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In Defence of Canadians Rights & Democracy

* Hazel McCallion - Mayor of Mississauga *
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Opening comments:  More at the end.

To the main Judicial Inquiry page - to the Hazel McCallion page.

Comments by others to this web-page 3.

Torstar Network - Sept. 18, 2009 - By ?

Mayor at meetings about son's project

Mother and son.
Mayor Hazel McCallion with her son Peter.
The mayor said her son’s involvement wasn’t going to prevent her from pushing for a hotel. Toronto Star photo

Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion joined at least two private meetings last year involving her son's company and a $14.4 million land deal, even though zoning for a hotel he hoped to build near City Hall was under active consideration by council.

Although the mayor declared a conflict of interest when the hotel project came before council for a vote in April 2008, court documents show McCallion participated in discussions between City staff, the developer and a prospective hotel operator just over a month before council was to vote on the application.

She was involved again at a critical Dec. 15 meeting with the owner of the vacant property that Peter McCallion's company, World Class Developments, was trying to buy — when the deal was clearly unravelling.

"You cannot absolve yourself completely from major issues involving the city," McCallion said this week, defending her involvement.  She added that she'd always had a vision for a hotel/convention centre in the vacant space adjacent to the Living Arts Centre.

The meetings, both before and after the mayor's public declarations of a conflict of interest, are described in documents lodged in court by Tony DeCicco, the company's general manager, to support a countersuit against the landowner after the deal fell through.

The affidavits provided by DeCicco and Peter McCallion provide a rare glimpse into the business and legal wrestling that go on as major projects move through the approvals process at Mississauga City Hall.

In his sworn document, dated Aug. 24, Peter McCallion indicates he was a principal in World Class Developments, the company De Cicco joined in fall 2007.

The 18-page affidavit offers a blow-by-blow account of how Peter McCallion first became interested in developing the land between 2004 and 2005 on behalf of his client, Leo Couprie.

It states that Peter McCallion approached Michael Nobrega, president and CEO of OMERS, the Ontario municipal employees' pension plan, to purchase the land. OMERS also owns Square One and Nobrega sits on the board of Enersource as a minority shareholder in Mississauga's hydro utility.

Asked about the appropriateness of being present at discussions over a project her son was promoting, McCallion said her understanding of conflict-of-interest rules was that they apply only to council votes.

McCallion also said World Class Developments wasn't her son's company.  She said she understood that Peter McCallion had filed a correction to his affidavit stating that, while he did represent the company, he was not a principal.  The Star was unable to confirm such a correction in court files.

Peter McCallion could not be reached for comment, and DeCicco did not return calls.

Toronto lawyer George Rust-D'Eye, an expert in municipal law, said conflict provisions should be interpreted on a case-by-case basis.  But they broadly state that once an elected official becomes aware of having a direct, indirect or attributed financial interest in a matter, he or she should declare it whenever the matter is considered at a council or committee meeting.

The law also requires the official not to take part in any discussion or vote on the matter — or, for transparency's sake, to do anything before, during or after the meeting to influence the voting.

McCallion said she participated in a March 19, 2008 meeting — about a month before council was supposed to vote on lifting zoning restrictions on the site.  The meeting involved hotel operator Suresh (Steve) Gupta, DeCicco and two senior planners, who met at a Toronto hotel.

"They wanted to get some idea of what kind of hotel I had in mind," said McCallion.  "They wanted me to see what kind of hotel Mr. Gupta built."
McCallion, however, insisted she was unaware of the details of the site plan application and issues such as the need to lift zoning restrictions, as the project had yet to come before council.

Asked if her views on the project might tend to influence staff or councillors, she said they could easily turn down the application.

"It doesn't prevent me from hoping something will happen," she said, adding even her son's involvement would not prevent her from pushing for the hotel she wanted.  "It's a vision I've had for years."

The April vote, had it passed, would have lifted zoning restrictions and saved World Class Developments about $11 million in new development charges.
McCallion was absent for that vote.  In the end, the decision was deferred because World Class Developments and OMERS had yet to finalize the land sale — a prerequisite for council approval.

The minutes show the mayor declared a conflict at the next meeting, as required.

About then, the collapsing economy put a chill on commercial development and lending.  Efforts to finalize the land purchase dragged on.

DeCicco's affidavit states that in September, senior city staff contacted the developers to assure them the City was agreeable to rezoning the land "so that nothing could be built there except a hotel and convention centre."

By December, it became clear OMERS had lost faith in the company's ability to close the deal.  That's when the mayor found herself involved in a Dec. 15 meeting between DeCicco and OMERS, which was backing away from its agreement to sell the land.

Mayor McCallion said she attended the December meeting because she was invited.

"I was there and I don't quite know what else to say," she said.

McCallion added she was there to listen to the two sides of the story and didn't recall saying much.

Was it appropriate, she was asked?

"I have no comment," she replied.  "I am answering it to the best of my ability.  You can come to your own conclusion."

DeCicco's affidavit states World Class Developments was still in active discussions with City staff over zoning and site plan approvals as well as questions about who would pay for required infrastructure.

World Class Developments refused to believe the land sale was dead even after OMERS terminated the deal in early January, court documents show.
The entire mess landed in court this summer, when, according to a letter from an OMERS lawyer, World Class Developments was jeopardizing OMERS' ability to sell the land to another client by acting as if it still had a deal.

The suit was recently settled.

Comments by others, 3, to this web-page;

Uatu     Sep 19, 2009 6:44 PM

"I am answering it to the best of my ability. You can come to your own conclusion."

Yes we can, Madam Mayor. The inevitable conclusion is that you have violated the (misplaced, in my opinion) trust of the citizens of Mississauga. What other possible conclusion is there? If you can't understand that then you have no business in office.

* Agree 1

DeValera     Sep 19, 2009 4:30 PM

at 88, too late to change?

More proof that the best days of managing our affairs are behind. Thank you for your previous service and please stop talking about running again next year.

* Agree 2

Uatu     Sep 18, 2009 11:22 AM

Together again!

Hazel McCallion, Michael Norberg, OMERS, Enersource, and conflict of interest. Who would have thought all of these would have turned up in the same news story? Hard to believe, isn't it.

* Agree 1

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