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Monday, April 15, 2024

Denley: Why did not Ottawa Council find out about this developer’s previous? Categorical Instances

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As council debated a $300,000 donation from the Katasa Group, which desires to construct at Bronson and Carling, the controversial historical past of its founder by no means got here up.

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This week’s metropolis council dialogue concerning the appropriateness of accepting a $300,000 donation from a developer appears to have ignored some important data. Samir Chowieri, the beneficiant developer, has a previous legal report and a controversial enterprise historical past.

One wonders why the town authorized and ethics officers who vetted the donation didn’t point out this.

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Gatineau developer Chowieri and his three daughters run Katasa Group. The corporate’s web site describes him as a “visionary founder” and he’s listed on Quebec’s enterprise registry as firm president. However there’s extra to his story.

Chowieri’s authorized troubles date again to the Eighties and have been publicly reported within the information media. The small print are available to any metropolis councillor or staffer doing an web search.

As an example, in 2020, Radio-Canada’s Enquête reported, “Chowieri was convicted of conspiracy to visitors medication in 1981 and sentenced within the Hull courthouse to 2 years in jail.

“A 12 months later, information present, Chowieri was sentenced to 18 months for conspiracy to commit fraud, for having acquired 12.5 tonnes of cheese with out paying the provider,” Enquête reported. “Chowieri obtained a pardon for his previous crimes in 2014 from the Parole Board of Canada, a spokesperson for the businessman knowledgeable Radio-Canada in an e-mail assertion.”

Radio-Canada then reported that in 2002, “Mr. Chowieri was additionally discovered responsible of tax evasion for having handed off private spending as enterprise bills for his firm, CHO Brothers. He was fined $125,000.”

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The Montreal Gazette, in 2020, reported a previous occasion of generosity by Chowieri, through which the then-mayor of Aylmer pleaded responsible in 1998 to breach of belief for utilizing a West Palm Seaside apartment owned by a notary who was pals of Chowieri. The mayor was sentenced to an “absolute discharge, apparently as a result of the investigation didn’t show whether or not Chowieri benefited from the reward he supplied to her,”  the Gazette reported.

Extra just lately, Samir Chowieri has been within the information due to the efficiency of a long-term care dwelling Katasa owned. Through the pandemic, 47 out of 134 residents died at Dorval’s Résidence Herron (which is now closed). A coroner’s investigation heard that “there was routinely a scarcity of washcloths, diapers, medical provides and, at occasions, even the batteries that powered what little tools the residence had.”

Quebec Premier François Legault stated it was “unacceptable” that an individual as soon as convicted of significant crimes was allowed to function long-term care properties within the province. Chowieri’s firm paid $5.5 million to settle a class-action swimsuit filed by victims of the family.

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The Citizen requested an interview with Chowieri; as of publication of this text, neither he nor the corporate has responded. Nevertheless, Capital Ward Coun. Sean Menard did.

As a part of the discussions main as much as the town’s approval of an residence tower at Carling and Bronson Avenues, Menard says he proposed that Katasa Group make a “goodwill” donation to assist clean over neighbourhood controversies created by the event proposal.

The donation Katasa agreed to was meant to offer $100,000 for traffic-calming and $200,000 for social housing, all in Menard’s ward. This week, councillors determined that employees ought to decide the place the cash goes, and stated it may be spent in any ward.

Menard stated he was vaguely conscious of previous authorized points with Chowieri, however he was coping with Chowieri’s daughter, not Samir Chowieri. Menard additionally stated {that a} developer’s previous shouldn’t issue right into a improvement utility.

Maybe not, however the difficulty right here is the donation, not the utility.

It raises a variety of questions. First, why is a metropolis councillor soliciting a six-figure donation from a developer? Doing it earlier than the related utility was handed might simply depart individuals with the concept the event approval wheels must be greased. This concern received numerous airtime throughout council debate — with Menard noting that each the town’s authorized division and ethics employees had OK’d it.

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Second, why did the authorized and ethics employees try this? Why was Chowieri’s monitor report not highlighted within the vetting and identified to council?

In response to my request for remark, metropolis solicitor David White despatched this baffling e-mail: “Metropolis employees have reviewed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to make sure the phrases of the settlement don’t contravene the Metropolis’s insurance policies and protocols. Employees’s function is to make sure the town’s pursuits are safeguarded and that the MOU doesn’t contravene any relevant legal guidelines and rules. Metropolis employees additionally labored to make sure full transparency with respect to the MOU by the use of its presentation to committee and council.”

Third, and most essential, will the town nonetheless preserve the donation cash, realizing extra concerning the supply? Absolutely Ottawa will pay for visitors calming and social housing with out having to take cash from a businessman with such a chequered previous.

Randall Denley is an Ottawa political commentator and creator. Contact him at randalldenley1@gmail.com

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