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Toronto Star - Aug. 16, 2010 - By Phinjo Gombu Urban Affairs Reporter.

Mississauga mayor made many land deal calls, inquiry hears
OMERS head says he wasn’t worried about ‘hanger on’ Peter McCallion

Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion contacted the head of a pension fund that was selling land to her son’s company several times, both to champion his hotel/convention centre project and to seek concessions during the year the $14.4 million conditional sale unraveled, an inquiry has heard.

Evidence at the inquiry, which is probing the mayor’s involvement in the deal for a piece of prime downtown land, described several occasions when McCallion went directly to Michael Nobrega, head of the OMERS pension fund, over the heads of his officials:

• March 2008:  At a meeting with Nobrega and senior OMERS officials, Mayor McCallion vouched for the financial health of Tony DeCicco, Peter McCallion’s business partner in a company called World Class Developments, and his capability of carrying through.

• July 2008:  Mayor McCallion called Nobrega to seek an extension of the conditional deal, prompting one of his officials to wonder why the developer or purchaser wasn’t calling instead.

• November 2008:  Mayor McCallion again called Nobrega, asking if OMERS could cut DeCicco some slack on deposits then due.

McCallion maintains she was simply acting in the city’s best interests.

In December 2008, OMERS extended the deadline on the deal just as it was about to collapse over World Class’s apparent inability to fulfil the key condition of getting a hotel built on the site. Nobrega testified that he may have told an official to extend the agreement.

Eventually, the deal did collapse, against the backdrop of a worldwide recession and a credit freeze.

Nobrega testified that Mayor McCallion did not contact him about a settlement that he asked David O’Brien, a McCallion confidant who also sits on the OMERS board, to negotiate in September 2009.  The settlement, meant to get World Class to relinquish its dibs on the land so it could be sold to the city for a Sheridan College campus, gave the company $4 million.

He denied suggestions that he was trying to protect the mayor or her son with the settlement.

Mayor McCallion asked O’Brien to intervene in the dispute about two months before Nobrega got him involved as a “fact finder,” the inquiry has heard. But Nobrega said he never discussed the issue with O’Brien during that time.

Nobrega said he wanted a settlement purely so the sale could proceed without controversy, and because he was concerned about future claims by World Class, as OMERS had agreed to indemnify the city.

He refused to be drawn into questions about whether he was concerned the mayor was pushing a deal that involved her son.

The inquiry has heard that people who reported to Nobrega and an Alberta pension fund that co-owned the land were concerned about the optics of having the mayor’s son involved in the deal.

“Peter McCallion was not a person of interest to me,” Nobrega repeated several times, describing the younger McCallion’s role as a “hanger on.”

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