THE DEMOCRATIC REPORTER
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National Post - Jul. 13, 2010 - By Megan O'Toole - email@example.com
Developer got $4M in Mississauga land deal
World Class Developments -- the company affiliated with Peter McCallion, the son of Mississauga's long-time mayor -- received a $4-million payout after a city-backed land deal fell through, newly released documents suggest.
The Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), one of the vendors of the land, made the payment last year to settle the development firm's claim of a continuing stake in the property, even as the city worked to close a separate deal for a Sheridan College campus on the same 3.5-hectare parcel of land in the city centre. Of the $4-million, about a third reimbursed World Class for deposits it had paid.
The settlement, previously undisclosed until the matter was touched on very briefly during a public hearing of Mississauga's judicial inquiry last week, has some councillors fuming.
"The settlement was not reasonable," Councillor Carolyn Parrish said yesterday. "It in fact was opportunistic, in that time was of the essence for Sheridan."
Though the $4-million was a liability for OMERS and not the city, she said it removed any "wiggle room" during the city's negotiations in the Sheridan deal.
Ultimately, the City of Mississauga bought the land for $14-million and will lease it to Sheridan. Had councillors known the details of the settlement at the time, it is unlikely they would have agreed to pay that sum, Councillor George Carlson said.
"The $4-million settlement is worth nearly 30% of the final purchase price -- a fee which is neither defensible nor reasonable," Mr. Carlson said. Councillor Maja Prentice, a staunch opponent of the inquiry, disagreed.
"I don't think this is any of our business as members of council, quite frankly," Ms. Prentice said. "We have no idea what was spent [to facilitate the deal]. These are two private corporations that were doing a business deal."
The vendors -- which included OMERS and its subsidiary Oxford, and the Alberta Investment Management Corporation and its subsidiary 156 Square One Limited -- filed an application in Superior Court in the summer of 2009 to confirm the World Class deal was terminated, but the development firm challenged that, ultimately leading to the settlement.
The inquiry is examining whether Mayor Hazel McCallion, by virtue of her involvement in her son's deal, was in a conflict of interest. Last week, documents emerged to suggest Ms. McCallion met with OMERS chief Michael Nobrega while the World Class deal was being amended.
The inquiry has also seen an email exchange between Mr. Nobrega and Michael Kitt of Oxford, in which Mr. Kitt suggests World Class may have been "using" the Mayor in the process.
"It is difficult to tell her that, especially with her son involved," Mr. Kitt writes.
The revelation about the payout to World Class came during the testimony of Abraham Costin, a lawyer representing Oxford and 156 Square One. Mr. Costin said he did not know of the settlement between World Class and OMERS until after the fact.
"I wasn't involved in the settlement or any discussions relating to it," he said.
Lawyer Don Jack, representing Square One, said settlement talks were completed before Sept. 11.
Mr. Costin confirmed the final payout was $4-million, with about $1.5-million in a combination of refundable and non-refundable deposits.
Tom Urbaniak, an academic with expertise in Mississauga politics, says it is too early to determine whether $4-million was a reasonable settlement amount.
"It depends in part on whether the purchase-and-sale agreement was properly terminated by the vendors," he noted. "We are hearing somewhat different versions of that crucial event."
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