Ron Manes has been described as "unquestionably the most dangerous man in Toronto." Considering the job he's done ruffling corporate and political feathers as lead counsel at the city's computer leasing inquiry, you're not going to get much of an argument from me on this point. But if such media characterizations of the senior lawyer from Torkin Manes Cohen Arbus are true, then it stands to reason that Linda Rothstein is the most dangerous woman in town. What a formidable tag team.
Rothstein's law firm, Palaire Roland, was retained by the city of Toronto to represent the interests of local taxpayers at the judicial probe that Justice Denise Bellamy is conducting in hopes of figuring out how a $43-million municipal contract with MFP Financial Services of Mississauga turned into a $102-million fiasco. And it's Rothstein's aggressive cross-examination of MFP salesman Dash Domi that's been creating all the headlines at the inquiry this week.
On Tuesday, Rothstein reminded Domi of an interview he had last fall with two OPP fraud squad detectives who were investigating bribery allegations that had been made before the start of the MFP inquiry. In fact, the inquiry was adjourned for almost two months and didn't resume until the cops decided there was insufficient evidence to lay criminal charges in the case.
Well aware that Domi has great difficulty remembering what he did to earn a $1.2-million commission for winning MFP the city's computer business, Rothstein actually read to him from the transcript of his interview with the anti-rackets investigators. During that question-and-answer session, the account executive denied he had "any strong relationships" with councillors at City Hall. And that included former councillor Tom Jakobek, who was the city's powerful budget chief back when Domi was hustling for lucrative computer leases back in early 1999.
"I knew him," the former hairdresser told the police dismissively. "I mean, I didn't have a strong relationship with him."
"So you wouldn't characterize that as a friendship?" one of the detectives asked.
"No," Domi replied.
"Acquaintance?" the cop inquired.
"Ah, no," the salesman responded. He even denied he had a business relationship with Jakobek. "I mean, just kind of," Domi advised the cops.
That statement from the OPP transcript struck Rothstein as odd.
"You knew Mr. Jakobek "just kind of'?" she asked Domi.
He responded: "Well, no, I mean, I just, it wasn't. I mean, in my opinion, I kind of. Like I said, I worked hard to get to know him. He wasn't an easy guy to get to know."
Rothstein returned to the subject of Domi's statement to police.
"It's not true, is it, Mr. Domi?" she said.
"Well, no, I wouldn't say it's not true, no," he replied. "He's not an easy guy to get to know. Do I consider him a friend? Not particularly. I should have said there "a business acquaintance,' sure. But it's not easy to be answered by questioned by OPP or anybody in that capacity. I just didn't feel comfortable with the whole whole feeling of being there. I mean, when I was there I was, like, "What am I doing here?'"
"You don't think you misled the OPP about your relationship with Tom Jakobek?" Rothstein asked.
Domi replied: "I mean, I wouldn't.... I was just nervous, basically. That's the problem I had. I was nervous being questioned like that."
Rothstein pressed on: "Not a friendship, you told the OPP."
"No, I wouldn't say I had a friendship with him, no," Domi said in response.
At about this point, Rothstein produced a stack of papers with numbers printed all over them. They turned out to be Domi's cellphone records. And they indicated that the MFP salesman had made 240 calls to Jakobek between March 1999 and September of last year. Some were made to Jakobek's old office at City Hall. Others were made to the former councillor's unlisted home phone number. And still other calls were placed to Jakobek's cellphones. Heck, it turned out Domi was still calling Jakobek two years after he left municipal politics and on the very day he was interviewed by inquiry lawyers -- September 4, 2002.
Yet not long after that, Domi told the OPP he didn't have much of a relationship with the former budget chief and now registered mayoral candidate, who will have his own turn as an inquiry witness in the months ahead. Go figure.
As it turned out, Rothstein also had a record of calls Domi made to other people involved in the MFP deal. He rang up Jim Andrew, the city's former director of information, a total of 112 times. At home, at the office and on the cell. There were 44 calls to Jeff Lyons, the renowned City Hall lobbyist with ties to Jakobek and political powerbroker Paul Godfrey. He contacted councillor Lorenzo Berardinetti, former chair of council's administration committee, 33 times between May 1999 and last December. Councillor Betty Disero got five calls. And Wanda Liczyk, the former treasurer at the heart of the MFP scandal, got 211 -- including one to her home in the wee hours of October 27, 2000, that lasted for more than an hour.
When Rothstein raised the subject of the call that lasted "a very unusual length of time at a very unusual time of day," Domi claimed he could recall nothing about it.
"I don't know. Like, I mean, I I can't remember exactly what took place," he said.
"You can't remember anything that took place, Mr. Domi?" the city's lawyer asked.
"I don't I don't know, I don't know what back then what what the issue was," the salesman said. "I mean, something was actually may have troubled her in her personal life, or I don't know."
But Domi made it clear he's "a big fan of Wanda's.
"I like her," the salesman said of the woman he wined, dined and took to hockey games while in pursuit of the lucrative computer contract.
Domi admitted that he talked to Liczyk several times last September just before the inquiry was originally scheduled to begin.
"I really believe a lot of the discussions were revolving around the press," he said. "It's been difficult for everybody, including Wanda, and I was just. Perhaps she can relate and I can relate, and I was just attempting to be supportive of someone who's in the line of fire or is going to be.
"I'm a big boy. I can take it."
Oh, he took it, all right.