City council votes to sideline parking authority board during probe into pricey land deal
Auditor general says board risked spending more than $2.5M than it needed to for a piece of land
Toronto city council voted to suspend the Toronto Parking Authority (TPA) board and ask the integrity commissioner to investigate a controversial land deal that was nixed.
City council spent the better part of two days discussing the complex issue, brought to light in a scathing report by Toronto's auditor general, Beverly Romeo-Beehler.
Her report, released last week, found the TPA nearly spent $2.5 million more than it should have for a piece of land near Finch Avenue West and Highway 400 last year because it was relying on information provided by a lobbyist and sign consultant rather than an independent business valuator.
After Coun. John Filion, a current member of the board, contacted the auditor with concerns about the $12.1 million purchase price, Romeo-Beehler began investigating and shortly after the TPA abandoned the deal.
However, TPA officials say due diligence would have been done before the transaction was finalized.
At council's Thursday meeting, Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti — who was on the TPA board at the time of the potential acquisition and also sits on the Emery Village Business Improvement Area, which wants to build the world's tallest flagpole at the site — took aim at Filion, suggesting he acted more like a "headhunter" than a whistleblower.
Filion dismissed that, saying it was not true.
Councillors hope investigation will lead to answers
Mayor John Tory moved to have the board step aside while a further investigation takes place, noting in his motion "there has been no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the board."
Coun. Gord Perks says that's the right move, suggesting the investigation needs to be done in a manner that's "beyond reproach."
Coun. Janet Davis's motion to ask the lobbyist registrar to look into the actions of a lobbyist and consultant involved in the scuttled deal was approved.
The auditor general told councillors the tangle of relationships at the heart of the deal was like a "hairball."
A number of councillors say they're hoping a third-party investigation will allow the city to get to the bottom of what happened.