Councillors renew call for clawback of former CAO's salary

Councillors renew call for clawback of former CAO's salary

The revelations about the Arizona land deal involving former Winnipeg chief administrator Phil Sheegl and the contractor who built the city's police headquarters have renewed calls to claw back compensation paid to the city's former top bureaucrat.

Sheegl's lawyer, Robert Tapper, confirmed this week the former CAO was involved in a 2012 Arizona land deal with former mayor Sam Katz and Armik Babakhanians of Caspian Construction, the contractor on the city's police headquarters. The deal concluded before Sheegl awarded Caspian a construction contract originally worth $137 million.

This disclosure has led Couns. Russ Wyatt (Transcona) and Ross Eadie (Mynarski) to once again call for the return of $250,000 paid to Sheegl in 2014, the year after he resigned his job as CAO.

"He was overseeing one of the largest projects in the city's history and at the same time, we now have a confirmation from their lawyer that they were in business together [with Babakhanians]" Wyatt said Thursday in an interview.

He argues Winnipeggers ought to have known about the 2012 land deal and claims citizens were misled by the former CAO and the former mayor.

"They were misled because they never came forward and told council, which they should have told council at the time, that they were in business together. These funds should be paid back immediately."

Wyatt and Eadie said they would like Sheegl to pay back the money voluntarily. If not, they want the city to pursue legal action. 

Current CAO Doug McNeil said he was already considering that idea in January, after CBC News reported RCMP allegations of a secret commission paid to Sheegl.​

"If the allegations are true, how does the city go about recouping that money? That is something we're going to have to talk to our legal services about," McNeil said on Jan. 27.

A spokesman for Winnipeg's mayor said Brian Bowman agrees with McNeil's assessment but could not comment in further detail due to the ongoing RCMP investigation.

"The recent revelations certainly reinforce why a formal commission of inquiry is needed to broadly examine decision making and the disclosure of the results of such decision making and activities," Bowman spokesman Jeremy Davis said in a statement.

None of the RCMP's allegations have been proven in court and no charges have been laid.

Tapper did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the requests to claw back Sheegl's salary.