Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue and Gold goes cold on mayor's choice for director: Battle over Bombers board

Bombers chair runs interference on Katz's pick

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The sun sets during the inaugural game at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg on June 27, 2013. Watch a time-lapse video of the opening of the new Blue Bombers stadium made with over 10,000 still images from around the field at wfp.to/igfield 130627 - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - (Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press)

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The sun sets during the inaugural game at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg on June 27, 2013. Watch a time-lapse video of the opening of the new Blue Bombers stadium made with over 10,000 still images from around the field at wfp.to/igfield 130627 - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - (Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press) Photo Store

Sam Katz has nominated Jeff Rabb for the Bombers board, but the current directors don't want him.

The mayor -- along with Premier Greg Selinger -- has an appointee on the board to safeguard the investment in the stadium and the Bombers made by taxpayers. Katz put forward Rabb, president of Winpark Dorchester Properties, but Bombers chairman Brock Bulbuck and vice-chair David Asper have urged the mayor to reconsider. Katz listened to their arguments against Rabb but in the end chose to stick with his choice.

Rabb must now be accepted or declined through a vote of the current board of directors.

"The city and province have the right to representation on the board. That doesn't mean that they unilaterally appoint a board member," Bulbuck said in a phone conversation on Monday. "They have the right to appoint a board member but under our bylaws, every nominee has to be considered from both the merits of the skillset of the individual as well as their background and their expertise. They are then voted on with the majority of the board needed to vote in their favour to elect a director."

Bulbuck said he and Asper approached the mayor because they wanted a city staffer and not a member of the public at large to fill the seat left vacant by former city administrator Phil Sheegl.

"We (Bulbuck and Asper) did request a meeting with the mayor requesting that he consider someone from the administration. The Bombers have to work closely with the city. We've got a Grey Cup to plan, we've got stadium transition issues and transportation issues and all of those things. Working with someone in the city, who knows where to go and who to talk to in order to get the right meetings and make the right decisions is key," said Bulbuck, who also questioned how effective Rabb will be as the mayor's appointee if Katz is no longer in office after October's municipal election. "We were there representing the board. It was after a board discussion. It wasn't a personal visit representing the personal views of David Asper and Brock Bulbuck. It was about who would be the best city representative for the board at this time."

Katz explained why he chose Rabb.

"Jeff Rabb has supported the Bombers financially and emotionally for a long time," said Katz. "I've nominated Jeff and he's an excellent candidate. A successful businessman and a philanthropist."

Rabb only commented briefly on Monday but promised to add value if selected. "I don't have much to say until I'm nominated but if I'm chosen I'll have more to say and I'll work hard to serve the fans."

Bulbuck, meantime, admitted the board has ignored its own bylaws on term limits but says they're in the process of cleaning that up.

"In accordance with a retirement schedule set forth last April for all current and existing board members, we will have three current board members retire and we'll appoint three more from the public at large," said Bulbuck. "During the time of the stadium development, continuity was deemed important once the project was started and terms from our bylaws were not abided by. We thought it was in the best interest of the club to have continuity. Last April we recommitted to board renewal and regeneration, defining retirement dates for every existing director and committing to the public nomination process."

Keeping the board together during the building of the stadium and subsequent transition makes good sense. But there are board members who under reasonable term limits were well beyond their expiration date prior to the development of the new stadium.

"Yes. But they're now all scheduled to come off. Gene Dunn, for example, comes off the board at the end of this year," said Bulbuck, noting Dunn is a long-serving board member. "I'm committed to having a governance model this community can be proud of."

The mechanism of the board is supposed to run the Bombers. Not the personalities. It's supposed to be transparent and evolving with strong community people moving in and then out. Not sticking around in perpetuity. Term limits are to be lived by and not ignored to satisfy ego or a thirst for power.

Bulbuck gets this and his zeal for reform is commendable. If not a little late in arrival.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 29, 2014 D1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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