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Central figures call report a big waste

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Two people at the centre of Winnipeg's real estate audit are calling the report a waste of time and money.

Former Winnipeg chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl and Shindico Realty president and CEO Sandy Shindleman expressed disbelief they were not interviewed as part of consulting firm EY's audit of major city real estate transactions.

Sheegl, who resigned from the city in October, called the real estate audit "a joke" and said EY made no attempt to interview him as part of an examination of major city real estate transactions conducted from 2006 to 2012.

"It's a political witch hunt. They never asked to speak to me," Sheegl said Wednesday in a telephone interview, adding he found it ridiculous he was overlooked in favour of "activists" such as Colin Craig of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and former Sam Katz adviser Brian Kelcey.

"The auditors chose not to speak to me, so you tell me whether this reeks of a witch hunt," said Sheegl, adding auditors have "conveniently called it a review," not an audit.

Craig asked how it was possible for Sheegl to know he had been interviewed before the full version of the audit report was even released. He called on the Selinger government to call an inquiry -- or if it's not willing to do that, call in RCMP investigators.

Sheegl, however, said the audit's conclusions were flawed. He said he is surprised EY suggested the city did not seriously explore any building other than the former Canada Post building on Graham Avenue as the site of a new police headquarters.

"I'd like the auditor to show me which other post-disaster buildings are available in downtown Winnipeg," said Sheegl, insisting the police need a disaster-proof headquarters and building new would have been too expensive.

Sheegl also said the auditor was wrong to conclude Shindico acted both for the city and the buyer of the Winnipeg Square Parkade. Shindico did nothing for the city on that $24-million transaction other than prematurely listing the structure, Sheegl said.

Sheegl also said there was nothing contentious about the city providing a Canad Inns Stadium site plan to Shindico and Cadillac Fairview in advance of the $29.25-million sale of the property. The city routinely provides site plans to anyone who asks, he said.

Shindico president and CEO Sandy Shindleman also questioned the audit, asking how EY could charge the city more than $500,000 without interviewing him or other Shindico officials about transactions involving the firm.

"It's impossible for them to know what they're talking about," said Shindleman, surmising councillors sought an audit in the hopes the conclusions would suit their political agendas. "It seems they're playing a game of Jeopardy with the taxpayers' money and the councillors' hearts, where they're given an answer and then have to find a question." Shindleman said Shindico never acted on behalf of the city in the Winnipeg Square Parkade sale. "That's a factual error -- and an important one," he said.

Shindleman questioned the auditor's contention the city should have tendered a management contract for the Canada Post tower -- or a separate contract to handle the city's acquisition of the building. Those are mere opinions, he said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 3, 2014 A4

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