City followed Lansdowne critic’s advice in studying
redevelopment deal, lawyers tells judge
BY MOHAMMED ADAM, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN JUNE 29, 2011
OTTAWA — The City of Ottawa was so determined to conduct the redevelopment Lansdowne Park in an open, honest and transparent manner it followed the advice of one of the plan’s principal critics on how to evaluate the financial projections, an Ottawa court heard Wednesday.
Peter Doody, the lawyer who is appearing for the city, said that when Carleton University businessbprofessor Ian Lee told council in the winter of 2009 that the best course was to conduct anbindependent third party review of the financial projections of the Ottawa Sports and EntertainmentbGroup’s plan, city manager Kent Kirkpatrick took the advice to heart and acted on it.
Doody said Kirkpatrick asked the city’s auditor general who is an independent watchdog, to conduct such a review. The auditor general, in turn, asked Lee for advice on which firm to hire to help him.
Lee suggested the Chicago consulting firm Hunden Strategic Partners and they were hired, Doody said.
At the council meeting in question on Nov. 12, 2009, Lee was asked by former councillor Alex Cullen for advice on how to evaluate the finances. Lee responded that his criticism of council was that it had not hired a financial accounting firm from outside Ottawa, or even Canada, to do “full diligence” on the OSEG numbers.
“Let’s bring in an independent third party … accounting firm from the U.S., from New York City or San Francisco, or one of the big cities where there are a lot of capital projects, who can run through the numbers and give you an independent, arm-length, objective analysis so that you are not believing me, or you or some other critic,” transcripts of the city meeting show Lee as saying.
Doody said that’s exactly what happened and the auditor general used Hunden’s advice to help write a report that found the assumptions underpinning the financial projects to be sound. The Hunden report, like others that the auditor general receives, is confidential.
The Friends of Lansdowne, a citizens’ group opposed to the OSEG redevelopment plan, has taken the city to court alleging that it acted illegally on several grounds, including bad faith, providing illegal subsidies to OSEG and violating municipal and provincial law. The group wants the court to quash the Lansdowne Partnership Plan and have the city start the redevelopment again.
But Doody said the city’s action in response to Lee shows that it conducted itself properly, listened to a variety of views and suggestions and made its decision in good faith. There is no indication throughout the process that the city acted unlawfully or illegally, Doody said.
Doody’s theme on the second day of his submissions was of a democratically elected council performing its lawful duties. He argued that Justice Charles Hackland, who is hearing the case, should be wary of second-guessing it.
He said council, in its wisdom, had decided that the redevelopment of Lansdowne has to be linked with a CFL franchise to reduce the drain on the city’s finances.
Having made that decision, council proceeded to determine the best way to achieve its goal, and when OSEG made its proposal, he told the court, the city felt it had found the right partner.
The Friends of Lansdowne contend that the city stacked the deck in such a way that it disqualified other potential bidders, leaving the door open for OSEG. Doody rejected the argument that sole sourcing the project showed bad faith and was illegal. He said the law allows sole-sourcing in exceptional circumstances, and the Lansdowne redevelopment was one of those unique circumstances. He said it was not unreasonable for council, which wanted to redevelop Lansdowne and have a CFL team to pick OSEG because it fit the bill perfectly. It was “reasonable” Doody said, to conclude that only OSEG could do the job.
Doody also attempted to rebut a major criticism that the city may have withheld or hidden documents. He said under city policy, e-mails are kept by staff for 90 days and then deleted but the documents may still be held electronically in the system. But after 180 days they disappear. He said some of the records may have fallen victim to this policy. The problem, he said, is “endemic” and is not confined to the Lansdowne redevelopment.
The hearing continues and the judge has indicated he wants it to end Thursday.
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