Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz's purchase of a home from the sister of a Shindico executive has people talking, including a former adviser who suggests Katz should leave office.
CBC News reported on Thursday that Katz paid more than $1 million US to buy a house in Scottsdale, Arizona, last month from Teri Nordstrom, the sister of Shindico chief financial officer Diane Shindleman and sister-in-law of president Sandy Shindleman.
The transaction is raising eyebrows because Shindico has been involved in some controversial real estate deals with the City of Winnipeg in recent months, including a land swap involving several fire hall properties.
"My advice would be pick a date and start figuring out how to go with as much dignity as you possibly can," said Brian Kelcey, who once worked as a policy adviser to Katz.
Katz has repeatedly stated that his relationship with the Shindlemans does not constitute a conflict of interest.
On at least eight occasions, Katz was present when Shindico business was on the city hall agenda, and he has never recused himself in public meetings due to a conflict of interest involving the Shindlemans.
Real estate audit applauded
Council voted unanimously on Thursday in favour of a broad audit of the city's past real estate deals, in light of the fire hall land swap controversy.
The audit will review the city's real-estate transactions and policies going back at least five years, although Katz wanted the audit to cover the past 12 years.
Colin Craig of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said council's unanimous vote on Thursday for an audit of the city's real estate transactions is a good step.
However, Craig said Katz should provide more information about his own real estate deals in Arizona.
"This is different from most other transactions," he said.
"You don't expect to know every single thing about a politician's life. But just given some of the other elements to this story, I think the public does deserve more information."
Katz refused to give more details about the Arizona house purchase, other than to say he paid fair market value for it.
Tighten conflict rules, says councillor
Meanwhile, at least one city councillor is calling on the Manitoba government to tighten its conflict-of-interest legislation for city council members.
The Municipal Conflict of Interest Act does not require members of council to disclose properties they own outside Winnipeg.
River Heights Coun. John Orlikow said he asked the province earlier this year to amend the act to require disclosure of properties within Manitoba.
But now, Orlikow said he will ask the province to make council members disclose properties they own anywhere in the world.
"It could be in Arizona, it could be in [the] Bahamas, it could be the Cayman Islands, it doesn't matter. It's not just for the mayor, but for all councillors," he said.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that Katz had purchased an Arizona-based company, Duddy Enterprises, from Phil Sheegl, who is the City of Winnipeg's chief administrative officer.
That transaction does not appear on the mayor's statement of assets and interests, which has to be filed under the conflict-of-interest act.
While Katz owns 100 per cent of Duddy Enterprises, he said he did not need to declare it because "if there's potential land to be owned outside the province, you do not list it."
Katz said the company is currently not an active business, but he might use it in the future.