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RCMP to investigate city deals

Justice official: '... We will deal with what emerges'

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Converting the former Canada Post building to the new police headquarters is one of the transactions subject to investigation by the Mounties.

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Converting the former Canada Post building to the new police headquarters is one of the transactions subject to investigation by the Mounties. Photo Store

A fire-paramedic hall built on land the city didn't own. A police headquarters tens of millions of dollars over budget. Allegations of favouritism toward certain developers.

After years of controversy swirling around some politicians and bureaucrats at city hall, Manitoba Justice has decided to call in the Mounties to investigate and determine whether there's evidence of criminal behaviour.

Greg Graceffo, the province's assistant deputy minister of justice, said Friday the department has forwarded the city's audits on real estate deals and the new police headquarters to the RCMP, as well as adding the fire-hall audit and related materials.

"The RCMP will conduct a review and we will deal with what emerges when the RCMP have concluded," Graceffo said on Friday.

"I'm not going to speak as to how the RCMP are going to conduct their investigation or what conclusions they might reach. The RCMP, I think, will conduct a review to determine if there's a need to go further," he said.

Graceffo would not say what additional related materials were sent over to the RCMP.

'I have been fighting for this for a long time... I think this is a good day for the citizens of Winnipeg'-- mayoral candidate Coun. Paula Havixbeck

"Taking into account everything we had, we felt that the appropriate thing was to refer it to the RCMP," he said, pointing out the decision was made by Manitoba Justice, not the Selinger government.

Graceffo also said the department will leave it up to RCMP to determine if there is evidence of criminal intent.

"That would be the RCMP's call. Not mine and not the department's," he said. "They will take it where the facts warrant."

Graceffo also said it's possible a Crown prosecutor from out of province may be brought in to consult with RCMP on the case should any concerns be raised on a possible conflict with Manitoba Justice's involvement.

The referral to the police comes after city council passed motions in July asking for both the audit looking at 33 controversial land deals and the audit looking at the police headquarters to go to Manitoba Justice.

Mayor Sam Katz said in an emailed statement Friday that while city council voted last month to forward the audits to the province, the provincial government "always had the option to consult with the RCMP."

"The province has made their decision and chosen to exercise their right to refer to the RCMP, and all of council would support their decision, and I hope this brings closure," Katz said.

For mayoral candidate Coun. Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Whyte Ridge), who has fought for years to make public the issues brought up in the audits, it's another step proving she was right to blow the whistle.

"I have been fighting for this for a long time... I fought hard and I paid the price," Havixbeck said, noting she was stripped of her chairmanship on the protection and community services committee after she hauled then-CAO Phil Sheegl and COO Depak Joshi before the committee to get answers on the fire-hall controversy.

"I think this is a good day for the citizens of Winnipeg," Havixbeck said. "I convinced the province and the Department of Justice to do this review... they have taken our concerns seriously."

Havixbeck said she hopes RCMP go further than the auditors did and speak with other people, including Sheegl.

Coun. Jenny Gerbasi is pleased Manitoba Justice is acting on a city council motion made last month to look into the issues brought up by the audits.

"I think there's concern in the public's mind," Gerbasi said. "We need to restore that trust."

But Gerbasi admitted: "I wish we as a city never had to deal with something like this."

Finance committee chairman Russ Wyatt said he thinks the province should go further.

"I still believe there should be a full-scale public inquiry," he said. "I've read the audits three times. They are extremely disturbing.

"I don't know why other members of council are staying silent and not calling for one," Wyatt said.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 16, 2014 A3

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Updated on Sunday, August 17, 2014 at 12:14 PM CDT: Changes main photo.

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