Nova Scotia

Concert concerns not new: ex-HRM manager

A former senior manager with the Halifax Regional Municipality says the mayor's "make-it-happen" approach to concerts was evident years ago with the Rolling Stones show.
The 2006 Rolling Stones show was the first Concert on the Commons. ((CBC))
A former senior manager with the Halifax Regional Municipality says the mayor's "make-it-happen" approach to concerts was evident years ago with the Rolling Stones show.

Carol Macomber said Mayor Peter Kelly pushed for the 2006 concert on the Halifax Common even after she raised questions about it.

"I just kept saying, 'Why are we doing this? I don't see the economic benefit. I don't see the business case.' The only answer I was ever given was that the mayor said to make it happen … so everyone just did what the mayor said without question."

In 2006, Macomber was the municipality's acting director of community culture and economic development. It was part of her job to oversee the Rolling Stones concert on behalf of the HRM.

Macumber said she was supposed to be the point of contact for Trade Centre Ltd., the Crown corporation that runs the Metro Centre and Ticket Atlantic. However, she said, TCL's Scott Ferguson took charge, negotiating with the band and handling ticket sales.

She said top municipal officials were all keen to follow Ferguson's lead.

"Seemed to me like a conflict of interest, that they were negotiating for us. HRM was taking all the risk financially, had no say in the contract negotiations really and were being represented by a group that were going to profit from it," she said.

Macomber said they worked around her and contacted Dan English, the municipality's deputy chief administrative officer at the time.

When she wanted to know why the HRM was even involved in the concert business, she said she was told the mayor supported it.

Agrees with auditor

Macomber agrees with the criticism leveled by the municipal auditor general in his report into the cash-for-concerts deal.

The audit found that Kelly and acting CAO Wayne Anstey risked taxpayers' money and broke municipal rules by advancing a concert promoter $400,000 through a Metro Centre account.

Mayor Peter Kelly pushed hard for the Stones show, says a former HRM manager. ((CBC))

Council was never told about last year's deal, which ultimately cost the HRM nearly $360,000.

Auditor General Larry Munroe said there was a "groupthink" mentality to support the two summertime concerts at all cost so that Halifax could compete with Moncton for shows.

Munroe also singled out Ferguson, saying he was an active participant.

Kelly and others involved have apologized. Anstey resigned in March.

Earlier this week, most regional councillors refused to suspend Kelly  for a week for keeping them in the dark about the secret concert deal.

'Pattern of behaviour'

Macomber said she believes taxpayers will pay a price for council's vote of confidence in the mayor.

"Some people think this was an isolated incident and that the mayor has done a great job and just used poor judgment," she said. "In my opinion, from what I observed, it exemplifies a pattern of behaviour with him."

Macomber is no longer with the municipality. She won a human rights complaint for the way she was treated — not just managing the concert but overall.

She said she's not settling old scores but wants everyone to know just how far back concerts have been a concern for some municipal staff.