N.S. auditor general finds conflicts of interest by former housing authority director

The office of Nova Scotia Auditor General Kim Adair decided to look into the matter after receiving a tip from an individual about the possible conflicts of interest. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)
The office of Nova Scotia Auditor General Kim Adair decided to look into the matter after receiving a tip from an individual about the possible conflicts of interest. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Nova Scotia's auditor general has found multiple instances where a senior official at the former Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority was in a conflict of interest.

In her latest report, Kim Adair noted the director at the authority twice sold properties to the owner of a security company that was awarded an almost $1-million contract by the authority in October 2020. Auditors could not find proof either of those parcels of land were publicly advertised for sale.

"The director, the most senior employee at the authority, was in conflict prior to and after the awarding of security services contracts," stated Adair at a news conference following the release of her report. "We also found the director did not disclose some of the conflicts at all."

Although the report does not name the director, Jamie Vigliarolo held the job from 1997 to 2022.

CBC tried to contact Vigliarolo through his LinkedIn page and his security company's email, but has yet to hear back.

Government tender records show Dartmouth-based 5 Star Security Services won a $996,000 contract to supply security services to the housing authority on Oct. 8, 2020.

Auditors also noted the director and the security firm owner were involved in plan to build "a full-service affordable housing development" on those properties and another one owned by the director. The report noted that specific conflict was declared.

Auditors also confirmed that the two men sought government funding for the project from the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

During the two-year audit period, from 2020 to 2022, the AG's office also found the director recommended the security company get a three-month "pilot project" which "focused on addressing tenancy issues through documentation and interaction with tenants to complement the existing security services."

The AG suggested the $83,643 awarded the company for the pilot project was not money well spent.

"The needs and goals of the pilot program were not established by management prior to the company being awarded the work," noted auditors. "Furthermore management did not conduct a formal evaluation of the program at the completion of the three-month pilot."

The audit also noted the director received roughly $115,053 from the Department of Community Services through income-support payments from tenants who rented from him.

According to the report, the director informed the auditor general's office several times that he was on leave during the security company's tender process.

He also told auditors he owned multiple properties in Dartmouth and that he disclosed that to his boss — the executive director at the housing authority.

The executive director confirmed the housing authority knew about the rental properties, however, the report noted "this declaration was unable to be verified as it was not documented in writing."

Adair has recommended that the rules be tightened surrounding conflicts of interest for provincially run housing authorities and the provincial government has already complied with almost all of those recommendations.

Pamela Menchenton, executive director of client services at the newly formed Nova Scotia Provincial Housing Agency, told CBC News the director is no longer with the province.

"That individual is no longer working for the organization," said Menchenton. "He was part of the leadership changes that took place in October, sweeping leadership changes."

"There were a number of people who were dismissed as a result of restructuring."

During the last fall sitting, the Houston government passed a law to dissolve the regional housing authorities and create a new Crown corporation, the Nova Scotia Provincial Housing Agency. That new entity came into being in December.

The auditor general's office decided to look into the matter after receiving a tip from an individual about the possible conflicts of interest.

"A key takeaway from this report is the province needs to ensure that conflicts of interest are avoided, declared and addressed to maintain public confidence in the administration of provincially-owned housing," said Adair.

She said it would now be up to the provincial government to decide what to do next.

Mechenton said the province had accepted all of the AG's recommendations and passed along the office's findings to the Department of Justice.

"We have sought advice from the Department of Justice and that consideration is with them now so we're waiting to hear back from them for next steps," said Menchenton.

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