Despite a string of auditor reports castigating him for poor management of Trade Centre Limited, it appears increasingly likely that TCL president Scott Ferguson will be hired to manage the new convention centre—without applying for the job. And he’ll probably get a big raise, too.
The existing convention centre is owned and operated by the province, through TCL. But last July, when the city and province signed an agreement for owning and operating the new convention centre, they agreed to split ownership—and losses—50/50.
Given the potential for huge liability—in 2011, the province had to bail out TCL to the tune of $4.8 million—the city quite correctly demanded a governance role for the new convention centre. To that end, the July 2012 agreement called for the creation of “a new entity” to manage the new convention centre, with the city appointing half the board of directors.
But it’s been almost a year, and that “new entity” hasn’t been created. Neither city nor provincial spokespeople will explain the delay.
Meanwhile, as the new convention centre is slated to open in January 2016, Ferguson is actively contracting for events to be held there.
Ferguson can’t really be faulted for this: somebody has to be booking events and as The Coast reported last week, the province and city have given TCL over a million dollars to market the new convention centre.
But should Ferguson be hired to manage the “new entity” that will operate the new convention centre? Consider:
• The concert scandal had its roots in a city-owned, but TCL-managed, bank account for the Metro Centre. An auditor had specifically told Ferguson that having done so for the International Hockey Championships, he could no longer make loans to promoters from advance ticket sales. But despite that instruction, Ferguson suggested to then-mayor Peter Kelly and then-CAO Wayne Anstey that the city make exactly those sort of loans through the bank account. Those improper loans totalled $7.4 million, and the city lost nearly $400,000.
• In November, provincial auditor Jacques Lapointe lambasted TCL as an out of control organization, with “very poor” financial management practices that are in need of a “major overhaul.” Further, Lapointe documented that Ferguson had personally submitted thousands of dollars in undocumented entertainment expenses, for which he was reimbursed by TCL.
• Last week, city auditor general Larry Munroe suggested that TCL’s management of the city-owned Metro Centre is top-heavy, with on average just 1.23 full-time employees reporting to each administrative position. Moreover, TCL-hired managers at Metro Centre appear to be overpaid.
Mayor Mike Savage tells The Coast the board of the new entity should determine who gets hired to run the organizaiton, and no one should assume that Ferguson will be hired. “On the other hand, there’s no reason to believe that Scott Ferguson wouldn’t be a senior candidate for it.”
Ferguson was paid $174,494 for the 2011/12 fiscal year, plus all those entertainment reimbursements. But arguably, since the new convention centre will be bigger than the existing convention centre, its manager should be better paid. Will Ferguson get a big raise when the new convention centre opens?
“I expect that’s possible,” says Savage.
Ferguson did not return a call for comment.