VANOC Headquarters: They can run, but they can't hide!

Post by Bob Mackin in

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The Landing at 375 Water St., in Vancouver's Gastown district. What's left of VANOC is now headquartered on the fourth floor within the office of Twentyten Group.
The Landing in Gastown is where VANOC has landed, reports Mackin

CityCaucus.com is pleased to present a report by 24 Hours/Sun Media's Bob Mackin originally from his blog at Canoe.ca on VANOC's final days, which are quietly costing Vancouver taxpayers millions. Reprinted with permission from 24 hours/QMI.

They can run, but they can’t hide!

Or, more correctly, VANOC can move out of its City of Vancouver-owned headquarters at 3585 Graveley St., reappear 8.1 kilometres west in a downtown Vancouver heritage building, refuse to tell an inquisitive reporter the address while said reporter successfully learns the address.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games has moved to 450-375 Water Street. Chief financial officer John McLaughlin and one other full-time employee, thought to be finance manager Gemma Bayley, are working in The Landing offices of Twentyten Group. It’s a marketing agency opened last spring by Andrea Shaw, the ex-vice-president of marketing for VANOC.

Funny that VANOC’s final act will take place in The Landing; Premier Gordon Campbell always said the Olympics would be a launch not a landing.

How long the “McLaughlin Group” will be in Gastown is undetermined.

“We will have people doing VANOC work for as long as it takes to complete everything and wind the corporation up,” McLaughlin said via email. “That time frame cannot be specifically estimated as it depends as much on others as it does on us.”

VANOC is expected to hold its last, major board meeting this month and publish a post-Games financial report sometime before the end of the year. It hasn’t published any financial report since last December, despite requirements under the Multiparty Agreement of 2002 and a May 2007 pledge by VANOC to be transparent and accountable. Mediated talks with charter bus contractor Gameday Management Group are Nov. 8-10 over what Gameday says is a $10 million dispute.

For those keeping score at home, the Twentyten Group offices are one floor down from where the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation was headquartered in 2003 when the International Olympic Committee voted Vancouver to host the 2010 Games. The bid corporation became the organizing committee, which hosted the Feb. 12-28, 2010 Winter Olympics and March 12-21, 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, Richmond and Whistler.

The Landing is owned by the McLean Group, headed by well-known BC Liberal backer and CN Rail chairman David McLean. Among the tenants at The Landing are aforementioned Canadian National and McLean Group, Intrawest Leisure and Travel Group and Intrawest Resort Club Group and the Vancouver Whitecaps.

VANOC was at its old headquarters on borrowed time. The lease was to expire May 31, but last January VANOC cleverly negotiated a five-month extension to Oct. 31. It agreed to sell used furniture and IT equipment originally worth $9.1 million to the City of Vancouver, its landlord, for $2.32 million. The $310,000 portion of IT equipment was a line item in a June 22 capital report to council, but the remaining $2 million-plus and $50,000 free rent was kept secret until I broke the story on Oct. 29. You can read the Freedom of Information documents I received here.

What did Mayor Gregor Robertson have to say?

“My understanding is it’s a staff level decision, that procurement especially was within the jurisdiction of our staff, it wasn’t a council decision,” Robertson said Nov. 1. “It looked like a good deal on the face of it, keeping furniture in use. We didn’t handle the details of that, we delegate issues like that to staff for decision. It looks like a good one in terms of the savings.”

Rewind to Dec. 8, 2008 when Robertson took the oath of office and delivered a swearing-in speech that included this promise:

“As your city government we will lead with a bold vision. We will set clear targets, measure success, and be accountable for our actions.

“That accountability must extend to every aspect of City Hall. When the city uses your money, you have a right to know where it’s being spent, and what it’s being used for. When leaders fall short of that standard, public confidence is shaken.

“Over the next three years, we will rebuild that confidence, and ensure transparency, accountability and public debate at City Hall.

“Politicians do not always live up to that responsibility, I know. But I also know that there were literally thousands of people voting last November for the very first time.

“My commitment to them, on behalf of every member of my team, is that I will not let you down on making City Hall more open and accountable.”

Robertson’s first full day in office was Dec. 9, 2008, when he was a guest at the last VANOC board meeting of 2008. I can’t tell you what went on behind those closed doors. VANOC board meetings have always been closed to the public and no minutes are published. I can only presume that Robertson drank the VANOC Powerade (that Coca-Cola product) and came under the five-ring spell.

Y’know, the one where public money is spent and the public is the last to know about it?

- post by Bob Mackin

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