Secret report says Toronto councillor Giorgio Mammoliti threatened city staff over controversial land deal
A secret report presented to council says the Toronto councillor for Ward 7 played a “central role” in advocating for a now-cancelled land deal in his York West ward.
May 2, 2018
Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti threatened city staff to push for a land sale in his ward, says a secret investigative report.
The report from Torys LLP, hired by the city to investigate the now-cancelled deal, was presented to council at a closed-door meeting in April and obtained by the Star on Wednesday. It says Mammoliti played a “central role” in advocating for the land sale and “made express and direct threats” to a city staff member and “appeared to be actively pushing” for staff to direct the Toronto Parking Authority, an agency of the city, to acquire the parcel of land in his York West ward.
For the first time, the report also confirms that two parking authority executives were fired by the city on April 4 “based on the information in the report” from Torys.
The now-cancelled land deal is currently under investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police.
Speaking to the Star on Wednesday, Mammoliti said he couldn’t speak to report, as it is still confidential, but pointed out that he, in a public portion of the council meeting last week, insisted the report be made public.
“I’d love to speak publicly on this,” he said. “I don’t think this is about Mammoliti at all. I think there’s much more to this than what you think there is here.” When asked whether he threatened staff as described in the report, he said: “I’m going to say absolutely no to that.”
Mammoliti would not be interviewed by Torys investigators, which included former Supreme Court judge Frank Iacobucci, without them paying his legal fees or sending questions in advance, which they didn’t do, the report says. Mammoliti did not dispute this Wednesday.
The two fired parking authority executives, president Lorne Persiko, and vice-president of real estate and development Marie Casista were interviewed by investigators, along with several board members, parking authority staff, city staff and others.
During the investigation, the board has been governed on an interim basis by senior city staff.
The earlier proposed land sale between a real estate broker, who owns the five-acre strip at Finch Ave. and Arrow Rd. near Hwy. 400, and the parking authority first came under scrutiny in 2016. Councillor John Filion, who was then a member of the parking authority’s board, brought his concerns about the deal and a lack of due diligence to the city’s auditor general.
After a 10-month investigation, in 2017 auditor general Beverly Romeo-Beehler told council that the parking authority was poised to approve the deal that would have seen them overpay for the land by $2.63 million -- what resulted, she said, from a “hairball” of relationships. The auditor general alerted Toronto police, who forwarded the case to the OPP for investigation.
The Arrow Rd. land has long been of interest to Mammoliti, who has pushed to build a project in the area that includes a 125-metre, “monumental” flagpole which is supported by the local Emery Village BIA.
The land at the centre of investigation is owned by Katpa Holdings Inc., according to public records, which is solely registered to real estate broker Frank De Luca.
In recent years, the BIA and Mammoliti looked to the parking authority to purchase the land, both the earlier auditor general’s report and the Torys report explain.
Ahead of a March 2016 council meeting, city staff were preparing a report about public realm improvements to coincide with the proposed Finch West LRT, which will run through the area at Arrow Rd.
The Torys report found Mammoliti told Jeffrey Climans, the director of major capital infrastructure co-ordination, “that if the report did not provide the direction regarding 1111 Arrow Road, he would actively work against all of the public realm improvements,” in his own ward.
Ultimately, the final staff report approved by council did include a recommendation for the parking authority to acquire the property. The city’s legal department had concerns that the wording of the recommendation might suggest the parking authority was required to close the deal even if the terms were “not acceptable,” but those concerns weren’t addressed in the staff report.
Climans told legal staff he’d ensure Mammoliti knew an amendment to the recommendation needed to be made at council, the Torys report says. “Councillor Mammoliti did not want the amendment and it was abandoned,” according to the report.
The Torys report outlined several concerns with how the sale was negotiated and how the parking authority determined the value of the deal.
For example, the parking authority recommended its board approve a conditional agreement to purchase the Arrow Rd. land for $12 million despite, the investigators say, there being, to their knowledge, “no information or documentation that explains clearly how the TPA arrived at the $12 million purchase price” and in spite of appraisals valuing the land at $7.5 million and $8 million. There was also never a business case for the land sale or explanation of parking needs in the area, Torys found.
At one point, despite Casista having “significant doubts” about the quality of work to value the price of a digital sign on the property and potential for a second sign for the site that would not have been blocked by provincial rules, Torys reported that both Casista and Persiko “repeatedly pushed” an independent appraiser, Altus, working on an updated land value to include the sign values in their report to the parking authority board.
Altus refused to include the sign values in their report but attached the work as an appendix. The concerns about that sign valuation were never disclosed to the board, Torys found.
Both Persiko and Casista have maintained, including to Torys investigators, that they would have completed a due diligence review but that it was interrupted by the auditor general’s investigation.