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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Has Halifax hit Peak Scandal?

Recapping Halifax's multiple political scandals

Posted By on Sat, Apr 2, 2011 at 5:57 PM

click to enlarge halifax.jpg
This morning, as I was reviewing my notes on three different scandals now afflicting Halifax, I thought, "Just how much scandal can be wedged into one town? Are we at Peak Scandal?"

Like its resource cousin Peak Oil, there are two things to consider when assessing Peak Scandal. First there's the question of production: can we continue to increase the amount of product we pull out of the ground and deliver? That question is debatable. Oil company execs and investigative reporters will tell you that with improved technology---deep sea production wells, crowdsourcing, modern refining techniques, Twitter---we can better find product and more efficiently deliver it to the consumer. Some go so far as to argue that the resource is not at all limited; new theories about biogenesis and the unlimited depravity of humanity suggest that there may if fact be an inexhaustible supply.

But even if we can continue to deliver record amounts of product, there's the second question: Will the consumer continue to buy it? Already environmentalists and Pollyannas are calling for the public to reduce consumption, and while they're just a fringe element at present, there's no small danger that their opinions could spread.

Well, there's nothing I can do about it. I'll just keep on with my high-consuming ways, and whatever disaster ensues the next generation can deal with.

In that spirit, and as my Twitter friend Kady O'Malley---@kady---asks for a summary of our current scandal-ridden town, I offer the following recap of our Scandals Three.

Concert loan scandal

The gist of it: In violation of the city charter and accounting rules, $5.6 million in loans was secretly funnelled through a Metro Centre account to concert promoter Harold MacKay so he could put on the ill-fated Common concerts. The whole scheme collapsed when the Black Eyed Peas show failed spectacularly, leaving the city holding the bag on the last $400,000 loan. Deputy CAO Wayne Anstey fell on his sword and resigned.

Denials: Mayor Peter Kelly and Scott Ferguson, president of Trade Centre Limited.

What we still don't know: Responsibility of TCL officials. Curiously, former CAO Dan English and former TCL prez Fred MacGillivray have thus far stayed below the radar screen.

What happens next: Reporters continue to dredge up info and ask rude questions. City auditor general Larry Munroe will issue a report in coming weeks.

I told you so factor: 10 out of 10.

Police brass/Fire department brass/IP scandal

The gist of it: The Fire Dept. hired a investigative firm with a no-bid contract for 10 years. The firm was owned by a cop named Mark Hartlen, and hired another cop named Anthony McNeil, who is brother to deputy police chief Chris McNeil. Mostly, firm gave new fire dept. recruits lie-detector tests to see if they, and I'm not kidding, had sex with animals. There was some other work, however: when a racist newsletter was distributed via email to fire stations, the firm investigated, found the IP address of the sender and somehow---and apparently "improperly"---came up with the physical address of the IP address. But after lawyers looked at the impropriety, they said there was nothing the brass could do about the guy.

When the no-bid contract became public, city council ended the arrangement, and the firm went out of business, and Hartlen was demoted. But, there appears to be a parallel investigation about the IP impropriety. Deputy chief Chris McNeil was asked about it, but not under oath. But, later, Hartlen contested his demotion before the Police Complaints Commission and, I'm guessing, McNeil was called to testify under oath. The CBC, in any event, reports that the issue under question is whether McNeil said one thing in response to the earlier questions, and another thing in response to the "under oath" questions. Lo and behold, McNeil has been suspended, pending further investigation.

Denials: Chris McNeil. More coming, no doubt.

What we still don't know: Who in City Hall knew about all this, and what they did/did not do.

What happens next: Hard to say. Will the cops make public the results of their investigation? Will, ahem, this get back to other City Hall officials?

I told you so factor: 8 out of 10.

Council drinking scandal.

The gist of it: Last summer, Mayor Peter Kelly sent a private memo to councillors basically saying some councillors were embarrassing themselves and discrediting council as a whole because they were getting stoned drunk at public functions. Metro named councillor Reg Rankin as one of the implicated councillors. Then, nothing much happened until earlier this month, when reportedly, Rankin got drunk at a police function and made inappropriate remarks to a police officer's wife. Reportedly, two RCMP officers shuffled Rankin into a cab, but at a later date the police union raised a stink, and Rankin resigned his position on the Board of Police Commissioners and apologized to the cop and his wife.

Denials: Rankin isn't talking, and there are three other councillors who are also not addressing the mayor's memo. At least, not honestly.

What we still don't know: What's Rankin's regular drink?

What happens next: Perhaps a sleuthing reporter will unearth a video or two---who knows?

I told you so factor: 1 out of 10.

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