Re­lated sto­ries,

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - FRONT PAGE - Tele­gram@thetele­gram.com

Whether in terms of pub­lic dis­cus­sion, op­er­a­tional re­view or on­go­ing au­dit, St. John’s Sports and En­ter­tain­ment (SJSE) was a hot topic at Mon­day night’s city coun­cil meet­ing.

Coun. Jonathan Gal­gay was true to a news re­lease is­sued late last week, stand­ing to say he will seek ap­proval for a de­tailed op­er­a­tional re­view of Mile One Cen­tre and the St. John’s Con­ven­tion Cen­tre, in­clud­ing the struc­ture and re­port­ing of SJSE.

The idea would be to find “op­er­a­tional ef­fi­cien­cies,” he said, in­crease trans­parency and eval­u­ate gov­er­nance.

“I be­lieve, per­son­ally speak­ing, that coun­cil must take steps to re­duce ad­min­is­tra­tive costs and to pro­vide im­proved ac­count­abil­ity in its op­er­a­tions,” Gal­gay said.

He also tabled an email re­ceived Fri­day from SJSE chair Robert Verge. It refers to a piece writ­ten by The Tele­gram’s sports edi­tor, Robin Short, about Mile One op­er­a­tions, call­ing the piece one-sided and Short “a mouth­piece.” It also made ref­er­ence to Gal­gay’s pub­licly stated con­cerns.

“If you have con­cerns about SJSE, I in­vite you and other mem­bers of coun­cil to meet with the SJSE board to ex­press them and get a re­sponse,” Verge wrote.

“In my opin­ion, your ini­tia­tive is very un­for­tu­nate and illinformed. What you pro­pose to do will not only be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive but it will cre­ate a sig­nif­i­cant cost for the city that will serve no use­ful pur­pose.”

Gal­gay said he had the right to raise con­cerns of pub­lic in­ter­est, while also re­mind­ing Verge of his po­si­tion as an ap­pointed of­fi­cial.

The pro­posed re­view is to be dis­cussed fur­ther at the next city fi­nance com­mit­tee meet­ing. The com­mit­tee can then re­fer it back to coun­cil for a de­ci­sion on whether or not the city will spend for the in­de­pen­dent re­view.

Coun. Sandy Hick­man, who spent a year and a half as coun­cil’s board rep­re­sen­ta­tive, spoke to Gal­gay’s pro­posed re­view dur­ing the coun­cil meet­ing. He noted SJSE was re­viewed last year dur­ing the city’s larger op­er­a­tional re­view, look­ing for po­ten­tial cost sav­ings. He said Gal­gay was aware the long-stand­ing ser­vice con­tract, whereby the Delta Ho­tel and Con­fer­ence Cen­tre pro­vides ser­vices to Mile One and the Con­ven­tion Cen­tre, is about to be re­vis­ited.

Hick­man ac­knowl­edged the lack of an an­chor tenant at Mile One for the com­ing year, but noted the com­pe­ti­tion the city is fac­ing with other fa­cil­i­ties in Hal­i­fax and gen­er­ally in the re­gion is tough, with coun­cil set on at least a break-even deal.

As for SJSE gov­er­nance and re­port­ing to the city, he said, coun­cil has al­ready asked the city man­ager to re­view the struc­ture, along with that of city com­mit­tees.

“I just want to note that I am sup­port­ive and I thought, I think, this coun­cil is sup­port­ive of the work of staff, the work they’re do­ing there and I don’t know how they took this, but I think they were cer­tainly won­der­ing where this came from,” Hick­man said. “So we’ll talk about it at fi­nance.”

The fi­nance meet­ing will be in July, edg­ing even closer to the com­ing elec­tion cam­paigns, as Hick­man noted.

Nei­ther Hick­man nor Gal­gay men­tioned the on­go­ing re­view of SJSE books by the city’s in­ter­nal au­di­tor, as re­ported by The Tele­gram.

In the au­di­ence for the meet­ing, for­mer mayor Andy Wells told re­porters he be­lieves the re­view pro­posed by Gal­gay would be a waste of money. He ac­cused the cur­rent coun­cil of do­ing too much be­hind closed doors, mak­ing true ac­count­abil­ity a thing of the past.

The for­mer mayor would not say if he plans to try to re­turn to coun­cil in the fall.

KEITH GOSSE FILE PHOTO/THE TELE­GRAM

Mile One Cen­tre

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