The Hamilton Spectator
Manager: Lunch with Mob boss legit
Lawsuit alleges city staff conspired with Pat Musitano to dump polluted soil at Waterdown site
A City of Hamilton manager named in a dirt-dumping conspiracy lawsuit has admitted in court documents to meeting Mob boss Pat Musitano at a downtown restaurant to talk about permits.
But construction-development manager Carlo Ammendolia also rejects the “scandalous and defamatory” allegations in the unsubstantiated lawsuit — including accusations he accepted money at that October 2018 meeting.
He also denies “conspiring” in any way with the late Musitano, who was a silent partner in the company fingered for dumping thousands of loads of allegedly polluted dirt on a Troy property in 2018 and 2019. The head of the Hamilton mafia family was gunned down in 2020.
The city backed Ammendolia last year — and continues to do so now — following an internal probe that found “no evidence” to support dumping conspiracy allegations levelled in a $75-million lawsuit first reported by The Spectator. The city did not make the investigative report public, citing confidential personnel details, but confirmed this week it was aware of the meeting with Musitano during the internal probe.
Ammendolia, who declined interview requests for this story through a lawyer, was reinstated last year following a paid leave during the probe.
His lawyer, Jamie Cavanagh, stressed via email the probe by Kroll Consulting “thoroughly reviewed” the allegations without finding any evidence of conspiracy. He also argued lawsuit plaintiffs have not provided any information to substantiate the “bare allegations” in the legal claim and that Ammendolia intends to “vigorously defend” himself in court.
The lawsuit alleged city staffers conspired with Musitano and others to allow the dumping of 24,000 loads of polluted fill — including some from city projects — at Waterdown Garden Supplies on Highway 5 in 2018 and 2019.
The lawsuit remains active, but none of the allegations have been
tested in court.
A separate lawsuit filed in Toronto against alleged fill-dumper Havana Group Supplies included affidavits from past company officials alleging a city manager met with Musitano at a restaurant to split money from a dumping scheme, kept in contact via text and also “diverted” contaminated soil from city projects to the Troy property.
Angry neighbours have demanded a cleanup of the mountains of fill that remain — and an explanation for why the city allowed the dumping to go on for months, despite a pre-existing court injunction against such activities by Waterdown Garden Supplies.
The city has yet to explain why that injunction — which it asked for as far back as 2015 — did not stop soil dumping that stretched into 2019. It has admitted some “clean” fill from a Dundas city construction project ended up at the Waterdown Garden site, but placed the blame on a contractor.
The lunch meeting
Gary McHale, a plaintiff in the lawsuit and a director of Waterdown Garden Supplies which faces provincial cleanup orders related to the dirt mountains, argued Ammendolia’s decision to meet with “a known mobster” to talk business at a restaurant is a problem all by itself.
“I don’t know anyone who gets lunch meetings with managers (to talk about permits) at the City of Hamilton,” he said. “Does he not have an office?”
In his statement of defence filed late last year, Ammendolia said he agreed to meet with the infamous Mob boss because Musitano had “questions about permits required for recycling soil” — and part of the construction manager’s job is to “answer enquiries from the general public.”
Ammendolia also recalled periodically exchanging texts with Musitano, but at all times “in the legitimate performance of (his) employment duties.”
At the meeting, he said he answered questions about whether permits were required for importing, screening and exporting of soil.
Ammendolia said in his statement of defence he agreed to meet at the downtown Ben Thanh restaurant because it was a popular city worker hangout and he wanted other municipal employees to be present “given Pat Musitano’s reputation.”
The Spectator asked why such a meeting could not happen at city hall — also a public place full of municipal workers.
In response, Ammendolia’s lawyer Cavanagh said via email his client “felt that having the informal meeting in an open public location would alleviate any concerns of the optics of the meeting.”
McHale argued there was “no good reason” for the municipal manager to meet with Musitano at all if the purpose was to talk about permits for soil recycling at Waterdown Garden Supplies, a property he did not own.
The Spectator has reported the Mob boss was a silent partner in Havana Group Supplies, the company fingered for dirt dumping on Highway 5, but Musitano was not publicly connected to the company outside of court documents.
Cavanagh said at the time of the meeting, Ammendolia was “not aware of the precise nature of Mr. Musitano’s involvement with either the property in question or with Havana Group Supplies.”
He also noted that “in accordance with city policy, Mr. Ammendolia paid for his own lunch.”
Was it unusual?
Leaving aside Musitano’s famous name, is it appropriate for a city manager to meet, dine and talk business with any permit-seeking property owner or developer outside city hall?
In his statement of defence and through his lawyer, Ammendolia called such meetings “routine” and “very common.”
The conduct of municipal bureaucrats and managers is under increased scrutiny after a recent report by the city auditor revealed inappropriately close ties between two unnamed managers and contractors that were awarded millions of dollars in work.
But in this case, the city said in an emailed response to Spectator questions that the city auditor was aware of the meeting with Musitano during its internal probe of allegations. “No evidence of wrongdoing” was found.
“Staff are able to meet with members of the public, stakeholders, developers etc.,” the city said via email. “These meetings happen regularly and do not have to be limited to city office space, but do need to follow city processes when applications are made and those interactions go beyond advice.”
The Spectator reached out to municipal accountability experts for their take.
Such a meeting could be perceived by the public as unusual and “raise questions” about the relationship between the parties, said Andrew Sancton, a retired political science professor at Western University who specialized in municipal governance.
“On the face of it, I don’t know that I see the justification,” he said. “I don’t know why you couldn’t go down to city hall to ask those questions.”
There are plenty of good reasons for “hands-on” bureaucrats to meet residents and business owners away from city hall — like to eyeball a property, interpret a planning dispute or attend a conference, noted Zachary Spicer, a York University public policy expert.
“I don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong about (this meeting). But is it unusual? I would say the answer to that would be definitely,” said Spicer.
“If someone like me or you calls (with permit questions), maybe we would get a phone call or an email back.”