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National Post - Aug. 11, 2010 - By Megan O'Toole - firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry's final report unlikely before vote
Mississauga's judicial inquiry into allegedly suspect city business dealings -- originally slated to wrap up next week -- is now on track to continue well into the fall election campaign period.
William McDowell, counsel for Commissioner Douglas Cunningham, said yesterday proceedings will continue through late September and likely into the first week of October.
The $5-million inquiry was originally slated to conclude on Aug. 19, but a number of delays, including a request from the Mayor's lawyer to limit the inquiry's scope, have pushed the process back. As of yesterday, many key witnesses had yet to testify, including Mayor Hazel McCallion, who faces conflict-of-interest allegations stemming from her involvement in her son's failed bid to build a hotel in the city centre.
Peter McCallion's business partners, Tony DeCicco and Leo Couprie, are also expected to testify later in the process.
All of which means the commissioner's final report, examining two complex city business transactions and recommending a path forward, will likely not be released until after the Oct. 25 election.
"I'm concerned that some witnesses, who have known of the inquiry's schedule for months, are delaying their appearances before the commissioner for a variety of reasons, some of which are weak at best," Councillor Carolyn Parrish said. "This increases the costs to the taxpayers."
City solicitor Mary Ellen Bench said she would not be able to assess the impact on the inquiry's overall cost until details of the September and October hearing dates are firmed up.
News of the delayed schedule comes more than three months after the Mayor's legal team asked the commissioner to put the inquiry on hold should it spill over into the fall election campaign period. Ms. McCallion has announced plans to run again, but has yet to officially register for the vote.
Elizabeth McIntyre, the Mayor's lawyer, asked in May that if the inquiry was not completed by Sept. 10, the closing date for nominations, it be put over for six weeks to avoid overlapping Ms. McCallion's campaign. The commissioner took the request "under advisement" at the time.
While Pat Saito, one of the Mayor's closest allies, said the new delays will likely have little impact on costs that have already surged well past initial estimates, Ms. Parrish was riled at the prospect of a campaign-period hiatus.
"Truth takes precedence over politics," she said. "This process should not be delayed for any single person or for any previously scheduled event."
Councillors also raised concerns over the Mayor's pending Italian vacation, scheduled for the last week of August. The Mayor's office did not return multiple calls about the trip, but Councillor Sue Mc-Fadden questioned why Ms. McCallion would go overseas if she was concerned about the coming election.
The trip was auctioned off at the Mayor's gala, and Ms. McCallion is attending at the winner's invitation. Ms. Parrish, however, believes this is the wrong time for the Mayor to leave the city.
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