Sudbury city manager accused of conflict of interest over proposed soccer dome

A public school board trustee is facing accusations of being in a conflict of interest over plans to build a soccer dome in Sudbury, Ont.

Tyler Campbell planning city sports facility that could be built on school board property

An air-supported dome over a football facility in Houston, Texas. A similar "bubble" is being proposed for Sudbury, Ont. (Yeadon Air-Supported Structures)

A public school board trustee is facing accusations of conflict of interest over plans to build a soccer dome in Sudbury, Ont. 

Tyler Campbell is discussing possible locations for the sports facility in his role as the city's director of leisure services, according to emails obtained through a Freedom of Information request from concerned parent Chantelle Gorham. She asked for the documents after hearing the Rainbow School Board was in high level talks with the city about the project.

Gorham is calling on Campbell to step aside as trustee because he states in an email that the city is considering putting a sports dome at Lasalle Secondary School within the Rainbow District School Board.
Rainbow District School Board trustee, Tyler Campbell, is being questioned for discussing plans to build a soccer dome in Sudbury, Ont., in his role as the city's director of leisure services. That's because the city is considering a school within the Rainbow board as a location for the sports facility. (Ontario School Trustees )

"There's no way to be impartial and removed from the Rainbow board when you're working out business dealings between the City of Sudbury, which is your employer, and the Rainbow Board, where you participate as a trustee," Gorham said. 

"I don't know how anybody in our community can rely on him to make impartial decisions when this is going on behind closed doors."

Campbell declined CBC's interview request — referring to a city statement that confirms he is discussing soccer bubble plans with interested parties. 

Education director defends Campbell

Campbell has declared a conflict of interest with his school board over soccer dome discussions, which means he cannot vote or speak on the matter during meetings. It is not known if Campbell has done the same in his capacity as a city employee. 

"I can only trust that he is speaking on behalf of the city and, of course, the position that he holds," education director Norm Blaseg said.

"I don't even have a conversation with him at the board because it's not within his capacity to have those conversations."

Campbell met with representatives from the Rainbow board on August 15 to discuss a possible financial commitment for a sports dome, according to a city briefing note included in Gorham's Freedom of Information documents. It also shows the estimated cost for the sports facility is $3 million, but about 50 per cent could be covered by provincial grants. 
The Rainbow District School Board has not made any financial commitments for a soccer dome, according to education director Norm Blaseg. (Roger Corriveau/CBC)

Another email shows that Campbell has stated that the the board has $1 million "available to bring to the table" for the project. 

However, Blaseg insists the board has not committed any money for a soccer bubble. If it did, the funding would be a one time expenditure that does not interfere with school operating costs, he said. 

"Lots of stakeholders talk about money," Balseg said. "Does that mean you're beholden to any of those things? Not at this particular time. No, because we have not had those types of discussions."

Parent calls for school board to undertake financial audit

The board's talks about building a soccer dome are happening just as it considers shutting down schools

Gorham wants the board to undergo a financial audit because she finds the timing troubling. 

"They certainly haven't been open and honest by all accounts," Gorham said. "This certainly discredits Rainbow School Board as a whole."
Sudbury parent Chantelle Gorham filed a Freedom of Information request to get more information about the Rainbow District School Board's plans to build a soccer dome. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

In light of the emails, trustee Larry Killens said the board should call a meeting about the soccer dome issue. He had not heard about an offer of $1 million for the project, but noted the money would be better spent saving schools. 

"That million dollars would've come in handy for that," Killens said. 

'Where do allegiances lie?'

Cambrian College, Howard Armstrong Recreation Centre and the Countryside Arena are also being examined as locations for a soccer dome.

A business called the Farley Group is willing to fund the project at Countryside, according to Mike Graham, a spokesperson for the Sudbury District Soccer Club.

He has been working with city staff on his proposal, and said he hopes Campbell's position as trustee does not create an issue. 

"It's confusing because if you're involved with both [city and school board] than obviously where do allegiances exactly lie?," Graham asked. 

"You try to work with people and put your best plan forward and hope that they [city] see that your best plan is the right plan to move forward."

MPP Thibeault insists he has 'no preference' on bubble location

Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault is in discussions with interested parties about building a soccer bubble in the city. (Thomas Duncan/Canadian Press)
In one of the emails, Campbell wonders if Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault will push the Cambrian College-city partnership. But Thibeault did not have an explanation for this in an interview with CBC. 

"I have no preference as to where we have a soccer dome. I would just like to see one," Thibeault said.

"But that's not my call, right? It's the call within the city. If the community can come together and put an application in than it's my job as MPP to be able to spearhead whatever possible opportunities there would be for funding."

Thibeault has been talking to different groups interested in having a soccer dome, he said.

This is just the beginning of discussions on Sudbury's proposed sports dome, as the city's community services committee is expected to discuss the project in the new year.

Read documents released under Freedom of Information laws about the Sudbury soccer bubble plans.

About the Author

Olivia Stefanovich

Reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a network reporter for CBC News based in Toronto. She previously worked in Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter @CBCOlivia. Send story ideas to olivia.stefanovich@cbc.ca.