Winnipeg Free Press – PRINT EDITION
Winnipeg’s top bureaucrat is expected to face a rough ride on the floor of council next week, both for his oversight of the city’s fire-paramedic upgrades and the sale of an Arizona shell company to the mayor.
Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie plans to use procedure at Thursday’s city council meeting to grill members of executive policy committee about the performance of chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl.
Eadie has already called for Sheegl’s dismissal over the CAO’s March 2012 sale of Scottsdale-based shell company Duddy Enterprises to Mayor Sam Katz, a transaction both officials later described as a bad move.
Eadie is also critical of Sheegl’s oversight of the city’s construction of four new fire-paramedic stations, which remains under review by chief financial officer Mike Ruta and city auditor Brian Whiteside.
The most contentious aspect of the $15.3-million fire-paramedic program is a proposed three-for-one land swap that would see two old fire halls and a parcel of Fort Rouge land exchanged with Shindico Realty for the Taylor Avenue site of the new fire-paramedic Station No. 12. Most members of council are upset Station No. 12 was built on private land and have complained they were left in the dark about the progress of the replacement program. They also expressed disbelief Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Chief Reid Douglas engaged in real estate negotiations.
Eadie said responsibility for the fire-paramedic program lies on the shoulders of Sheegl, who has said he is 100 per cent comfortable the city followed all procedures.
“He signs off on everything,” Eadie said Friday. “To say it’s the fire chief, well, he had to get an OK from the CAO.”
At city council meetings, councillors may ask up to 20 minutes of questions of members of EPC who chair council subcommittees. Eadie said he intends to use the question period to ask the committee chairs whether they believe Sheegl should be dismissed.
“My personal feeling is EPC is already upset with Mr. Sheegl,” said Eadie, noting the chief administrator reports to the executive committee. “I plan to ask, ‘Do you believe the current CAO should have his position?’ “
Six members of council who chair committees are: St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel (downtown, heritage and riverbank), St. James-Brooklands Coun. Scott Fielding (finance), North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty (property and development), St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal (public works), Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck (protection and community services) and Katz, who chairs EPC. The seventh member of EPC, Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt, does not chair a committee.
Given that Havixbeck already criticized the CAO this summer — she quit a hiring committee for Winnipeg’s next police chief over a conflict with Sheegl — and other EPC members are unhappy, Eadie’s manoeuvre has the potential to turn into a spectacle.
Swandel, however, is not impressed. “We could ask every member of EPC about Coun. Eadie’s performance. That’ll be my only comment,” he said.
Sheegl, who was in New York City this week to attend credit-rating meetings, could not be reached for comment. Katz, Fielding and Ruta were also in New York for the meetings.
There was no word Friday about whether Ruta’s review of the fire-paramedic station replacement program was complete or whether it will be presented to councillors before Thursday’s council meeting.
The window for such a presentation is narrow. The mayor will be back at city hall on Monday but is expected to be off Tuesday afternoon and all of Wednesday for Yom Kippur, the most solemn date on the Jewish calendar.
Vandal, meanwhile, has called for an external investigation of the fire-hall land swap. And Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi plans to file a notice of motion on Thursday to conduct a full audit of Winnipeg real estate transactions.
Unless council votes to suspend the rules and debate Gerbasi’s motion, it would wind up at October’s council meeting.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 22, 2012 A3