September 30, 2022
  • September 30, 2022

An email trail connects the city and a real estate company on the police HQ project

By on June 25, 2022 0



A trace of e-mails obtained by the Free press provides new insight into the close and collaborative relationship between local development corporation Shindico and Winnipeg City Hall under former Mayor Sam Katz.

Police HQ contractor accused of changing invoices to settle old debts

BORIS MINKEVICH / FREE PRESS KITS

After a lengthy RCMP investigation yielded no charges, the city filed a lawsuit against Caspian Construction in January 2020, alleging the contractor and two dozen other defendants conspired and “conspired.” . to inflate the cost of the project for their benefit.

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BORIS MINKEVICH / FREE PRESS KITS

After a lengthy RCMP investigation yielded no charges, the city filed a lawsuit against Caspian Construction in January 2020, alleging the contractor and two dozen other defendants conspired and “conspired” to inflate the cost of the project for their own benefit.

Job : 15:26 24 June 2022

Caspian Construction, the company at the center of a city lawsuit involving the embattled Winnipeg Police Headquarters project, amended invoices to settle old debts with its subcontractors, according to recently filed court documents. .

“In short, there are numerous irregularities in Defendant Caspian’s billing and payment of subcontract invoices on the (project),” City of Winnipeg attorneys Michael Finlayson and Gabrielle Lisi alleged in a statement. motion brief filed June 14.

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The emails reveal indirect communication regarding several real estate projects, including a case where a specific city councilor was identified as an obstacle.

They show Phil Sheegl, a senior civil servant and close Katz ally, referring to himself and Shindico as a common entity.

They detail a meeting for three city employees at the home of Sandy Shindleman, co-owner of Shindico, to discuss the purchase of the downtown Canada Post building which was later renovated to become the head office of the Winnipeg Police Service.

The Free press shared the emails with Neil McArthur, a professor at the University of Manitoba and director of the Center for Applied Ethics.

“The usability makes it uncomfortable given the larger context… We want our officials to be impartial when it comes to dealing with the various developers and dedicated to not getting developers a good deal, but getting a good deal for the public,” McArthur said.


JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Sam Katz (left) and Sandy Shindleman in 1999.

JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Sam Katz (left) and Sandy Shindleman in 1999.

“We want them to protect the public interest… What I get from these emails is that Sheegl seems to be interested in the interests of a particular developer, and there is no mention of the public interest anyway.”

The Free press also shared the emails with a local real estate industry source who said the degree of behind-the-scenes collaboration and discussion between senior city officials and a private developer is highly unusual.

In July 2008, Bob Downs, director of development for Shindico Realty, wrote to his bosses Sandy and Robert Shindleman (Sandy’s brother and co-owner of the business) to inform them of a conversation he had had with Ray Klassen , then City Manager. real estate.

The Shindleman brothers are longtime personal friends and business associates of Katz. The conversation between Downs and Klassen focused on various development projects that Shindico and the City of Winnipeg were negotiating.

“Ray Klassen says the land titles won’t allow a land lease because the building straddles the property line between our land and the city land. Ray says the only option is for us to buy the land from the city,” Downs wrote.

Downs broke down the price per square foot of various plots of land under discussion and expressed hope that when a plot is officially assessed by the city, the company will be able to circumvent a recent bylaw prohibiting construction on the site. .

He also mentioned a conversation he had with then-Councilman Justin Swandel.

“Justin is our problem because he has to call a special meeting of the permanent property and development committee and he has to accept the price,” Downs wrote, referring to a plot of land on McGillivray Boulevard.


BORIS MINKEVICH/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Former city CAO Phil Sheegl (left) with former mayor Sam Katz in 2012.

BORIS MINKEVICH/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Former city CAO Phil Sheegl (left) with former mayor Sam Katz in 2012.

Sandy Shindleman replied to Downs’ email – copying Katz to his account as the owner of the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball team, and Sheegl to his City of Winnipeg account. Sheegl had been hired as director of the property, planning and development department three months prior.

During the exchange, Sheegl talked about a management change at Colliers, another local real estate company. Shindleman sent a one-word response: “Good.”

“For us that he is gone?” Sheegl asked.

“I just thought Colliers now thinks they have a stake in the city…NOT.”

The Free press contacted attorney Robert Tapper for comment, who represents Shindleman, Katz and Sheegl. Tapper declined to comment, saying two of his clients were out of town and one was “under the weather.”

McArthur, meanwhile, said the fact that the email went to Katz’s Goldeyes account, rather than his official city’s, is a “red flag.”

“Politicians should not use private email for public business…The appearance here is one of behind-the-scenes communications and lack of impartiality.”

The July 2008 emails between Shindico and Sheegl, CC Katz as the recipient, end with a message from Sheegl to Sandy Shindleman, asking him to set aside time to discuss three real estate properties, including “Canada Post.”


JOHN WOODS/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Sandy Shindleman is a longtime friend of Sam Katz.

JOHN WOODS/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Sandy Shindleman is a longtime friend of Sam Katz.

At that time, the city had an open tender for the provision of commercial real estate services and one of the bidders was Shindico. An audit of city hall real estate transactions would reveal that Shindico has been the subject of repeated leaks of inside information during tenders.

The former Canada Post building was purchased by the city and converted into WPS headquarters. Sheegl sent a formal letter of intent for sole-source negotiations to Ray Simard of Canada Post on December 16, 2008.

On January 8, 2009, Sheegl (then Assistant General Manager) emailed Director of Property, Planning and Development Deepak Joshi saying that he, Klassen and Barry Thorgrimson (of the property division), would gather at Sandy Shindleman’s home to bid for the good.

The Free press contacted the City of Winnipeg to seek comment that a town meeting was held at the home of a private developer.

In a written statement, the director of corporate communications, Felicia Wiltshire, said there were “numerous concerns raised about the WPS head office project”, which resulted in changes to the code of conduct for municipal employees. in the years that followed.

“To be clear, under the current code of conduct, any meeting held by the city administration, to conduct city business, at the home of a private developer would not be tolerated,” Wiltshire said.

The city purchased the building from Canada Post without conducting an appraisal and Shindico acted as broker in the transaction.

A later audit questioned why Shindico’s services were needed since Canada Post had already entered into negotiations with the city when he was hired.


JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES The July 2008 emails between Shindico and Phil Sheegl (above, CC Katz as recipient) end with a message from Sheegl to Sandy Shindleman, asking him to set aside time to chat of three real estate properties, including Canada Post.

JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES The July 2008 emails between Shindico and Phil Sheegl (above, CC Katz as recipient) end with a message from Sheegl to Sandy Shindleman, asking him to set aside time to chat of three real estate properties, including Canada Post.

After securing funding for the redevelopment project, Shindico then secured a property management services contract at the site.

The Free press obtained all of the minutes of the owners’ meetings for the WPS project, which show how the design consultants at work viewed Shindico and the City of Winnipeg as hip-bound. On several occasions, Shindico and the city’s real estate division have been confused as one and the same.

“Contract awarded by Shindico (City of Winnipeg) to independent contractor,” read the minutes of the owner’s meeting on September 11, 2012.

The October 10, 2012 minutes read: “(Randy Benoit of WPS) to follow up on the afternoon meeting with the City of Winnipeg (John Zabudney and Bob Downs).

Zabudney was a longtime civil servant who served as the city’s property manager during the controversy over the construction of four Winnipeg fire paramedic stations by Shindico – in which a new fire station was built on a land owned by the real estate company.

This case and other controversial land and real estate transactions during the Katz era were the subject of a secret RCMP criminal investigation – codenamed Project Dioxide – which was uncovered by the Free press earlier this year. It closed without charge.

In March, Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal ruled that Sheegl had accepted a bribe as part of the WPS project award, granting his favor to the construction company Caspian Construction. Sheegl appealed the decision.

The allegations against the other defendants have not been tested in court.

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Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Journalist

Ryan Thorpe loves the rhythm of daily news, the feel of a large format in his hands and the stress of endless deadlines hanging over his head.


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