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Toronto Citizens Suffer Through Local Mismanagement
04/07/2003
What can citizens do when we see the modest ambitions of our city being thwarted by suspicious deals entered into by those who supposedly represent us? What can we do when those who are supposed to be looking out for our interests are actually giving away the store? Not much, it seems. Today's Toronto Star reports on an apparent settlement in a lawsuit involving control of port lands that are crucial to the city's waterfront redevelopment. It looks like a suspicious deal entered into by the Toronto Economic Development Corporation's commissioner will likely stand.
"We were going to fight it ... to seek legal remedies ... however when law enforcement agencies found nothing they could lay charges on, obviously that was not helpful to the cancellation of the lease," said [City Councillor and TEDCO board member Joe] Pantalone (Ward 19 Trinity-Spadina).
The short background on the story -- compiled from Toronto Star articles found on the Association of Ontario Land Economists' website -- is as follows: According to the findings of an internal investigation, the TEDCO board was deceitfully misled in January 2000 by its then-chair, Fred Eisen, into giving Knob Hill Farms founder Steve Stavro a sweetheart deal on port lands where one of his stores stood. The land was critical not only to the waterfront redevelopment plans, but also to the 2008 Olympic bid that the city was then working on. Eisen resigned shortly after the deal became public. The findings of the investigator's report are particularly damning:
The report, written by lawyer George Rust-D'Eye, says that Fred Eisen "deceived the board (about) the nature and legal ramifications" of the new lease they were asked to approve at a Jan. 25 board meeting. "There is every indication that this misrepresentation was intentional, amounting to deceit." ...The report says the lease deal was dealt with by the TEDCO board in just over five minutes, and Eisen tried to seek a vote to approve it barely a minute after the item was introduced. ...But in that time, Rust-D'Eye's report concludes, Eisen misrepresented the terms of what the board was being asked to approve a total of eight times. The misrepresentations were so numerous that Rust-D'Eye created a separate appendix of them in the back of his report. He also created an appendix of information that Eisen had a duty to provide to the board, but didn't. That appendix contains 17 points that Eisen failed to provide.
The goings-on were investigated by the police, but ultimately no charges were laid. However, just because no evidence of criminal wrong-doing was found does not mean that Toronto residents' interests were being served. Nevertheless, it looks like there is no redress. We just have to take our lumps and wonder when this plague will be over.

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