Nova Scotia

Council votes against concert scandal inquiry

Halifax Regional Council has decided not to call in the police or have a public inquiry into the city's concert spending scandal.

Private citizen makes police complaint

Auditor General Larry Munroe released a report into a spending scandal regarding concerts on the Halifax Common. (CBC)

Halifax Regional Council has decided not to call in the police or have a public inquiry into the city's concert spending scandal.

In a recorded vote on Tuesday, council members voted 15 to 7 against a motion put forward by Coun. Linda Mosher, requesting a police review and public inquiry into the funding fiasco.

According to revelations in Auditor General Larry Munroe's 96-page report into the scandal, senior Halifax Regional Municipality officials broke municipal charter rules over concerts on the Halifax Common.

Munroe told regional council on Tuesday that he had spoken with a lawyer and Halifax Regional Police Chief Frank Beazley and did not believe a criminal investigation was warranted.

"The matter — to date — has not shown any evidence of personal benefit. At this point there is no objective basis to refer to a criminal investigation," the auditor general told council.

"They just didn't feel there was personal gain there sufficient to send it across."

Last year, promoter Harold MacKay was advanced $400,000 — without the knowledge or consent of Halifax regional council — just before two summer concerts on the Halifax Common. Tickets sales were poor and the municipality ended up losing $359,550.

Councillors only heard about the deal months later. The ensuing fracas led to the resignation of Wayne Anstey — the city's chief administrative officer at the time — and raised questions about Mayor Peter Kelly's involvement.

Kelly was on the hot seat Tuesday, responding to pointed questions during regional council's first chance to collectively voice how they felt about the scandal.

Councillors 'disappointed'

"I was ashamed and embarrassed by what's in that report," said Coun. Bob Harvey.

Coun. Darren Fisher agreed.

"I couldn't be more disappointed in everybody involved," he said.

"We're all aware of the financial problems of the promoter and that they kept getting propped up with at-risk taxpayer funds."

Kelly apologized to the public on the day Munroe's report was released, but was criticized on Tuesday for not having apologized to the councillors. He extended that apology about halfway through the four-hour debate.

"My apologies to you, as well, for what you've had to endure. I'll take that responsibility and we will make sure this does not happen again," the mayor told council.

Halifax Regional Council was also told a public inquiry into the matter could cost at least $1 million.

In the end, a majority of councillors agreed Munroe's report and his 52 recommendations should be left in the hands of the audit and finance committee along with Richard Butts, the current chief administrative officer. The committee is to meet Wednesday.

Former police officer makes complaint

Meanwhile, a retired Halifax Regional Police officer said he is so upset with the city's decision to bypass a police investigation that he's filed a complaint and decided to take matters into his own hands.

Jim Hoskins told CBC News he gave an official statement to RCMP and Halifax Regional Police on Tuesday, asking both organizations to look into whether there's been a breach of trust in the concert spending scandal.

As a former municipal employee, he said he's ashamed by how regional council has handled the issue.

"I was there for 36 years so I felt, 'We'll give them a week to make up their mind about what they're going to do,'" said Hoskins.

"It didn't look as though they were pushing the issue too much in regards to a police investigation, so I decided to do it myself."

He said although he expects his request will be overlooked, Hoskins hopes other people will come forward with similar complaints.

"I hope it's not a trend that council members are going to turn a blind eye, so to speak. But it certainly is disturbing that they weren't as vocal or as aggressive as I felt they should have been in asking questions and standing up and demanding answers," he said.

"There was only a couple of them that were aggressive in their attempts to get to the truth and that's unsettling."