SAULT STE. MARIE, ON – Citizens were right to ask questions about how this decision was made and Mayor Provenzano’s fingerprints are all over it. Regardless of what the Integrity Commissioner preliminary report says.
The official acquisition for this property started way back at 2:01 a.m. March 14, 2019, with an official request from property owner Andre Trahan to see if the city had an interest in the property.
After being instructed by City Solicitor Karen Fields the previous day a request would need to be in writing.
Trahan was assured the city would look into it by Fields later that day.
Fields then reached out to Orsilina Naccarato supervisor of legal with Sault Ste. Marie.
She asked Naccarato to circulate his request and make sure the note stated Trahan’s options of rebuilding or approaching the bridge authority or city to see if any purchase interest so they would know his intentions.
By March 21, 2019, it was clear there had been no interest so far in purchasing the property. An email exchange between Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer Shelley Schell and Fields. This email also shows no funds available to purchase the property.
The Freedom of Information Request (FOI) contained no communications between any parties again until April 22 when Trahan reached out to inquire about the process and how long it takes. He asks if City Council is a part of the process.
His response comes Tuesday, April 30, 2019, from Fields stating the matter would be going before the council in an “in caucus” (closed meeting).
On Friday, May 2, 2019, Trahan responds he had already spoken with Provenzano about the price. There had been no council meeting between when Fields spoke to Trahan about going to council and when he admitted to talking price with the Mayor. He also wanted to move the strip club license.
Mayor Provenzano either spoke with Trahan about the price before going to council or there is more stuff missing from the FOI than already is.
The first time the acquisition of 89 Huron Street was discussed in a closed session after Mr. Trahan’s most recent approach to the City regarding the property was May 6, 2019, according to the city clerk’s office.
May 7, 2019, there is a flurry of emails between departments starting from Fields asking for an assessment on the value of the two parcels of land at 89 Hudson. Over half a dozen emails later it is determined the lot is worth $61,000.
On May 27, 2019, Fields and Trahan have another conversation about the property at 89 Hudson. It appears as though the city was willing to pay $60,000 according to Trahan’s email debating the price talked about on the phone.
He was rebuffed quickly and clarification was given by Fields shortly after.
The FOI shows no more discussion inside city hall took place between May 27, 2019, and May 14, 2020.
Although missing most of the email chain between CAO Malcolm White and Mayor Provenzano it appears as though Provenzano is asking for the contact information for Trahan.
On June 11 of this year, Provenzano again asks White and Fields for contact numbers for Trahan. It wasn’t included in the FOI when Provenzano actually talked to Trahan.
The last time this property was discussed in a closed session was July 22, 2020, according to the Clerks office. A decision was made to purchase the property in this session as you can see by what follows.
On August 5, 2020 staff was instructed to draw up an offer sheet for $350,000 to purchase the two lots at 89 Hudson Street. The mayor applied pressure on August 6 to see if it had been offered yet.
Fields responded the same day saying there was pressure to get the offer out. It would be made conditional on Council saying yes in an open meeting although they had already said yes in a closed one.
Council in an open meeting in September voted 10-1 for purchasing the land with Scott being the only No vote.
This is how it went down according to the information we received after filing a Freedom of Information Request.
We are missing information and there are a few holes in their story to us.
As always stay with Sault Online for more in-depth reporting of city issues.