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OPP are investigating a now-cancelled Toronto Parking Authority land deal

Posted on 01 February 2018 by admin

The land deal in North York was terminated following an auditor general’s report that raised concerns about “a lack of independence, transparency and judgment.”

Ontario Provincial Police are investigating a now-cancelled land deal negotiated by the Toronto Parking Authority, which an auditor general’s report said raised concerns about “a lack of independence, transparency and judgment.”

OPP spokesperson Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne said Thursday that police are “very early on in the process and are looking into all allegations into the Toronto Parking Authority.”

The Toronto Police Service requested this fall that OPP step in to avoid a conflict of interest, Dionne said.

Beginning in late 2016, Toronto’s Auditor General Beverly Romeo-Beehler spent nearly 10 months investigating the land deal in North York that saw the Toronto Parking Authority agreeing to a $12.2 million price tag despite the land being valued at $7.5 million. The land plus the cost of a digital sign put the deal’s overall value at $9.5 million.

The parking authority was planning to overpay $2.63 million for a two-hectare grassy strip that runs along the south side of Finch Ave. W. between Arrow Rd. and an on-ramp for Hwy. 400, the report said.

In July 2017, two senior executives at the authority, President Lorne Persiko and Vice-President of real estate, development and marketing Marie Casista, were suspended with pay following the auditor general’s investigation, the Star reported.

Through a freedom of information request, the Star has learned that annually Persiko earns between $234,450 and $284,498 and Casista earns between $169,276 and $195,144. They remain employed with the city agency, which has said it is unable to provide the exact salary figures.

The auditor general’s report, released last summer, outlined problems with the deal including a lack of transparency by parking authority executives, nudging by local Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West) to push the deal ahead, and potential conflicts of interests of hired lobbyists and consultants connected to the land.

Mammoliti is currently out of town and his executive assistant Mike Makrigiorgos spoke on his behalf,

“He doesn’t have a comment. When something comes out of (the investigation) or if they want to interview him, we’ll deal with it at that point,” Makrigiorgos said. Mammoliti has not been contacted by the OPP.

Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) who sits on the city’s audit committee and pushed for answers this past summer, welcomed the investigation.

“There is so much that smells about this proposed land deal, both the reasons for the deal itself and the conduct of its players, that anyone who believes in accountability should welcome this police investigation,” Matlow said.

Starting in 2014, Mammoliti and a hired lobbyist representing the Emery Village BIA approached the parking authority about the property and possibility of constructing North America’s largest flagpole, the auditor general’s report said. The property would also be used for city parking and bike-share programs and could include public space.

Council approved the parking authority’s acquisition of the property in March 2016, the Star reported.

Councillor John Filion, (Ward 23, Willowdale) a member of the Toronto Parking Authority board, requested the auditor’s investigation after repeatedly asking to see due diligence on the deal.

“For reasons I still don’t understand, they refused to do so,” Filion said Thursday. “I’m just glad to see it’s being fully investigated and we’ll see what the outcome is.”

In the auditor general’s report, Romeo-Beehler found the deal resulted from a “hairball” of relationships and potential conflicts involving Mammoliti, the Emery Village BIA, a lobbyist working for the BIA, a sign consultant working for the parking authority, and parking authority executives.

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