Lobbyist Jeff Lyons takes the witness stand at the Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry today. And by the looks of things, he's going to be there for a while. The notorious lobbyist's testimony at the old East York Civic Centre will no doubt focus on a $150,000 "success fee" he allegedly tried to wangle from one of MFP's competitors before the contract was awarded in 1999.
Although the police investigation turned up insufficient evidence to lay criminal charges against Lyons or the mysterious "Tom" who was supposedly in on the alleged "shakedown," the inquiry has spent the past few weeks going over the same ground as part of its mission to reconstruct the political and bureaucratic environment that existed when the city's computer business was up for grabs four years ago.
To this end, the inquiry got considerable help this week from testimony by Susan Cross, executive assistant to Lyons back when he conducted his municipal consulting practice out of the Toronto Street law offices of Morrison Brown Sosnovitch.
It's doubtful Cross gave much thought to the 15 scribblers filled with personal notes that she casually tossed into a box the day she cleaned out her desk and left the lobbyist's employ in December 2000. But the stationery - filled with reminders and observations Cross put down on paper during business meetings she attended with her boss - was front-and-centre at the inquiry on Tuesday.
"I admit they are not all that legible any more, but they were never meant to be seen by anyone other than myself," said the young woman who has spent the past two years as councillor Jane Pitfield's executive assistant.
Although the entries offered into evidence did little to illuminate any shakedown scenes, they provided an intriguing revelation of how securely welded Lyons was (and some would say still is) to the political and administrative framework at City Hall.
Take the jottings from April and May of 1999. A notation at the top of a page refers to a meeting attended by former city treasurer Wanda Liczyk. Jim Andrew, the former executive director of the city's IT department, was there, too. And so were several representatives of Dell Financial.
Cross's free-form observations are as follows: "Wanda sold on the idea... now have to find a way to pay for it. Has been burned in the past with computer leasing - but has also learned a lot."
Further on, reference is made to the "need to maintain tax freeze" before it is once again noted that "this needs to be put in the operating budget... to tell council that she has contracts - they cannot cut the IT budget."
Lyons clearly knew how to get his clients in front of the top bureaucrats. "From time to time," Cross said, she saw the lobbyist with what she recognized as confidential city of Toronto documents. Inquiry lawyers have already heard that computer leasing salesmen had private municipal papers in their filing cabinets.
Lyons's contacts were not limited to the administration, of course. Cross told the inquiry he had easy access to key politicians and corporate powerbrokers as well. She recalled sitting in the mayor's office when Mel Lastman burst in and enthusiastically greeted Lyons as "brother."
Former budget chief Jakobek? "Generally, Mr. Lyons referred to Mr. Jakobek as Tommy," Cross said. Lyons even had something to do with introducing Jakobek to the woman he married.
Cross's notebooks were well populated with "Tommy" references and reminders passed on from Lyons. "Pick up jackets from Tommy's office," read one from the summer of 1999. "Call (MFP sales rep) Dash Domi and Rob (son of municipal powerbroker Paul) Godfrey," it continued. As Cross advised the inquiry, Lyons is godfather to one of Godfrey's sons. Another note read: "Call (Dell Financial salesman) Scott Marentette to arrange meeting with Jakobek." And on page 17 of Tab 4 there's a written reference to "Tom Jakobek - big MFP guy - computer leasing."
MFP once sacked Lyons when the company found out he was doing work for Dell Financial Services. Apparently, it was all a misunderstanding. But the MFP-Lyons-Dell Financial triangle keeps coming up again.
As for Cross, she got away pretty easy this time. There was no rabid request from Todd White - Lyons's rude criminal lawyer - that she make it clear to the judge that the "Fax Wanda" entry in her journals had no evil connotations, or that she make it plain that the reminder to "Julie in Wanda's office - Jays tickets tomorrow" was in no way intended to suggest an attempt to influence the decision-making process at City Hall.
Of course, White may simply be keeping his powder dry. He'll have another chance to cross-examine his client's former aide when she's called to testify at the second phase of the inquiry in relation to some highly questionable software purchases and consulting contracts the IT department approved in the wake of the MFP deal.
When Cross joined Pitfield's staff two years ago, she swore an affidavit to the effect that Lyons had given her cheques from some of his clients with instructions to deposit the money in her personal bank account for subsequent dispersal to selected municipal election candidates. The OPP conducted an investigation into that alleged contravention of the Municipal Elections Act but eventually deemed it only a technical violation of the act.
Yet word has it that a firm that gave Lyons money for distribution to would-be councillors also received one of the aforementioned consulting contracts.
By now, Susan Cross must be wondering if she'll ever be able to sever ties with her former employer.