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.

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:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sam Katz -- you have the right to remain silent ...

Like the guilty fugitive trying to outrun the law, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz can almost feel the hot breath of the bloodhounds on his neck.

With each passing day the pressure grows for a police investigation of the looting of the city under Katz's terms of office.

The public is seething with anger. Whether in private conversations, Internet comments, or twitter, the message is the same -- where are the cops?  Won't anybody stop this corruption?

Katz was feeling the heat in spades at Wednesday's special council meeting to chew on the EY (Ernst and Young) audit of five years of city real estate deals. His Sweet-Sam-smile was replaced with a face fixed in pure hate, teeth drawn back in a psychopathic grin that fooled no one.

Mayor Sam launched a condescending attack on the EY auditors who highlighted his pal Phil Sheegl's involvement in one shady deal after another.  He attacked city auditor Brian Whiteside, who, you'll remember, refused to join Sheegl's whitewash team way back in 2012. 

But it was the spectacle Katz made of himself when he lost all control and started spewing vitriol at the only person on council he's afraid of, Paula Havixbeck, that demonstrated how scared he is.

Havixbeck was telling how she ordered Sheegl, when he was city CAO, to appear before a city committee to answer questions about the bid-rigging he engaged in to channel millions of dollars worth of city business to Shindico, the company owned by Sam Katz's other pal and baseball business partner.

Katz had been furious and called her to tell her so, she said. At that Katz began screaming. "Absolute lie," he yelled. He continued trying  to intimidate her into silence.  Devi Sharma, chairman of the council meeting, sat there like a ventriloquist's dummy and said nothing as Katz ranted like a wildman.

The biggest liar in Winnipeg--- the man who lied to every taxpayer in the city to get re-elected in 2010-- was calling somebody else a liar!  The man with absolutely no credibility was expecting people to believe him over the woman who tried, right up until he fired her from executive policy committee, to expose the cover-up the mayor of the city was leading.

The irony couldn't be greater. 

No sooner did Havixbeck restart speaking, when Katz's henchman St. Norbert council Justin Swandel stood up and declared,"It's important we shut this down."  No, honestly, that's exactly what he said.

He declared "This person cannot be allowed to do this."  Pointing at Havixbeck, Swandel bellowed he wouldn't allow Sam Katz to be "tainted by the likes of that."

Sam Katz's ally reduced a woman on council to a thing.  The other female councillors sat dumbly and said nothing. Not a word from Jenny Gerbasi. Nor Devi Sharma.  They allowed Swandel, on Katz's behalf, to dehumanize another woman and they were silent.

But that sordid performance by Katz and Swandel, his loyal follower, epitomized the dysfunction of Winnipeg city council, where the embattled lame-duck mayor and a lame-duck councillor can intimidate, bully, belittle, insult, and browbeat an elected councillor while the rest of the council sits silent and cowed. Its no wonder nobody can get to the bottom of the scandals sweeping the city.

By the narrowest of margins, a motion to request Manitoba Justice to review the EY audit findings was approved. The vote was 8-7. The Mayor and six councillors--- Brian Mayes, Grant Nordman, Mike Pagtakhan, Harvey Smith, Thomas Steen, Devi Sharma---opposed even the most timid effort to examine suspicions of criminal wrongdoing. Swandel left the meeting early or else even this motion, the tiniest baby step possible towards a police investigation, would have been defeated in a tie vote.

But it means that city council has added its voice to a request for some form or other of an investigation into criminal wrongdoing. With that, Winnipeg city council this week joined former Manitoba deputy minister of Justice Bruce MacFarlane in suggesting, however mildly, that the province begin a preliminary investigation into whether there's enough evidence to launch a more formal forensic probe. Their voices join most of this year's crop of mayoral candidates, the Winnipeg police association, and the Taxpayers Federation.

There's no question how the public feels. Where there's smoke, there's fire, is what people are saying. And there's incontrovertible evidence in two audits now of favoritism shown by Phil Sheegl towards Shindico.

The missing element so far is evidence of any quid pro quo for those granting contracts.  A seat in Shindico's private box at Winnipeg Jets games for Phil Sheegl is not enough, apparently. 
And Sam Katz's purchase of a million-dollar house in Arizona from the Chief Financial Officer of Shindico for $10 and other considerations hasn't been linked to any favorable consideration on a city contract, not that the mayor could deliver such a benefit in any case.

But the firehall audit did show that Sheegl manipulated the rules so that he could deliver Shindico the multi-million job of building four new firehalls, one of which still stands on land the city doesn't own but Shindico does. The company has refused an offer for the land and expects to make a tidy sum under expropriation.
If the province ever does give the go-ahead for an investigation, it would likely be for the offence of fraud.

380. (1) Every one who, by deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means, whether or not it is a false pretence within the meaning of this Act, defrauds the public or any person, whether ascertained or not, of any property, money or valuable security or any service.

The law was recently amended to carry a minimum jail sentence of two years "if the total value of the subject-matter of the offences exceeds one million dollars."

Of special interest is the standard of proof to address "other fraudulent means."

"Other fraudulent means" is a "term that covers more ground than either deceit or falsehood. It includes any other means, which are not deceit or falsehood, properly regarded as dishonest according to the standards of reasonable people" but include all other means that are "stigmatized as dishonest". The question of whether conduct fits into "other fraudulent means" is a question of fact.
The issue of actus reus is determined objectively as to whether a reasonable person would consider the conduct to be "dishonest".

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