Justice Denise Bellamy's damning indictment of the sleazy characters who bilked Toronto taxpayers of tens of millions of dollars in their pursuit of wealth, power and even sex in the MFP computer leasing scandal is filled with undeniable truths. Unfortunately, it's also woefully short on consequences. As Bellamy herself made clear once again this week, "Judicial inquiries have no power to put people in jail, find them guilty of crimes, fine them or find them liable to pay damages." That's up to the courts acting on charges brought by the police.
Alas, the very police force that Mayor David Miller and city council will soon be asking to investigate the scoundrels has not distinguished itself in its handling of MFP-related probes in the past.
In fact, the OPP all but ignored some of the very allegations Bellamy's tome exposes as matters of fact while the cost of a $43-million leasing contract skyrocketed to more than $100 million.
We'll never know how much of the $19.2 million council spent on the costly inquiry could have been saved had the OPP fraud squad done its job when Bellamy adjourned her inquiry the very day it was supposed to begin, September 30, 2002.
That's when she wanted the cops to investigate allegations that Jeff Lyons had solicited a $150,000 bribe on former budget chief Tom Jakobek's behalf from a computer firm competing for the leasing contract ultimately awarded to MFP.
The OPP spent more than two months checking things out before it issued a news release declaring that "there is no basis for criminal charges in relation to this matter."
Yet in her report this week, Bellamy stated that "ultimately, the premise that Jeff Lyons was soliciting an improper payment on behalf of himself and/or Tom Jakobek is plausible. It fit the facts and cannot be eliminated."
That Lyons allegedly sought a bribe would "lead further into the tangled web of Tom Jakobek's deceit" namely, Bellamy's contention that Jakobek did take a $25,000 bribe from MFP sales whiz Dash Domi in return for moving a controversial amendment that extended the term of the MFP lease.
This was not the only instance when the OPP messed up, and again the imbroglio revolved around Lyons.
The lobbyist was also accused of using an aide's personal bank account to launder money he'd collected from a client to contribute to the campaigns of selected city council candidates. The scheme contravened the Municipal Elections Act.
Yet OPP investigators called in to check out a complaint ruled that Lyons's shenanigans were a "merely technical" breach of the act and that no charges would result because "there was no harm done to the public and no one gained from it."
Bellamy called Lyons's scam (and the lies he told the media when it came to light) "his Waterloo. Once he had lied, he was obliged to go on lying," she wrote.
And the OPP's contention that no one gained from the "merely technical" violation of the law? Well, the judge said the client who gave Lyons money to give politicians I.T. consultant Ball Hsu became "fabulously rich" as a result of his contracts with the city and his association with Lyons, Jakobek and the city's former director of information technology, Jim Andrew. Alas, Hsu skipped the country with his lucre to avoid making an appearance at the inquiry.
Obviously, Bellamy had plenty of other fish to fillet. And once council makes its formal request for a police probe later this month, it will be left up to the OPP to determine if any of them will fry.
Mayor David Miller concedes he was disappointed when the OPP didn't pursue Lyons's alleged abuse of the Municipal Act three years ago, but says Bellamy's report is so persuasive that it will be impossible for the police to ignore.
"I'm confident in the OPP's ability to recognize the seriousness of this," the mayor maintains. In fact, he expects the cops would respond even if council didn't ask them to.
"It has to be investigated," the mayor insists. "It would be outrageous if it weren't."
Councillor Kyle Rae, on the other hand, has concerns about the OPP's willingness to do the job.
"Every time we have attempted to get a level of police service to take seriously concerns about municipal corruption, they've never pursued it," he complains. "I don't think they have the skills or the inclination. They just wash their hands of politicians."
But Councillor Joe Mihevc feels Miller has ushered in a new era in municipal politics: the cops are no longer under the influence of the very politicians and power brokers they're called upon to investigate.
"I have every confidence they will do the job," he says.
We'll see about that.