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National Post - Jul. 29, 2010 - By Megan O'Toole - firstname.lastname@example.org
Son 'misled' McCallion, court told
A lawyer for the city of Mississauga launched a blistering attack on Peter McCallion's credibility yesterday, leaving the son of Mayor Hazel Mc-Callion flailing to explain his involvement in a series of private meetings over the past decade with his mother and key players in a controversial land deal.
And new details emerged about the Mayor's role as a behind-the-scenes proponent for her son's firm, World Class Developments -- even as the Mayor's lawyer suggested Mr. McCallion "misled" his mother by downplaying his own role in the company.
Mr. McCallion, 57, created World Class in 2005 to support his bid to build a hotel and condominium complex in the city centre, a project the Mayor strongly supported. The development firm has come under scrutiny at a judicial inquiry probing whether the Mayor was in a conflict of interest by pushing that deal forward.
Mr. McCallion has been trying to distance himself from the firm, arguing he did not understand he was a partial owner until recently, and instead believed he was acting in the capacity of real estate agent during negotiations on the hotel deal. In fact, he owns 16% of the company.
"You misled your mother as to your actual role," suggested Elizabeth McIntyre, the Mayor's lawyer, a charge the younger McCallion denied.
"I expressed what I thought my role was," he said.
The exchange came after a series of questions in which the pair laughed about Mr. McCallion's poor record of sharing personal information with his mother, and about his efforts to help the Mayor around her house, most recently to chase squirrels from her fireplace.
At one point, William Mc-Dowell, counsel for Commissioner Douglas Cunningham, rose to question how much weight should be afforded to the line of "sweetheart questioning."
"Not much," the commissioner replied tersely.
The inquiry also heard new evidence about how the Mayor worked behind the scenes to help facilitate the hotel deal, from which her son expected to gain upward of $10-million.
As her son's company struggled to ensure financing for the hotel portion of the land deal amid the global credit crunch in late 2008, Ms. Mc-Callion contacted land vendor Oxford to request they "relax" the hotel condition because of economic circumstances.
"[She was] making the argument on your behalf," city lawyer Clifford Lax said .
Throughout the day, Mr. McCallion appeared at a loss to explain details of private meetings involving himself, the Mayor and a number of World Class investors and shareholders.
His answers to a barrage of questions from Mr. Lax began to ring familiar: "I don't remember what the meeting was about," he said of a 2 0 0 3 sit-down between the Mayor, himself and future World Class investor Tony DeCicco --though he was certain it did not concern the company.
"Tony's a friend of mine and my mother," Mr. McCallion said in an attempt to explain another such meeting in early 2004.
Similar meetings continued in 2005, the year World Class was incorporated, and through the period of negotiations on the hotel deal, which ultimately fell apart last year.
Dozens of records point to private meetings at the Mayor's Mississauga home and various local restaurants. Participants include the two Mc-Callions, and at varying times, Mr. DeCicco and World Class investors Murray Cook, John Dipoce and Leo Couprie.
Mr. McCallion offered no insight on what may have been discussed, though he admitted World Class was "likely" a topic of discussion at some of the later meetings.
Transcripts of voicemail messages further underscored the Mayor's apparent involvement in the hotel and condominium bid.
In one from 2007, amid a dispute that ultimately pushed Mr. Cook out of the company, Mr. DeCicco leaves the Mayor a voicemail asking: "Were you able to or have you considered getting Murray to sign the agreement [limiting his shareholder rights]? The sooner we get it, the better off we are."
"Why would you need to involve the Mayor of Mississauga for what is essentially a private issue?" Mr. Lax asked.
"I didn't. Tony did," Mr. Mc-Callion testified.
Toward the end of the cross-examination, Mr. Lax appeared frustrated.
"I've asked you about every meeting and every phone call and you've had no recollection of any of them," he said.
"That was two years ago," Mr. McCallion replied.
In a brief scrum at the conclusion of his testimony, Mr. McCallion said he believed neither himself nor his mother had done anything wrong during the negotiations. The inquiry resumes today.
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