THE DEMOCRATIC REPORTER
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Toronto Star - Nov. 28, 2009 - By Phinjo Gombu Urban Affairs Reporter.
Hazel McCallion's family troubles
For more than two decades, Peter McCallion has been a fixture on the real estate scene in Mississauga: often in the thick of complex land transactions, always recognizable in his trademark black Stetson.
Despite being the eldest son of the city's wildly popular mayor, Hazel McCallion, he operated in relative obscurity, while enjoying access to the rapidly growing city's elite – especially after his father, Sam, died 12 years ago and he began escorting his mother to public events.
But the decision by Mississauga council to launch a judicial inquiry into a controversial $14.4 million land deal he initiated – which will also probe conflict-of-interest allegations involving the mayor – has cast the 56-year-old dealmaker into the glare of a political skirmish that has loosened his mother's three-decade-long grip on the city. As the Star learned, it's not the first time the younger McCallion has found himself in a jam, or dealing with allegations that his mother was involved in his business affairs.
MCCALLION, IN THE STETSON and leaning against a white 1965 Mustang convertible, is Mr. January in a 2010 hospital fundraising calendar featuring local celebrities. The caption describes him as a "Property, Land Development and Commercial Management Builder, Developer, Entrepreneur."
That's one way to sum up McCallion's career. Since he got his real estate licence in 1986 – one of his early successes was to find the Streetsville house his mother now lives in – he has been involved in buying and selling land for residential and commercial developments, involving big names such as Wal-Mart, First Pro, DeZen Construction and the late Maple Leafs owner, Steve Stavro. In the past three decades he's also gone through a divorce, a conviction for impaired driving and, a couple of years ago, suspension of his real estate licence for failing to complete required courses.
By last December, when the mayor was taking part in a controversial private meeting involving his company, World Class Developments Ltd., and OMERS, a giant pension fund that holds a minority share in the city's hydro utility, Peter McCallion was in trouble.
According to court documents, the topic of the meeting was OMERS' desire to end a conditional agreement to sell a 3.4-hectare plot of land in a prime downtown spot adjacent to the Square One Mall, Living Arts Centre and Mississauga City Hall. OMERS believed World Class hadn't met the terms.
That decision would scuttle the younger McCallion's dreams of a huge hotel-condo-convention centre complex there – a plan on which, the company's general manager Tony DeCicco later claimed in an affidavit, World Class had already spent several million dollars.
And there was more. [ Oh - YES - there is more - lots more !!!!! ]
* The law firm of Davies Howe, which specializes in development and planning law, was seeking payment from World Class of legal bills
Douglas's affidavit claims Peter McCallion sometimes accepted commissions that didn't go through the brokerage firm both worked for – payments McCallion characterized to her as "under the table." One is described by Douglas as a $50,000 fee from the late entrepreneur, Steve Stavro, which she alleges Hazel McCallion had a hand in negotiating.
In her affidavit, filed years later in March 2007, Douglas states that the mayor had advised Peter McCallion that she had called Stavro about paying him the additional commission on a land deal he had negotiated.
Douglas says Peter McCallion personally went to Stavro's Knob Hill Farms office on Eglinton Ave. to collect the $50,000 in the form of three cheques. Because he had lost his driver's licence due to a conviction involving impaired driving, Douglas says, she drove him there herself.
None of Douglas's claims have been proven in court. The case is still active.
Repeated attempts to obtain comment from Peter McCallion went unanswered, although the Star complied with his emailed requests to provide questions in advance.
In his statement of defence to the court, McCallion denies all of Douglas's claims about unpaid or secret commissions and the alleged $50,000 side fee. He also states that "at no time was my mother involved in negotiating (a) commission on my behalf."
Asked for comment, Hazel McCallion responded with a brief email in which she said her son's business was his alone. She said she would not comment on any specifics about his business dealings because she was not involved in them.
However, she slammed as "defamatory innuendo" Douglas's claim in the affidavit that the mayor herself had called Stavro to ask him to pay Peter McCallion the "additional commission."
Mayor McCallion told the Star: "On occasion, where I have been aware of his involvement on a matter that has come before council, where Peter has had an interest, I have made it my practice to fully comply with the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act."
"Like any parent, I regret that my son has sometimes been involved in unsuccessful ventures," she added.
BY 2008, Mississauga's highrise downtown was rapidly filling in, and Hazel McCallion was on record as strongly favouring a major hotel in the core area.
But it was Peter McCallion who, so he stated in court documents, came up with a concept for the hotel complex and approached OMERS head Michael Nobrega about the idea. (Nobrega sits on the Enersource hydro board with the mayor, and that company's tangled relationship with the city forms another part of the coming inquiry.)
Had the project been built, it could have been very lucrative for World Class Developments.
In a sworn affidavit, McCallion listed himself as a principal of the company. He would later try to distance himself from it – although not in court documents.
What ultimately led to the collapse of the land deal was last year's credit crunch. OMERS grew frustrated with what it saw as the failure of World Class to secure an agreement with a hotel operator, and the uncertainty slowed the process of getting the land rezoned – the factor that brought the deal into city council's sights.
OMERS backed away in late 2008. World Class's unwillingness to give up its claim prompted the pension fund to go to court to get the deal annulled, so it could sell the land to, ironically, the City of Mississauga.
An affidavit penned in World Class's defence this fall by DeCicco was what first brought to light the mayor's participation in private meetings about the hotel plan and led to sharp questions from city council about the propriety of such actions when a project is under council scrutiny.
At the same meeting where council voted to ask for a judicial inquiry, it approved the purchase of the OMERS land for a new campus for Sheridan College.
Meanwhile, McCallion's company negotiated an undisclosed settlement with OMERS.
In one of the Star's fruitless attempts to reach Peter McCallion, a reporter called DeZen Construction, where an associate confirmed McCallion has a contract to sell the homes it builds in Mississauga.
Perhaps in a sign of McCallion's troubles, the employee who picked up the phone asked if the reporter calling was a home purchaser. Told no, the employee responded: "You're not going after him for money, are you?"
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