Winnipeg real estate audit a 'witch hunt,' says ex-CAO Phil Sheegl
Phil Sheegl, the former City of Winnipeg official who was a key figure in numerous land deals — including the controversial fire hall land swap — says an audit of the city's real estate transactions is little more than a "witch hunt".
Sheegl told CBC News the Ernst & Young (EY) auditors did not contact him as part of their investigation into numerous city real estate transactions, even though he was a central figure in many of those deals.
"The fact that they didn't interview me or think that it was pertinent to ask me any questions, or just pull comments out of context, I find that embarrassing for them," he said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.
"I would consider this is just a continuation of the same witch hunt that went on on the fire hall audit."
When asked if he would have contacted the auditors himself, Sheegl said he assumed they would call him.
"How would I know that they're not calling me until this thing comes out and it's final?" he said.
As for the report itself, Sheegl said, "I would tell you this was a complete waste of taxpayers' money."
Policies, procedures not followed
The EY report, released on Wednesday, states that a number of policies and procedures were not followed in some of the city's real estate transactions.
It reviewed numerous deals going back several years, including the acquisition of the former Canada Post building downtown, which is being turned into the police service's new headquarters.
The auditors found that no appraisal was performed by the city on the Graham Avenue building and that fact wasn't disclosed in city reports recommending that council approve the purchase.
The costs to renovate the building into the police headquarters have ballooned to millions of dollars over original estimates.
Sheegl said a separate audit report on the police headquarters project will prove it has excellent value despite the cost overruns.
Resigned last fall
Sheegl abruptly resigned as the city's chief administrative officer last fall, several days before Ernst & Young released a scathing audit of the fire hall land swap.
That land deal, which called for the city to flip two abandoned fire halls and some land over to Shindico Realty in exchange for property on Taylor Avenue, was arranged without council being aware of it.
But by the time council nixed the deal, construction on a new fire-paramedic station on the Taylor land was almost complete.
- City council votes for legal review of fire hall audit
- Police HQ cost overruns final straw forcing Sheegl out
As city councillors started reviewing the new real estate report on Wednesday morning, Mayor Sam Katz criticized the EY auditors for not talking to Sheegl or staff at Shindico.
Katz described the report not so much as an audit — even though council had ordered an audit — but more of a management review.
While the mayor said he doesn't think the audit did a proper job, he brushed aside questions about whether a police investigation or public inquiry should be held into the issue.
Read the report
Read the Ernst & Young audit findings and recommendations report below. The document was released by the City of Winnipeg on Wednesday afternoon.
- ON MOBILE? Read the report here.