Today, it's another notch in the noose tightening around Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz.
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Posted: Mar 1, 2012, 4:59 PM
BKB Registered User 3712
Join Date: Dec 2008
42 posts - 20 authors - Feb 8BKB. Mar 1, 2012, 4:59 PM.
Seen at a recent Jets game: Phil Sheegl sitting in Shindico's corporate seats. Hmm..
So the mayor's best friend, and the most powerful administrator in the city, is enjoying the hospitality of the mayor's longtime friend and business partner at the most sought-after sporting event in town.
Sam Katz is rapidly running out of cards to play to kibosh the scandal behind how Shindico Realty got four non-tendered contracts worth a total $15 million to build four new firehalls, including one built on land that's still owned by Shindico.
He tried putting distance between himself and Shindico owner Sandy Shindleman. Shindleman, he told CJOB, owns some shares in Katz's ballpark and is hardly a close friend. He implied they would have at most a nodding acquaintance if they passed on the stairs.
Nobody believed that for a second.
A couple of days later, six city administrators held an unprecedented joint news conference to say everything done regarding the firehalls deal was done completely properly and according to the rules. Front and centre were chief financial officer Mike Ruta and Chief Administrative Officer and hockey fan Phil Sheegl.
The team press conference failed to convince anyone. The stench of scandal still hung over City Hall.
Katz decided that if a little whitewash didn't work, maybe a lot of whitewash would.
He announced he was ordering CFO Mike Ruta to review the one aspect of the firehall deal still outstanding---the verbal deal to swap three city owned properties for the Shindico land on which a new fire station in River Heights had been built.
His pal Phil Sheegl would help Ruta investigate how his pal Sandy Shindleman got preferential treatment on one of the four firehalls contracts.
Were they now going to do a total reversal and discover that the City of Winnipeg had been snookered into overpaying Shindico for its land?
But, but, but, said Katz, there's more. The "review" had grown like Topsy.
Originally struck to look at the balancing values of the land swap, it was now going to include "the processes that led to the deal", according to the Winnipeg Free Press. Oh, and the city auditor was going to be involved and external appraisers. And it was going to be finished really, really quickly, in 10 days or so.
1. Whip up a report about one small corner of the scandal.
2. Have the report clear everyone but with lots of recommendations to "tighten up" procedures.
3. Involve the auditor.
4. Then wave the report around and declare that the auditor has investigated the scandal, found nothing and it's time to move on.
Nope. Not gonna happen.
The whole Firehalls Scandal needs to be investigated by an independent tribunal which doesn't include any close personal friends of Sam Katz, especially when they may be targets of the investigation.
Let's start with the phony review ordered with such great fanfare by the mayor.
A) What are the written terms of reference?
B) Have they changed since the review was first announced last week?
C) What is Sheegl's role?
D) How will Sheegl's involvement in the scandal be treated by the Ruta/Sheegl review?
Well, Sheegl told reporters last week he was aware of the secret negotiations involving a land swap for the new River Heights fire station. It was at "50,000 feet" he joked, implying he was far removed.
Well, we need someone with an altimeter to determine exactly how many feet away Sheegl was from the knowledge that Shindico had an untendered contract to build not one, not two, but four firehalls.
And who did he tell? His pal Mayor Sam Katz?
And if Sheegl knew of Shindico's involvement in the River Heights station, why didn't he inform city council?
The Ruta/Sheegl "review" won't come close to answering the vital questions of the Firehalls Scandal:
- WHY did then-Deputy Fire Chief Reid Douglas give an untendered contract to Shindico Realty to build four new fire halls?
City Council approved funding in July, 2010, through a federal infrastructure program. Construction of the new fire station in Sage Creek didn't begin until more than a year later. And the other 3 firehalls were built using the first as a template, reducing their need for time-consuming design work.
Even if Shindico got the first, why weren't any other contractors allowed to bid for the other three?
- WHY did Douglas disobey city council's direct order to bring the name of the winner of the contract back to council? Did he consult with anybody in the city administration or city legal department about his obligation to follow council's order?
- WHEN did Douglas decide to deceive City Council by dividing the firehalls project into four smaller projects, each with a budget under the limit that required him to get council's approval to proceed? Let's see the emails and memos regarding that decision.
- WHO helped Douglas keep Shindico's name secret?
Douglas used city appraisers and city lawyers to make his deal with Shindico, but Property director Barry Thorgrimson says he knew nothing about it. Even when there were public meetings about the new fire stations, nobody was told Shindico had the contracts for all four. Why the secrecy?
- WHEN did Phil Sheegl find out about the discussions for a land swap with Shindico?
How did he find out? Why didn't he ask for more information? Why didn't he tell anyone on council?
Or did he?
Did he discuss the firehalls mega-project with Sandy Shindleman over a friendly beer? With Sam Katz while carpooling?
- WHAT did Sam Katz know about the Shindico Realty involvement in the firehalls projects and when did he know?
Right now, nobody believes Katz knew nothing. The deal involved $15 million and his longtime friend and business partner. They never spoke about it in two years? Did they even speak in those two years, or is Katz hinting they had a falling out? Is the romance gone?
On Oct. 7, 2011, Katz appeared at a news conference with Public Safety Minister Vic Toews at the site of the Sage Creek fire station to announce infrastructure loans for the firehall projects.
He didn't learn then that Shindico was involved?
Because if Katz ever knew that his friend Sandy Shindleman had the contracts, he was obligated to follow council's instructions and bring that information to city council.
Was he part of the cover-up?
None of this is going to be explored by the Ruta/Sheegl whitewash report.