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Council approves parallel Olympic loan investigation

There will now be two parallel investigations into Vancouver's $100-million Olympic Village loan saga, after council unanimously voted to hire its own lawyer to explore how sensitive city information was leaked.

It extends a controversy that exploded in the middle of the civic election campaign and threatens to drag on as a new council begins its term. The investigation was pushed by NPA Coun. Peter Ladner, who lost a bid for the mayor's seat this month.

"I'm not trying to re-fight the election here or suggest that this issue was a determining factor in the election. I don't believe it was," Ladner said.

"But I do think there was an ethical breach here, the likes of which I have never seen since I've been in this council chamber. It has to be dealt with and understood. I think there should be some consequences if we can find out what actually happened."

Opposition councillors, however, called the move "sour grapes" while voting to support it.

"To go through all this and have staff get tangled in all this is ridiculous," said Vision Coun. Tim Stevenson.

Vancouver Police are already conducting their own investigation into how information about an alleged $100-million loan to the developers of the Olympic Village got leaked to the media. Council unanimously approved that alleged loan in an in-camera meeting Oct. 14, but the city has yet to even confirm what happened.

It's not yet clear what the parallel city investigation will cost. But taxpayers will be on the hook for the costs of the lawyer and potentially the legal fees of anyone interviewed as part of the investigation, which could extend to outgoing Mayor Sam Sullivan, ten city councillors, a number of personal assistants and senior city staff who may all have had access to the loan information.

The investigation findings are expected to be reported in a public meeting.

But continuing a bizarre sidebar to the loan saga, Vision Coun. Raymond Louie yesterday said he had already hired his own lawyer to defend his interests.

After it emerged that Ladner's missing copy of in-camera documents had wound up on colleague Coun. B.C. Lee's office desk two days after the in-camera meeting, a Global TV story that ran days before the election all but pointed the finger at Louie, basing its information on security "card swipe" data given to the station anonymously.

Louie strongly denied any involvement.

"The story on Global TV casts aspersions on me that are completely untrue," Louie told reporters at the time.

According to Louie, Ladner has continued to cast those aspersions by questioning the veracity of a sworn affidavit from Lee's personal assistant as to what time the missing documents were found. Louie has used the affidavit as proof of his innocence.

"I'm afraid this council is starting its run under a very serious scandal that I don't think people fully understand," Ladner told the CBC's Rick Cluff two days after the election.

Ladner repeated his assertions that Louie was relying on false information at Tuesday's council meeting.

Irwin Loy reports for 24 Hours and is a regular contributor to the Hook.

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