Former fire chief Reid Douglas spoke out about his firing and his role in a controversial land deal on Tuesday.
Douglas told reporters and councillors he accepted responsibility for his role in the land swap deal, admitting he lacked knowledge on the project but relied on others for help.
The report found Douglas was ill-equipped to deal with a complex development plan to sell four old fire stations and build three new stations. It also found city CAO Phil Sheegl was mainly to blame for the project's mismanagement and even instructed Douglas to complete the deal with Shindico.
The fire hall saga began in 2012 when news surfaced that Douglas had made a deal with local developer Shindico to swap three city owned pieces of land for a parcel on Taylor Avenue.
In the deal, the city would trade two vacant fire halls and a city-owned parcel of land on Mulvey Avenue for a parcel of land on Taylor, where a new fire station would be built.
City council was never notified of the deal and ended up quashing it.
By the time city council nixed the deal, though, construction on the Taylor fire hall was almost complete.
Now, a fire hall sits on land still owned by Shindico, and the city is on the hook for the price of the land.
“Initially, I was approached by Shindico, which was Bob Downs, their developer who said, what are you going to do with the old fire halls, and my response was, ‘We're going to sell them off and then use the money for the project,’” explained Douglas. “He said, ‘Would you consider trading these properties for value against the Taylor property?’”
Douglas said it was common knowledge throughout the city that it traded land with developers. The report noted the trade was also beneficial for Douglas' department because it meant the costs of the project wouldn't be counted against the approved capital budget for the project.
He also said he is still in the dark as to the real reason he was fired in late September. He does not accept that the firing was based on a human resources issue.
Sheegl resigned last week before the audit was released. A month earlier, he oversaw the firing of Douglas, but city officials have remained mum about why Douglas was let go.