Lansdowne Park deal unlawful: lawyer
Redevelopment not exempt competitive bidding, council told
The City of Ottawa will be breaking its own procurement bylaws if it finalizes a deal with a group of Ottawa businessmen to redevelop Lansdowne Park without competitive bidding, an Ottawa lawyer says.
"Council has an obligation to comply with its rules … in this case rules about procurement that make it virtually a requirement in all cases to engage in some kind of competitive bidding process," said Steven Shrybman, a lawyer with the firm Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP who specializes in public interest litigation.
Steven Shrybman's legal opinion
Lawyer Steven Shrybman told city council Friday that procurement bylaws require competitive bidding to ensure taxpayers get value for money and all potential bidders are treated fairly. In his legal opinion:
- The Lansdowne case does not appear to fit any of the exceptional circumstances required to sidestep the bylaw.
- The fact the bid was unsolicited should not make a difference, since the city could still have asked competitors if they could match the deal.
- While Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group has been awarded a conditional CFL franchise that requires it to lease a suitable stadium, there is nothing in the conditions requiring the stadium to be at Lansdowne Park.
- The apparent bylaw violation means the city could risk being sued if it doesn't open up bidding.
His full 17-page report is available online from the Friends of Lansdowne Park.
Shrybman provided his legal opinion to city council after being hired to look into the matter by Friends of Lansdowne Park, a group opposed to the redevelopment plan for the 16-hectare city-owned property on Bank Street.
City council is set to vote Monday on whether to approve the design and financial details of the public-private partnership with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which submitted an unsolicited bid for the project. It plans to bring a Canadian Football League team and to build shops, condos and restaurants at the site. The city's contribution would be to renovate and upgrade the site's football stadium and hockey arena.
Coun. Rick Chiarelli said the city's legal team has already examined the deal to ensure it followed the city's procurement bylaw "to the T" and also hired an outside law firm for a second opinion.
"They've all concluded that we've followed exactly what we're supposed to follow," he said.
Chiarelli questioned the timing of the document so close to Monday's vote.
"It's clearly politically motivated," he said. "It reeks like the finest cheese sold in the Glebe."
Judicial review underway
However, the deal already faces a court challenge from an Ottawa businessman. John Martin was granted a judicial review last fall by the Ontario Superior Court of the way the Lansdowne Park redevelopment plan was procured.
Martin told CBC News on Saturday that Shrybman's conclusions are similar to his own.
"They've raised some more interesting points, and there's some interesting data that's very useful to me as well, from the research that's been done."
Martin has already met twice with the chief justice and plans to incorporate some of Shrybman's research in the compilation of evidence to support his case, which must be submitted to the court by mid-September prior to a hearing.