The City Donation Scandal: Who Knew What and When?

 

Having read the background piece from CBC Montreal on the twists and turns in the life of Katasa Group chief Samir Chowieri, it’s hard to imagine how Capital Councillor Shawn Menard can continue to be a part of Ottawa City Council.

Menard accepted $300,000 for his constituency from the developer in his ward who has a history of misdeeds that send shivers down your spine.

The OPP (not the city police because of the obvious conflict of interest) needs to be called in to trace exactly where that $300,000 came from.

Most certainly the senior people in the city’s legal department should resign who were supposed to research whether this donation was legal or broke city policies. At the very least, they should have tapped Menard on the shoulder to say maybe this money should not be accepted. Oddly now, this Katasa money is being used by all wards rather than just Menard’s as originally negotiated. Maybe a lot of people should resign. Considering how terrible this council is, that might not be a bad thing.

We need to know what Menard knew about the money and when he knew something … if there was anything to learn. Menard has said he had vaguely heard some things about Chowieri’s background. That should have been investigated thoroughly by Menard’s people. Obviously it wasn’t. That’s not good enough. What are Menard and the City of Ottawa doing conducting business with the likes of Chowieri?


And one wonders how all this came about. Who was behind the $300,000 donation? Katasa alone or was the firm put up to it by others? If so, who were they? Was Menard set up? Was this retribution for his tough criticism of development in this city? Developers in Ottawa have done much worse behind the scenes. They call the shots at city hall.

The sad thing about all this is Menard was one of the more capable councillors on a poor council. Most of his peers must look up to bat at the Mendoza Line.

We also need to know when city manager Wendy Stephanson knew about the donation and what she knew. Same with Mayor Mark Sutcliffe. What did he know and when did he know it? Sutcliffe was a journalist. He knows how this works.

One doesn’t get an opportunity to agree with Orleans East-Cumberland Councillor Matt Luloff as often as one should but he is right about the province getting involved. An inquiry and the OPP.

Our city hall at present is a disaster. No wonder the city can’t get good people to come here to fill senior positions.

The ironic part of all of this is that now that the funds have been spread among all the wards, not just Menard’s, everybody on council theoretically is involved. Luloff might just have called on an inquiry into himself and all of his council peers.

If the idea was to get Menard, he is well got. Now we need to know who rightfully should be got as well. This issue doesn’t stop at Menard.

City hall might be short on cash, but there is an abundance of stupid.

Ken Gray

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4 Responses

  1. Theresa says:

    Why don’t we go back to the beginning? Katasa Group was given permission to apply to build a development in Councillor Menard’s ward. By whom? Wouldn’t it be logical to accept that Councillor Menard assumed the developer passed scrutiny because they had gotten this permission?

    What about all the other developers who have done business in Ottawa? Do they go through background checks? It would appear that the only time developers’ histories are scrutinized is when they donate money to the community — so in future, we can expect benefits like this to evaporate unless the developer is the equivalent of St. Nicholas.

    What about those councillors who accept donations from developers for their election campaigns? Do they do due diligence to ensure that said developers aren’t involved in shady dealings?

    Can we please just assess the facts and not take extreme positions like expelling councillors because they didn’t consider doing background checks on a developer that had already been given permission to do business in Ottawa?

  2. sisco.farraro says:

    And, unfortunately, there is “no cure for stupid”. By the way, Ken, your reference to the Mendoza Line was quite interesting. I didn’t realize so many people who read the Bulldog were baseball fans.

  3. Ken Gray says:

    Theresa:

    I can’t agree with you. Five minutes of Googling could tell you what you needed to know.

    Frankly, I’m astonished at what I’m hearing from you.

    cheers

    kgray

  4. Theresa says:

    Ken, So how many development applications/approvals do Katasa have in Ottawa? Shouldn’t they all be cancelled now, given the questionable provenance of their financing and their questionable business practices? While we’re at it, could we PLEASE have an integrity requirement for candidates for political office, especially at the provincial level?

    It’s clear, in hindsight, that the criminal background of Katasa’s owner has been public knowledge for some time.

    I see this as a learning opportunity for Ottawa City Council and staff — to do background checks on all applicants for business proposals to ensure that integrity prevails. Included in this can be stringent restrictions (5% or less from developers) in
    provincial and municipal election campaign financing.

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