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City lacked authority to hold Olympic loan meeting in secret: Pivot

The City of Vancouver did not have legal authority to withhold information from the public about a $100 million Olympic Village loan guarantee, according to a complaint filed to the Provincial Ombudsman on Wednesday by the Pivot Legal Society.

"In our view, there wasn't any legal authority under the Vancouver Charter to take the meeting in-camera," Pivot attorney Laura Track said.

City of Vancouver bylaws allow in-camera meetings when discussion of the “acquisition, disposition, or expropriation” of land or improvements would harm the interests of the City.

"This meeting, as far as we understand, was about financing. That's not one of those three listed actions," Track said.

The Pivot complaint also questions the city's subsequent assertion that there has been no change to taxpayer risk.

"To guarantee a $100 million loan to two private entities would appear to change the risk," Track said. "We're asking the ombudsman to take a look at that statement, consider the facts, and if they are inaccurate, make some sort of a ruling about the propriety of that statement."

And the Pivot complaint challenges letters the city reportedly issued to councilors, warning they would face "serious repercussions" if they revealed any of these matters.

"We question the legitimacy of that instruction," Track said "We'd like to know who provided that advice, and what authority they had for doing so."

The communications office of the Ombudsman for the Province of British Columbia was not able to immediately return The Tyee's call for comment. Ombudsman Kim Carter, a former chief military judge of the Canadian Forces, was appointed in May 2006.

“We’re told that the Property Endowment Fund has now been emptied to support the development of luxury condominiums,” Track added.

The $100m guarantee likely means that Vancouver has now issued a total of $290 million in PEF-backed loan guarantees for Olympic developments.

"If those financial resources were directed to the problem of homelessness," she added. "Vancouver’s homeless population of approximately 1,600 people could have been reduced to almost zero."

Monte Paulsen reports on politics and housing for The Tyee.

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