City may have to write off $3.7M in costs for Meridian Arts Centre from 20 years ago

Toronto council will be asked to write off almost $3.7 million in bills racked up by one of the city's theatres —  the Meridian Arts Centre in North York — almost 20 years ago.

No supporting documents exist to prove the bills were paid. But city controller Andrew Flynn said he's satisfied old city ledgers properly account for the expenditures.

"The expenses paid include hydro, rent deposit, and staffing costs, capital and maintenance —  those are the things that it was spent on," he said. However, there are no receipts or invoices to back up those details.

"If the auditor general wanted to look ... I couldn't give her any supporting documents."

Flynn said the lack of records is normal, given the amount of time that's passed since the theatre, then known as the North York Performing Arts Centre, billed the city for the expenses.

"The documents related to what these were for, I would expect would have been disposed of," he said. "We keep things for seven years."

The question for council now is whether TO Live, the company that manages the city's three theatres, should be asked to repay the city for the old expenses.

All investigative options 'exhausted'

Staff are recommending against that option, suggesting instead that the expense be written off by the city. On Monday, the general government and licensing committee agreed to make that recommendation to council.

In a report to the committee, staff wrote: "A meeting was held in late 2018 between City and TO Live staff where it was agreed that both groups would seek further supporting documentation on the nature of the balance.

"All investigative options to determine the nature of this receivable/payable relationship and balance have been exhausted."

Flynn said he believes council will be asked to vote on staff's recommendation at its meeting on Dec. 17.

Council could vote to reject staff's recommendation, "in which case they would cut us a cheque," Flynn said.