Last week I brought you the story about the inclusion of the China Investment Corporation in documents provided to the City of Vancouver by Ernst and Young, hired after the deal the city put together for the sale and swap of land in Yaletown, wound up in the Supreme Court of BC.
You can see my follow up report here to find out what the city and Ernst and Young had to say about why it was included. At the end of that report I showed you ten questions I sent to the City of Vancouver surrounding the original land swap.
Well, the silence from the city has been deafening!
I heard nothing after a week so I cut my inquiry down to four straightforward questions surrounding the original deal.
Watch as I go through my questions so you know exactly why it’s so important that we get answers.
#1 Why did the City remain silent regarding the assessment complaint filed by Feb 2, 2015? This is a crucial question. In January of each year BC Assessment sends out an assessment notice estimating a property’s value. In the case of this deal the property was assessed at $59,507,500. But by February 2nd, 2015 a notice of complaint was filed.
#2: Was the City the initial complainant of the Feb 2, 2015 complaint? It’s often the owner who files an appeal if they believe their property has been assessed at the wrong value. In this case it’s important to know who the complainant was because we know that after the complaint, BC Assessment dropped the property value by $50M down to $9,485,500. A whopping 83% reduction in the value of the land the city was about to swap to a developer?
It matters if the city was the initial complainant because under the BC Assessment Act section 10(2), the initial complainant must agree to the reduction. The city may try to claim they were not the complainant, but if they are the owner they must still agree to the reduction according to the act.
The city may say the owner/lessee was the 127 Society for Housing but by early 2013 the city, 127 Society, and Brenhill properties all signed a surrender of the lease. So it appears as though either the city knowingly agreed to wipe $50M off the value of a property that they owned or BC Assessment acted without legal authority in dropping the value of this property.
Nobody at BC Assessment is willing to explain why this was done; not Mr Paul Borgo the deputy assessor I visited myself, nor the Assessor on this file Jason Grant, also from the Vancouver office, who has not returned my calls.
My other two questions for the city have to do with their own procurement and contracting procedures. First I wanted to know how much the city paid to subcontractors hired by Ernst and Young as indicated in their report.
While the city paid Ernst and Young just shy of $140,000, it appears when you look at the detailed billing and at the 3rd party resources provided to Ernst and Young by both Burgess, Cawley, Sullivan and Rennie Marketing Systems, they contributed to this report and yet we have no invoices for this subcontracting work but the city needs to provide us with those.
My final question was one of simply following the proper procedure.
We know from NPA councillor George Affleck that this engagement letter from Ernst and Young was never reviewed by council. According to the city’s own rules in section 4.2 of their procurement policy, any work exceeding $75,000 must be an open bid and posted to the BC Bid website. A simple answer of “yes” along with records of those postings, seems easy, right?
Yet, I have not heard one peep back from the city since they responded to my original inquiry surrounding the reference to the China Investment Corporation.
Perhaps they want to ignore me hoping I will go away, but I won’t. And, I know that a few of my colleagues in the mainstream media are asking the same questions and receiving the same deafening silence from Vision Vancouver controlled City Hall.