The OPP anti-rackets branch is investigating allegations of attempted bid tampering in Collingwood, Ont., tied to the proposed sale of town-owned lands, including the now defunct Collingwood grain terminals along the municipality's rapidly redeveloping waterfront.
CBC News has learned a town councillor lodged a complaint to the local OPP detachment commander with claims he heard from a local businessman that Deputy Mayor Rick Lloyd and Mayor Sandra Cooper tried to improperly influence the businessman's bid to buy the grain terminals property.
Dr. James McCrimmon was attempting to purchase the property to develop a 'vertical farming' business to grow and market rare mushrooms.
According to a number of sources, McCrimmon told the town councillor that the deputy mayor instructed him on potential dollar figures — suggesting a bid as high as $15 million — to ensure he won the bidding process.
The deputy mayor has dismissed these claims.
"That's ludicrous. Appalling, I've never heard something so ridiculous. Rigging? Come on," Lloyd told CBC News when told of the OPP investigation.
The deputy mayor acknowledged meeting McCrimmon on two occasions, including once with another councillor, Kevin Lloyd, who is no relation.
That councillor declined comment to the CBC citing legal advice in light of the OPP investigation.
The deputy mayor initially denied talking about proposed bid prices with McCrimmon during their meetings. But he later clarified to CBC News that he did discuss potential bid prices, insisting he disclosed nothing and only discussed an appraiser's report, which was publicly available.
"I thought I was doing it as a friend, to help him. I don't like the way you are spinning this," the deputy mayor told CBC News. "It was just in conversation. He sought my advice. I gave him all kinds of options."
Lloyd rejects any suggestion it was improper to be discussing specific details of a proponents' bid in the lead-up to the tender deadline.
"I honestly feel it was a positive discussion, to come up with a way it might work for the little guy," he said.
OPP told mayor called bidder on eve of deadline
McCrimmon, who refused an interview request, also complained to a town councillor that the mayor telephoned him multiple times in what he believes was an attempt to influence his proposal. According to sources, the phone calls happened on the weekend before the bidding deadline.
"Well I wouldn't say that was true ... I've not phoned him," Mayor Cooper told CBC News in an interview this week.
When pressed on details of the claims by McCrimmon that he was phoned four or five times by the mayor — Cooper replied multiple times: "I don’t recall."
Cooper sent a letter to town staff Thursday advising them of the OPP investigation "as a result of a complaint filed with the police by a member of our council."
"I will instruct all staff to co-operate fully with the police and would expect the same from all members of council," Cooper wrote in the memo circulated among senior staff and members of council.
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