The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Name:
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL: black_rod_usher@yahoo.com

Monday, December 30, 2013

Newsmaker of the Year 2013. Hint: he's like Hercules.


He took down the most powerful man in Winnipeg.

He ripped away the curtain hiding a corrupt culture of favoritism and untendered contracts worth millions of dollars being handed out secretly by the city's most senior civil servants.

He exposed the year-long cover-up conducted by the mayor and  Winnipeg's top administrators.

He's been like Hercules cleaning the Augean Stables, and, like Hercules, he has a long list of tasks to accomplish still.

The Black Rod's Newsmaker of the Year --- for the second year in a row --- is Winnipeg auditor Brian Whiteside.

Last year, Whiteside was a shoo-in for his courage in standing up to Chief Administrative Officer Phil Sheegl and his minions. They prepared a nice whitewash report clearing Sheegl of any impropriety in the secret delivery of contracts for four new firehalls to Shindico, the company owned by Mayor Sam Katz's palsy walsy for many a year.  They expected Whiteside to passively sign on, but discovered he preferred a full and official audit of the project, something Katz had rejected outright --- until Whiteside forced his hand.

By year's end Katz and Sheegl had had the arrogance kicked out of them and they were meek as mice when city council voted to fund that audit, and another one of city construction projects for the past five years at least.

Well, the firehalls audit (done by an outside Ontario firm, but commissioned and submitted by Whiteside) was released in October with a bang.  But by then Sheegl had quietly resigned --- before the tar could be heated and the rail delivered.

Sheegl, most people don't know, was literally more powerful than the mayor. He, not the mayor, could hire and fire every civic employee, except the city clerk, chief financial officer---and the city auditor; he alone hired the Chief of Police, and he had the authority to solely approve  construction contracts up to a value of $10 million.  Not to mention he was the mayor's best friend and could count on Katz backing him up 100 percent in any dispute --- or challenge by an underling.

But he ran for the hills because he knew his jig was up once the public got a look at that audit. Not even the mayor could help him. In fact, the mayor's own credibility died with Sheegl's shame.

The firehalls debacle was the city story of the year, thanks to auditor Whiteside. But it's only the beginning of the end for the old regime.  Hot on the heels of the firehalls audit, Sheegl was being blamed by city councillors for the even-greater mismanagement of the project to turn the old downtown post office into a new police headquarters. Tens of millions of dollars were lost in that fiasco. And the public was waiting with trepidation for Whiteside's next audit---of contruction projects under Sheegl's watch---which could be out as early as January, 2014.

Katz and his supporters are desperately fighting back, installing Deepark Joshi, Sheegl's co-conspirator in the audit cover-up as the acting CAO, and voting down another audit into the post office boondoggle, hiding as long as possible from the public the answer to who knew what  when.

It's a case of we hang together or we hang separately.  The December Probe poll showing Katz's bedrock support at 9 percent should fortell how this story plays out.

For that reason, The Black Rod is handing out its first ever Newsmaker of the Year runner-up award.  That award goes to City Councillor Paula Havixbeck.

She was the first one at City Hall to defy the Katz-and-Sheegl council cabal. When she couldn't get straight answers about the Firehalls fiasco she ordered Sheegl and his shadow, then Chief Operating Officer Deepak Joshi to appear before council's Protection Committee which she chaired. They stonewalled her, and Katz struck back by removing her from his executive policy committee and replacing her with someone he could control, Coun. Brian Mayes.

But in 2013, Havixbeck refused to be silenced. She kept asking pointed questions, and the mayor and his supporters kept refusing to answer.  Havixbeck couldn't even get an answer to the simplest question---how many people are on the city payroll?

Sam Katz is terrified of Paula Havixbeck.  You only have to watch city council question period to see that.  Katz refuses to answer any of her questions. He responds with condescension and open contempt. He wants to marginalize her, but he only demonstrates how much he's scared.

In 2012 we wrote "Brian Whiteside has done more than anyone to foster democracy, transparency, and civic responsibility in Winnipeg..."  In 2013 we second that opinion, but this year we can't overlook the dogged pursuit of truth by a city councillor who is unrelenting despite all the roadblocks thrown in her path by the mayor and his administration.  Anyone with that much power to make 'em shake in their boots deserves recognition and applause.

On that positive note,  we wish A Happy New Year to:

Samantha Hill. Winnipeg's own reached the top of the theatre mountain this year, taking the female lead in the Broadway production of Phantom of the Opera. She was magnificent at the Tony Awards in June where she performed the showstopper 'Music of the Night' for 7.2 million television viewers.

* Graham Lane. As the former chairman of the Public Utilities Board he knows the numbers, and the games that Manitoba Hydro is playing with them. Now that he's retired and writing a weekly column for the Winnipeg Free Press he can bring the facts to the public on how Hydro's grandiose expansion plans risk bankrupting the utility and the province. Hydro hates him.

* Harry Bakema. The latest victim of the NDP's criminal abuse of the justice system for political purposes.
* Mike O'Shaughnessy. If somebody had listened to his early warnings of problems with city construction projects we might have saved scores of millions of dollars.

* A Person In A Position To Know. He raised the first alarm about cost overruns at the new football stadium.  It took weeks for the professional reporters to catch on.

* Bethany Jilliard and Tom McCamus, who brought Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler to life in MTC's risky production of Gone With The Wind. Niki Landau, who wrote the book. Stephen Schipper, who took the leap into the unknown. More, please.

* Lindor Reynolds. God bless.

* Gordon Warren, who flies too close to the sun for his own good oft times. He was the subject of unrestricted namecalling when he put up posters calling for an investigation of Mayor Sam Katz and his friends. Now that the results of those investigations are rolling out, the namecallers have been struck dumb. But we haven't, and we'll have more in the days to come.

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Latest poll a pall for the NDP


"...they've missed the biggest political story in the province---the stark panic in the NDP government."


That's what we wrote one month ago when we sifted through the results of two federal byelections in Manitoba---and uncovered the story that all the pundits had overlooked as they gushed about Justin Trudeau (despite his failure to win the seats for the Liberals).

Probe Research and the Winnipeg Free Press finally put some meat on the bones of the story last week with a new poll showing the NDP a devastating 22 percentage points behind the Progressive Conservatives in voter preference.

We took the weekend to swim through the numbers to dig out still more angles to the story.

* the NDP have lost their last bastion of support---voters with incomes of less than $30,000.

In the last Probe election poll six months ago, the NDP had a clear advantage with low-income voters, pulling 44 percent of their support to the Tories' 33 percent.  No more. 

Today, the Dippers can barely count on 22 percent of the low-income electorate.  The Tories?  41 percent.  A rise in the sales tax, not to mention higher electricity and heating costs, hits the poorer folk first and hardest. Who knew?

NDP MLA's have been making almost daily announcements of millions of dollars being spent on this and that, and every time the MLA stands behind or beside a podium bearing the message Focused on What Matters Most. Obviously there's a huge disconnect between what matters most for most people and what matters for the NDP and the unions who feast on the spending.
The only income category where NDP support went up (4 percentage points) is upper-middle ($60,000 to $99,000), where you find the civil servants, teachers, and others with government jobs. Still, the PC's are far ahead there too with 46 percent support to the NDP's 30.

* the Liberal Party has a pulse for the first time in 13 years with a provincial support level of 20 percent.

The rise of the Liberals out of the mid-teens (where they were most of the past decade) and pre-teens (where they wound up in the last election) corresponds with a sharp drop in support for the Green Party.

A six-point drop in men 55-plus supporting the Tories and an equal boost in Liberal support is odd. A seven-point drop in women 55-plus and a six percentage point increase in mature women supporting the Liberals is too.

The last time the Manitoba Liberal Party had support in the heady twenties was in the 1995 provincial election (the one after the Liberals soared into Official Opposition).  The Conservatives won the '95 vote with 31 seats, the NDP took 23 and Libs 7.  The Tories took 43 percent of the votes, NDP 33 percent and Liberals 24 percent.

* 22 percent of Manitobans were undecided or refused to say which party they would support in the Probe poll.  That's up significantly from the 13 percent who passed in June.

We're betting this is NDP voters who don't know which way to fall. They've jumped off the NDP train, but haven't decided yet whether to sit the next election out or to park their vote with the Liberals--or Other. 

Greg Selinger, the dirtiest politician in Manitoba, has managed to unite the young and the old, the poor and the middle class, the richest and the poorest, the best educated and the worst, in solidarity --- against the New Democratic Party he leads. 

That's some legacy.

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

The first red flag on the Post Office-as-Police HQ boondoggle --four years ago!



It's amazing what you sometimes find at the bottom of your research pile.

Here, for example, is the very, very first red flag raised about the disastrous plan to buy and remodel the old downtown post office building into a brand spanking new police headquarters.

It bears reprinting in its entirety.


In 2010, the post offfice project was expected to cost $168 million, of which $5.3 Million was for initial design work by AECOM Canada.

Read it and weep.

Councillor livid firm gets $10M despite errors
Design trouble boosted projects' costs

By: Bartley Kives
Posted: 09/10/2009

The newest member of Mayor Sam Katz's inner circle is fuming that a private engineering firm blamed for design errors at two Winnipeg sewage-treatment plants received more than $10 million in consulting payments from the city last year.

City council infrastructure-renewal boss Mike O'Shaughnessy, who rejoined executive policy committee on Wednesday, lashed out at senior city officials after receiving a report showing Earth Tech Canada received almost $10.1 million from the city in 2008.

Since 2007, the city has been negotiating with Earth Tech Canada -- now AECOM Canada -- to recover some of the costs of overruns at the West End Water Pollution Control Centre, where upgrades estimated to cost $26 million were adjusted upwards in stages to $47 million.

At the time, a confidential water and waste department report blamed $12 million of the cost increases partly on "design errors, incomplete design and design clarification" that forced engineers to redraw plans for a heating and ventilation system and a chemical-addition system at the plant.

The city and AECOM are still trying to work out what portion of the cost overruns will be borne by either party, as the city may have contributed to the errors by changing contracts, said Mike Shkolny, water and waste department engineering manager.

But at the first EPC meeting following the summer break, councillors revealed the same firm assumed responsibility for a separate error at a North End Water Pollution Control Centre upgrade project.

The second error involved the incorrect placement of a concrete support column, which prevented a piece of machinery known as a decanter from moving inside a nitrogen-removal facility, Shkolny said. This incident was only reported verbally to city councillors behind closed doors, Shkolny said, because the city was concerned media attention could jeopardize potential litigation.

No legal action was ever pursued. The firm remedied the situation by paying for the studies, scaffolding and cranes required to remove a piece of superfluous skimming equipment from the decanter, thus allowing the facility to work, Shkolny said.

"Earth Tech absorbed it all," said Shkolny, pegging the cost of the second error at about $50,000.
A spokeswoman for AECOM Canada did not return calls Wednesday.

Nevertheless, Old Kildonan Coun. O'Shaughnessy, who ordered a city investigation into the West End cost overruns two years ago, grilled Winnipeg chief administrative officer Glen Laubenstein and chief financial officer Mike Ruta for the fact Winnipeg continues to sole-source contracts worth up to $500,000 to engineering firms as part of the $34.8 million worth of payments to consultants made in 2008.

"Five-hundred-thousand dollars without a tender is a sin; $100,000 without a tender is a sin," said O'Shaughnessy.

St. Norbert Coun.Swandel, the finance chairman, added his concern that sole-source consulting contracts seem to be the norm and not the exception.

Laubenstein said the city is seeking to reduce the number of consultants it employs. But in 2008, consulting payments rose to $34.8 million from $29.9 million in 2007.
bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Upgrade outrage
City councillors in a stink over cost increases and design errors at two city sewage-treatment plants


The West End plant

The headache: 
In July 2007, the city was forced to adjust the projected cost of upgrades at the West End Water Pollution Control Centre at the southwest corner of Wilkes Avenue and the Perimeter Highway. The projected tab was raised to $47 million, up $12 million from a $35 million estimate earlier that year -- and up $21 million from the original estimate of $26 million.

What happened: 
In a written report, the city's water and waste department said "design errors, incomplete design and design clarification" forced engineers to redraw plans for both a heating and ventilation system and a chemical-addition system. The report also stated engineering firm Earth Tech Canada had trouble running the project and wound up with a "strained relationship" with contractor Bird Construction. These problems contributed to the increase costs.

The aftermath: 
Then-city council finance chairman Mike O'Shaughnessy ordered an investigation into the ballooning cost of the West End project. Negotiations with the firm formerly known as Earth Tech are still underway, as it remains unclear what role the city may have played by changing specifications for the design work.

Political fallout: 
The West End cost overrun formed the basis for a push to replace Winnipeg's water and waste department with a new city-owned utility that will partner with engineering firms, on the assumption firms would be less likely to make mistakes if they owned some aspect of the project. City council approved the creation of a new utility in July.

The North End plant
The headache: 
In the spring of 2008, the city found a piece of machinery inside a new nitrogen-removal facility at the North End Water Pollution Control Centre on Main Street could not rotate without striking a concrete support column. The projected tab for the facility was adjusted to $25.4 million from $23.3 million.

What happened: 
In a verbal report, city staff informed city councillors that engineering firm Earth Tech erred in the design of the support column, leading the contractor to build it in the wrong place.

The aftermath: 
 In this case, the engineering firm assumed full responsibility for the error and paid for the removal of a piece of skimming equipment that would allow the arm to move. In the end, the error cost $50,000.

Political fallout: 
On Wednesday, Couns. O'Shaughnessy (Old Kildonan) and Justin Swandel (St. Norbert) questioned how Winnipeg can continue hiring firms that err, often without tendering.
Note Justin Swandel's flip flop.  Way back then he was acting as a steward of taxpayers' money.  Today, he's against any audit of how the post office project went so horribly off the rails, arguing that it doesn't matter, the money's spent, and let's just get on with the job of wasting tax money without accountability.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Phil Sheegl's co-conspirator tries to stifle further probes of city property scandals.


Winnipeg's top civil servant is trying to prevent a city councillor from digging deeper into the mismanagement and possible corruption behind two projects which have gone millions of dollars over budget. 

 
You have to wonder why.
 
Deepak Joshi, the fill-in Chief Administrative Officer, wrote a personal letter to Coun. Paula Havixbeck trying to intimidate her into silence over her persistance in getting to the bottom of the firehalls scandal, in which Joshi was involved up to his eyebrows, and the disastrous project to turn the downtown post office into a new headquarters for the police department.
 
Joshi was the city's Director of Planning, Property and Development (oh, the irony) when the twin fiascos of the firehalls and police HQ were unfolding. He was appointed Chief Operating Officer in 2011 by then CAO Phil Sheegl, who said in a news release:

"I'm making these changes to clarify the roles and responsibilities of senior management, provide better service to Council and citizens, and provide better direction and support to staff," Sheegl said. "I am confident it will be a clearer, more effective way of doing business."

It would be funny in hindsight, if it wasn't so tragic.

Sheegl was last seen sneaking out of city hall on the eve of the audit into the firehalls scandal before he would surely have been fired, if not investigated by the police.  The audit concluded Sheegl, Mayor Sam Katz's best friend, gave preferential treatment to the construction firm Shindico, co-owned by Katz's friend and business partner Sandy Shindleman. Sheegl used loopholes in city regulations to secretly hire Shindico to build all four new firehalls, even though they failed to win a single tender. He then kept the information from city council despite a clear directive to inform council on who got the job.

Katz subsequently bought a house in Arizona from the sister of a Shindico executive.  Records show he paid $10 for the million-dollar house. He claims he paid the rest in cash, but refuses to provide any receipts, bank withdrawal statements or other paper records. He says its nobody's business.

Joshi was Sheegl's shadow the entire time the firehalls were being built and he's mentioned prominently in the damning firehalls audit. 

He was front and centre in the cover-up that followed after the Shindico favoritism began to unravel. 

He openly lied to the public, as Winnipeg Free Press reporter Barley Kives stated bluntly after learning how the facts diverged from what Joshi, Sheegl and four other city officials insisted was true during an unprecedented joint news conference that was called in hopes of forestalling any audit.

And he refused to help Coun. Paula Havixbeck get answers to who was responsible for what when she, then the chairwoman of council's Protection Committee, summoned him and Sheegl before her committee and grilled them in public. 

Gee, do you think he holds a grudge?

The audit into the firehalls mess found that Joshi
- was kept informed with construction updates,
- that he provided little to no oversight,
- that he knew Shindico was building a fire station on Taylor Avenue on land the city did not own,
- that he knew all about the land swap arranged with Shindico even though city council hadn't declared the land being swapped as surplus,
- that construction of a fire hall in St. James had begun without a contract in place, and
- that a financial disaster was unfolding in front of his eyes as spelled out by this memo from Materials Management at about the time reporters had glommed on to the secret land swap:
 
"For everyone’s sake and peace of mind, we need to determine the approvals that are in place, or not, for these Fire Stations.
This topic was briefly discussed at the CAO’s office today, but it is clear that the City is well underway building at least one $6 million dollar station with approval for only <$1 million."
 
Mayor Sam Katz rewarded Joshi by hand-picking him to be Phil Sheegl's temporary replacement. 

With the office must have come the arrogance and conceit that fueled the unprecedented letter to Havixbeck admonishing her like a naughty schoolgirl about the need to maintain a "respectful work place".
 
Joshi's widdle nose was out of place at the suggestion that there needed to be another audit, this time of the post office/police station HQ fiasco, to detail the gross mismanagement and possible corruption behind the project.
 
He professed to be defending the entire city administration at unfounded allegations of corruption. 
 
But Joshi and his defenders know full well that the words Havixbeck used are mild compared to what the public is saying. 
 
The ones they stung are the ones who most fear public scrutiny and accountability.
 
You have to wonder why.

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Monday, December 09, 2013

A new Christmas tradition - Firehall Fairy Tales by Shindico


Once upon a time...

Isn't that how all fairy tales start?
 
Last week construction company Shindico dispatched their talking head Bob Downs to spin a fairy tale for Christmas in which Sandy Shindleman and his brother Robert got to play the pretty princesses who need to be saved from the evil dragon, a role assigned to city auditor Brian Whiteside.

It turns out that people thinking of doing business with Shindico are asking some embarrassing questions in the wake of the audit into the fishy construction of four firehalls by Shindico. To dispel suspicions, Shindico went on the offensive, declaring their innocence, condemning the auditors for getting it wrong, and hinting broadly that they know who is behind the heat and why. Was that a threat?

It started with with CJOB's Richard Cloutier who gushed on air at getting an exclusive two-hour interview with Downs which included a "document dump" of, allegedly, the paper trail supporting Shindico's story. But the documents weren't posted anywhere, nor was there any link to the entire interview. Instead Cloutier simply regurgitated Shindico's alibi, as a quipping show host Charles Adler played Ed McMahon to Cloutier's Carson.

The rest of the news media came running, like dogs to bacon.

Unfortunately, not one reporter bothered to spend 20 minutes with the firehall audit, which is online, to see the gaping holes in Bob Downs' touching tale.

The Shindico pushback goes like this:

* Shindico won the contracts to build the firehalls fair and square. There was no favoritism. (Bwahahahaha)

* Shindico demonstrated ingenuity in coming up with its own firehall design when the one that had been accepted proved to be too expensive.

* Shindico saved Winnipeg millions of dollars

* Sandy and Robert Shindleman are the innocent victims of mean people.

Um ... so there.

Calling Mr. Grinch.

Contrary to what Shindico wants you to believe, they didn't win a single contract to build Winnipeg's four newest firehalls.

The story of how they wound up building the fire stations, without anyone on city council knowing it except perhaps the mayor, is complicated, but not impossible to follow.

The fire department looked around and found a fire station design that they liked.  Reid Douglas, deputy chief of support services with the WFPS, explained to the Winnipeg Sun (New design for fire stations, Paul Turenne, Winnipeg Sun, March 14, 2010):

"We've identified two types of stations, one for the core and one for suburban areas," Douglas said. "The suburban stations will all be the same. We're trying to build something aesthetically pleasing and that fits into the neighbourhood, rather than something that looks commercial and stands out."

"The suburban stations, designed by London, Ont.-based Murphy and Murphy Architects and modelled after a station in St. Thomas, Ont., will allow vehicles to drive in one side and out the other instead of forcing them to back in or out. They will be one-storey facilities with no basement, contain the latest technology, and be LEED Silver certified..."

Initially, the city intended the project to be a P3 -- the developer would build, own and maintain the stations and the city would lease them.  But then the city learned that firehalls would be included in federal stimulus funding. That money meant the city could afford the cost of having the stations built, and the city could own them.

Here's where it starts to get fishy. 

City officials knew in January, 2010 about the stimulus money, but still issued a tender in March for a P3.  The tender was amended part way through to scrap the P3, calling instead for bidders to build three suburban stations on the Murphy and Murphy design and to design and build a fourth station in St. James.  The amendment also called for bidders to identify land where the new stations would stand.

They only got one bid -- from Shindico, at way more ($18 million) than was budgeted ($15 million).  The tender was scrubbed with no award.

The auditors did make a note of this point:

"In responding to the original RFP, Shindico indicated that Sage Creek- Station #27 would be built on land the City was about to acquire. The information regarding the City’s intention to acquire the property in the Sage Creek development was known to Shindico but was not provided to the other proponents during the procurement process."
Here's where the real story gets even fishier.

First, the Bob Downs fairy tale version courtesy of Richard Cloutier:

"Shindico decided that they would look at the design themselves, bring on a designer, go out to London, Ontario, ask some questions---and Reid Douglas, the former fire chief, kind of introduced them to the fire people."

In a word ... nope.

The City decided to issue a tender just for a new fire station in Sage Creek. (2010 was an election year and that may have had something to do with it.) The tender was for the Murphy and Murphy design, even though Shindico,  and an independent firm that specializes in construction estimates, concurred that it couldn't be done within the city's $3 million budget.  Somebody advised Shindico to redesign the fire station, and Shindico hit the ground running.

September 2, 2010
9:51 pm
Mr. Bob Downs of Shindico (Downs) sent an email to the Current Chief WFPS
subject line “Firehalls” the email indicated:
Reid we have been asked to provide a design that we can build within your budget of $15 Million. We have started today to do that and will do all that we can to create firehalls that meet your expectations and are within your budget. We will use our consultants in the process. To that end it is important to stop spending on the London team. Their visit planned for this month should be cancelled as soon as possible. We are of the opinion that we cannot adjust the London plan to reach budget goals. Radical surgery is essential.

Who was that 'somebody' who asked?  The audit says he is "currently unknown." 

But the fire halls project was being overseen by only two people---then deputy fire chief Reid Douglas, and then deputy CAO Phil Sheegl.

Here's what Douglas told the auditors:

"WFPS and M&M were against a new design as we had concerns it would not meet post disaster requirements."
Even by substandard Manitoba mathematics that means 2-1 = Phil Sheegl.
So what happened after Sheegl interjected himself into the process?  The auditors spelled it out:
"Our concerns regarding the Sage Creek RFP process include the following:
► After the original RFP for all four stations closed, the City, via WFPS (and perhaps others), continued ongoing discussion with Shindico in advance of the Sage Creek RFP in spite of the understanding from MM that the three suburban stations would be subject to a public tender. These discussions included Shindico attending a meeting with WFPS and the architects in London Ontario, discussions on the total project budget, and the budget for the individual suburban stations. In addition, Shindico was apparently
encouraged by a City representative, currently unknown
(MC#47) (RDC#4), to develop an alternative plan.

Had the above information been made available to the other bidders for the Sage Creek RFP, and had such bidders been directed to develop alternative designs, as Shindico apparently was, the outcome of the process and ultimately who built the Sage Creek- Station #27and the related Roblin - Station #18 may have been different.

► WFPS was informed by Shindico as well as by the estimate prepared by A.W. Hooker, a firm that specializes in construction estimates, that the cost to construct the M&M design in Winnipeg would exceed the City’s budget of $3 million per suburban station. In spite of this information, the City provided the M&M specifications to bidders for the Sage Creek RFP. The Bidders, other than Shindico, were not aware of the City’s $3 million budget nor were they aware of the alternate design possibility, both of which had been discussed with Shindico. (MC#48)
About that exclusive trip to London, Ontario...here's what Fire Chief Reid Douglas told the auditors:
"Shindico went on their own as was their plan. WFPS went at the same time to ensure accuracy of discussions."
It's clear that somebody, i.e. Phil Sheegl, was greasing the way for Shindico to get the firehalls contract. 

*  In the first bid, only Shindico knew that the City was buying land for Sage Creek.

*  After the tender was scrapped, discussions continued with Shindico only, including a request for Shindico to come up with its own firehall design. 

*  No other contractor was encouraged to do its own design. 

*  Shindico went to Ontario on its own with their pre-picked construction company to suss out costs, no other contractor was told they could do the same. 

*   Only Shindico knew what the city was intending to spend on Sage Creek.
So guess what?
The City received 8 bids for the Sage Creek firehall.  Seven were on the Murphy and Murphy design and all were more than the city intended to spend.  Shindico's bid was the most expensive. But ... Shindico included a second bid.  That second bid was for its own design.  And, what a coincidence, the budget was a shade under the $3 million the City wanted to spend.   Gee, who saw that coming?
Again, the tendering process was scrubbed because none of the bids was responsive to the requirements.
But, again, discussions continued only with Shindico, this time on their design for a firehall. 

And, you guessed it, Phil Sheegl decided to single source the Sage Creek fire station with, ta da, Shindico.
After that, it was clear sailing.  No more tenders. Shindico got to build each of the other firehalls as well. 

Sheegl, meanswhile, used every loophole in the book to hand-deliver the contracts to Shindico without informing city councillors.
The question that's still unanswered is "why"?  What was in it for him?
Perhaps the search for an answer begins with those records in Arizona that show Mayor Sam Katz paying $10 for a million dollar house owned by the sister of a top executive of Shindico. He says the rest was paid in cash.

How long does it take to photocopy a cheque for $999,990? Or was it hundreds stuffed in a briefcase?
The one thing the Shindico fairy tale does, besides leaving us with the searing image of Sandy Shindleman dressed as a princess, is revive the need for a full, official, police investigation of the firehalls scandal.
The outside auditors who conducted the review on behalf of the city auditor said no laws were broken. The public would rather have that reassurance from the RCMP. 
Downs has demonstrated there are still many versions of what happened out there. We're still a long way from "happily ever after."

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