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National Post - Aug. 18, 2010 - By Megan O'Toole - firstname.lastname@example.org
'I put the Mayor in awkward situation'
A Woodbridge businessman who invested in a development project with Peter McCallion, the son of Mississauga's long-time Mayor, stunned the city's judicial inquiry yesterday by testifying he knew the younger McCallion owned and controlled World Class Developments, the firm at the centre of a $14.4-million land-deal controversy.
Developer Tony DeCicco also revealed that as the deal teetered on the brink of collapse in 2008, he reached out to his good friend Mayor Hazel McCallion for help amid concerns the massive project was "slipping away."
"I put the Mayor in an awkward situation," Mr. DeCicco acknowledged.
The ownership issue goes directly to the inquiry's central question: whether the Mayor engaged in a conflict-of-interest by pushing for her son's plan to build a hotel and condominium complex in the city centre.
Both Peter McCallion and Leo Couprie, a businessman who joined World Class four years ago with a goal to double his $750,000 investment, have testified they were unaware until recently that Mr. McCallion held a stake in the company. The pair co-signed a trust declaration in early 2007 that effectively gave Mr. Mc-Callion 80% of the shares, but both say they thought it was a temporary measure to protect their interests during a trip.
Yesterday, Mr. DeCicco, who joined World Class in the summer of 2007, cast doubt over their testimony, saying he was aware of the true ownership structure from the beginning through discussions with Mr. Couprie and Mr. McCallion.
"Mr. McCallion put the deal together [and] controlled 80% of the deal," Mr. DeCicco testified. While Mr. Couprie's name was attached to 80% of the company's shares, Mr. DeCicco said, "my understanding was that they were held for Mr. McCallion."
Mr. DeCicco's testimony raises new questions about how much the Mayor--whom he described as "very pro-business" and "hands-on" -- knew about her son's role, and when she knew it.
Elizabeth McIntyre, the Mayor's lawyer, dismissed Mr. DeCicco's testimony, noting Ms. McCallion understood her son to have only a peripheral role in the deal.
"Regardless of what Mr. DeCicco says, Peter led his mother to believe that he was only [a real-estate agent,]" Ms. McIntyre said.
Mr. DeCicco described the Mayor as a "good friend," and dozens of agenda records and voicemail transcripts suggest the two worked closely together on various aspects of the World Class deal.
A series of documents indicate the Mayor was heavily involved in at least one piece of major internal company business: Mr. DeCicco's move to push out a minority World Class shareholder, Murray Cook. Asked why he would need to consult the Mayor on such matters, Mr. DeCicco said he wanted her to know the decision was fair, particularly as Mr. Cook was a close friend of the Mayor's.
"The Mayor's involvement in this deal was to make sure a hotel got built," Mr. DeCicco said. "That was her dream."
Mr. DeCicco will be cross-examined today.
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