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Mississauga News - Oct. 23, 2009 - By Radhika Pajnwani, email@example.com
Wide net cast for judicial inquiry
A judicial inquiry ordered by City Council will probe multiple aspects of the business relationship between Mayor Hazel McCallion's son Peter McCallion, OMERS (Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System) and Mississauga City Hall.
A report released today by City of Mississauga solicitor Mary Ellen Bench addresses many aspects of the inquiry including the cost, time and scope of the probe.
Bench has whittled the scope of the inquiry to three issues: A review of all of the circumstances of the relationship between World Class Developments (WCD) and the City; a review of the inter-relation between Enersource, OMERS and WCD; and a deal involving Derrydale development and WCD.
Calling such an inquiry an “extraordinary measure,” Bench told The News earlier that once Council approves the parameters she has identified, a judge appointed by Ontario's Chief Justice will investigate any allegations of breach of trust or misconduct.
According to Bench's report, released today, the judicial hearing could last for up to 40 days and cost taxpayers an estimated $2-$2.5 million.
Last month, Council voted 6-4 for the review after seeking a legal opinion from law firm McLean & Kerr about McCallion's role in her son's business dealings. The legal firm's lawyers said they believe McCallion contravened conflict of interest laws in a $14.4 million land deal that was being brokered by Peter McCallion.
"A public inquiry is a public investigation carried out in the public eye and is not a trial," writes Bench in the report. "A public inquiry seeks to explain why something occurred and not to determine guilt or liability. Unlike a court, it is not an adversarial proceeding."
The 13-page report seeks to address many questions including how the proceedings will unravel.
City councillors are expected to discuss the report during a Council meeting, Wednesday, Oct. 28. If Council approves the report, a judge will be appointed and the City will have very little control on how the inquiry unfolds.
Ward 6 Councillor Carolyn Parrish said she not only wants the inquiry to investigate a deal between Derry development and WCD, but any other deals of similar size and scope.
Parrish said a judicial inquiry will help residents have a clear understanding if their municipality is being governed fairly.
“As the report says, the inquiry is not looking for guilty parties,” Parrish said. “It's looking for best practices and, if we pride ourselves on being a first class city, we've to make sure everybody understands that they're treated fairly here and there's no special privileges for anybody."
The inquiry which will also investigate the details of a deal involving Sheridan College because the principal players and their modus operandi in both transactions are somewhat similar; both involve Peter McCallion and WCD general manager Tony DeCicco.
In the Sheridan College deal, court documents show McCallion participated in discussions between City staff, the developer and a prospective hotel operator just over a month before Council was to vote on the application.
The meetings, both before and after the mayor's public declarations of a conflict of interest, are described in documents lodged in Superior court by DeCicco in support of a countersuit against OMERS after the Sheridan deal fell through in 2009.
The entire mess landed in court this summer when, according to a letter from an OMERS lawyer, WCD allegedly jeopardized OMERS' ability to sell the land to another client by acting as if it still had a deal.
By December of last year, OMERS had lost faith in WCD's ability to close the deal. On Dec. 15, the mayor was involved in a meeting between DeCicco and OMERS.
Two years ago, Great West Life, an insurance company, and Derrydale Golf Course owner James Holmes were dragged to court by WCD executives Peter McCallion and DeCicco over a land deal and ended up paying large sums of money in order to be able to proceed with their developments. The Derrydale deal involved a lengthy and at times ugly legal battle.
Back in 1981-82, a judge ruled Hazel McCallion was found guilty of breaching conflict of interest laws by being present during discussions about a rezoning issue involving an area where she owned land. The judge stopped short of removing her from office, saying he believed her actions were a "bona fide" error in judgment.
Ward 2 Councillor Patricia Mullin declined to comment on the report, saying she hadn't read it yet.
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