towards project planning and implementation were weak, perhaps because a strong business case was never created [See below re the arena! It will make your skin crawl]
  23. Conducting the business of large project management with a good method of methodology – and good controls in place to ensure the methodology is working – puts City projects at risk of being managed ad-hoc. Managing a large procurement projects in this type of unplanned, reactive environment, is almost certain to lead to problems that may be avoided with a detailed business plan.
  24. The overriding concern is not a question of the dedication, commitment or skill of Administration, but that, for most part for most staff, large and/or complex Project Management is not the principal role of Administration. [The City should not be in the business of constructing large projects. But see above what the then-CAO said in February, 2006 re how well we did in this project coming in under budget!]
  25. Phase 1 of a best practice project management methodology requires a solid business plan to serve as the foundation for the project. The City does not currently have a project management methodology in place that makes this a requirement. Project Management is a profession…. In today’s project environment, until such time as the City establishes an adequate project management methodology, at least for major projects, the City’s project management process where will remain one of "high risk", and beset by preventable problems. [Poor Angela Berry if she has to do the Arena audit next]
  26. We suggest that Administration consider using a Project Management Professional (whether internal or external) experienced in large and complex projects, to assist in developing an improved project management methodology
  27. The following list of initiatives and actions of Council, supported by the City’s Administration, demonstrate the City’s deliberate path to increasing transparency and accountability of the municipality: [NOTE all actions identified took place AFTER January 1, 2007, after the deal for the arena was signed by the previous Council. In fact, the earliest action took place in October, 2007.]

It is a shopping list of horrors that City Council could have dealt with if the Dunbar Audit had been released in a timely fashion before commencing work on the Arena. But of course, as we now know, it was not released.

What is interesting in looking back is the speed at which the arena transaction took place.

Hurry, hurry, hurry was the name of the game it seemed. One wonders how much Senior people at City Hall knew about what the City Auditor might reveal with the 400 Building audit and whether steps were taken to get this arena project signed up as quickly as possible for fear that the Audit report would come out and stop everything.

If you believe that this is extremely cynical, then take a look at this comment from the Report:

  • Between January 2002 in September 2002, members of junior Administration brought concerns to the attention of some senior Administration and the message reached the then-CAO regarding the city's own departures from the announced RFP process as represented to the prospective proponents.
  • The concerns about going offsite legally reached the level the then-CAO. However, through the lack of documentation or comment support, it remains unclear whether the then-CAO ever apprised the Councillors on the ad-hoc procurement committee, or apprised Council as a whole, of the dangers of selecting the final proponent without compliance with the applicable procurement rules.

In other words, problems were recognized by Administration long before the Dunbar Audit was ever presented even in its draft form. There is no evidence that this was ever presented to Council before the arena transaction was completed.

Let me also bring to your attention some very interesting matters that took place at Council that suggests to me a desire to rush this process along with respect to the arena without learning the lessons of the 400 Building:

  • 10-05-2006

    City Council voted late Wednesday to move ahead with a new arena and sports centre in east Windsor.

    "I'm not prepared to wait for a better deal because I don't think there's one out there," said Ward 2 Coun. Caroline Postma. "It's time to move, it's the right thing to do."

  • Nov 6, 2006 CR539/2006

    That the Chief Administrator and City Clerk BE AUTHORIZED, subject to successful acquisition of land, securing interim bridge financing and PCR providing a performance bond equal to 50% of the contract price, to execute the construction contract with PCR Contractors Inc. (5255 County Road #42, Windsor, ON N8N 2M1) to undertake the construction and related activities of the East End Recreation Complex for a fixed price sum of $47,920,000 plus G.S.T., satisfactory in form to the City Solicitor, satisfactory in financial content to the City Treasurer, and satisfactory in technical content and specifications to the Executive Director of Parks and Facility perations and the Executive Director of Recreation;

    And further, RE-TITLE Capital Project 7063038 ($250,000) from Riverside Arena Twinning to East End Recreation Complex to reflect consulting and administrative costs necessary to complete Council’s directions to develop and quantify scope and budget for the project.

  • Nov 27, 2006

    THAT City Council APPROVE the East End Arena Recreation Complex project structure and terms of reference as proposed by administration

    THAT the City Clerk BE DIRECTED to bring the issue of Steering Committee composition forth to the Striking Committee at the earliest opportunity.

    Former CAO John Skorobohacz was first given a draft of Dunbar's audit report in December 2006. Dunbar resigned on Dec. 31, 2007.

  • December 18, 2006 last meeting of the year for this Council and before the new Council came into office in 2007

    Consent Agenda

    That the following Consent Agenda and the recommendations contained in the administrative reports BE APPROVED as amended:

    Item 7 Consent to Enter, Permission to Access, Rear Lands Through Site, Multi-Plex Arena Complex and Letter of Intent to PCR Contractors, 1600 Lauzon Road


    That APPROVAL BE GIVEN to enter into a Consent to Enter Agreement and Permission to Access Rear Lands with Farhi Holdings Corporation, the Vendor of the rear lands from 1600 Lauzon Road, to allow construction of the multi-plex arena to start prior to the closing of the land transaction and prior to construction of the McHugh Street extension; and

    That the CAO and City Clerk BE AUTHORIZED to sign the Consent to Enter Agreement prepared in form and content satisfactory to the City Solicitor; and further

    That APPROVAL BE GIVEN to enter into a Letter of Intent with PCR Contractors in advance of signing of the full Design/ Build Contract for the arena Contract, in order that PCR Contractors can commit their resources to the project to finalize the contract drawings necessary for the construction contract; and

    That the CAO and City Clerk BE AUTHORIZED to sign the Letter of Intent, approved as to form by the City Solicitor, as to technical content by the Executive Director of Parks & Facilities and as to financial content by the City Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer.

    [As I wrote at the time:

    Apparently there is this huge urgency to get started before anything is signed and before the City's due diligence is completed. You see everything must get completed for some reason before the fall of 2008. Oh I know it is for the Spitfires' new hockey season but I do not see them putting their name on the dotted line to share the risk.

    Approval is required by Council to allow the City to start work on the Fahri lands on Lauzon for the arena before the land transaction is completed and to enter into a Letter of Intent with PCR to allow them to finalize drawings before the signing of the Full Design/Build Contract and before interim financing of several million dollars is approved by Council.

    Now there is this comment put in on the bottom of Page 2 of the Administration Report that if the project is halted, then the City might have full liability for costs such as material costs and architectural fees, the amount of which Administration graciously did not include so as to worry the Councillors.

    Why can you imagine if PCR ordered all of the materials worth millions and then the deal fell apart! Oh my! We would have to wait until someone else wanted to buy a 1999Port Huron designed arena complex to try and get our money back.

    I can imagine all kinds of reasons for the project being halted from a lawsuit over legality of the process to environmental to not being able to negotiate a contract. The City is absolutely negotiating from a position of weakness once it has committed to pay for fees and materials as Administration is urging Council to do.

    I really have trouble believing that anyone on Council will approve such a request. Why even our Legal Technocrat would never I am sure allow someone to do what is being suggested if he were in private practice in the simplest of house deals never mind a mega-million dollar deal.

    Come on, I wonder if this is being done as a pressure play on Councillors to ensure that the arena is built no matter what happens with Project Ice Track. Once Councillors sign off on what is being proposed, then we are stuck. Even if the Purchasing By-law is subsequently invoked or if the deal falls apart, the City would be exposed to damages claims in the millions of dollars.

  • January 15, 2007 With the new Council in place, now they are on-side with the deal like it or not. It is too late to reject it now
  • CR25/2007
    a. That the Site Plan Approval of the East Windsor Recreation Complex as it relates to the proposed building envelope structure BE APPROVED as located and generally shown on Map #SPC 002/07-1 and 2 (detail) dated January 2007.
    b. That the Chief Building Official BE AUTHORIZED to issue construction permits as required for the proposed East Windsor Recreation Complex structure (Arena Building Envelope) as located and generally shown on Map #SPC 002/07-1 and – 2 (detail) dated January 2007.
    c. That in Accordance with By-law #11275 (delegation of authority for Site Plan Approval) the delegated official BE AUTHORIZED to approve any minor changes to the location of the East Windsor Recreation Complex structure (Arena Building Envelope).
    d. That in consideration of the time sensitive nature of the project the Site Plan Approval of the East Windsor Recreation Complex BE EXPEDIATED and that Administration notifies adjacent stakeholders for input.
    e. That in Accordance with By-law #11275 (delegation of authority for Site Plan Approval) the delegated official in consultation with the Council Steering Committee for the East Windsor Recreation Complex BE AUTHORIZED to approve the remainder of the recreation complex site (i.e. elevations, access, parking areas, lighting, landscaping, screening, etc.).
  • CR26/2007
    THAT City Council AUTHORIZE the City Treasurer to borrow on a temporary basis the funds required in connection with the construction of the Greater Windsor Recreation & Sports Centre;

    THAT City Council APPROVE the recommendation to provide temporary financing for the construction phase of the project by way of bankers acceptance draws;

As I BLOGGED back in early October when Part 1 of the 400 Building audit came out to summarize all of this for you

  • "So what is this all about? What is the real story behind this? We know it is the old Edgar stall game but why?

    As I BLOGGED before, it has nothing to do with the 400 Building but everything to do with the Arena. "11 Boxes As A Stalling Device"

    With the 400 Audit going on forever, there is not time now to do an audit on that monument until after the election. No scandals if any can be made apparent until our new Mayor and Council have been put into office and then it is too late:

    Have we all been played again? Was it was the stall and distract tactic once again. If so, I am so tired of it. I have been telling you about it, dear reader, with respect to the border file for so long so it should not come as a surprise to you if this happened all over again.

    Do you really think that there is anything substantially different in the Dunbar audit than there is in what was disclosed yesterday in the 200 Building audit i.e. Part One of the 400 Building audit? I would doubt it. My guess as well is that Mr. Dunbar probably saw most of what was in the 11 boxes of documents that surprisingly made an appearance that stalled off disclosure of the Audit Report until the City auditor was able to look at the materials.

    What is the difference after all between not having an audit come out in a timely fashion because all of a sudden 11 boxes are mysteriously produced and using full tunneling/Greenlinks to stall off the building of the road to the border until the Province has the money to do it...

    The really shocking revelation as far as he ought to be concerned is that no business case was presented to justify the project in the first place.

    'Prior to the project approval, we expected to find in place a comprehensive business case analysis for a supportable, validated, investment decision. It was anticipated that the business case documentation itself would have set out clear objectives, scope, expected outcomes, critical success factors, risk assessment and risk mitigating measures, an environmental assessment, strategic alignments. The expected business plan would have clearly analysed costs and benefits of the project to Council for decision-making purposes...'

    However, in Windsor, there are more things around than meet the eye. Nothing is as plain as it seems in this City for whatever reason.

    Just consider that the final draft of the Dunbar report was given to the CAO sometime in late 2006. That means most of the work had probably been completed by the fall of 2006. Now sit back and think, what else was taking place in the fall of 2006 that was historic for Windsor. What project could have meant the end of the careers of certain politicians in Windsor if it had not been started?

    Oh I think that you are almost there. It was a design/build project as well, just like the 400 Building. It was started before there was a signed contract. As part of the justification on price, certain other City buildings were to be sold. It was all rush, rush, rush and significant mistakes were made that will now cost us money. Of course, the extra costs will not be shown as part of the project because it is finished, including financing costs that will be charged to General Revenues. It is claimed as well that it was built on budget. And one more amusing point, just like the 400 Building, there is a huge issue with respect to parking.

    Now you know. I’m talking about the East End Arena. If the audit on the 400 Building had come out in the fall of 2006, someone could have asked questions about whether the arena was being constructed in a manner that was more satisfactory than the 400 Building fiasco. Wasn’t our last Municipal Election in the mid-November, 2006? Can you imagine as well the outcry that well could have cost some people their political careers. It might have meant that Project Ice Track would have been built instead in Tecumseh."

    Now the issue is delaying the audit on the Arena for an eternity or perhaps never having one in the first place because of the politicizing of the process."

    So sit back and relax. This is politics too but we are deemed to be too stupid as mere citizens to understand it."