There seems to be some confusion amongst the major players involved in Trade Centre’s takeover of the Metro Centre box office as to who knew what and when. The former CEO of Trade Centre Ltd., Fred MacGillivray, puts blame squarely on the shoulders of current Trade Centre Ltd. CEO Scott Ferguson.
Ferguson worked under MacGillivray as TCL’s vice president before MacGillivray’s retirement a few years back. Curiously, MacGililvray says that Ferguson was responsible for the Metro Centre file when he was VP. Now, apparently, Ferguson remains responsible for the Metro Centre file as CEO.
MacGillivray also says Mayor Peter Kelly was kept in the loop, as were senior bureaucrats no longer with the municipal government – a claim that Kelly flatly denies.
The explanations, taken as a whole, make little to no sense. Somebody is misremembering, whether intentionally or not, what happened in the lead up to Ticket Atlantic’s creation in 2007.
Here’s what MacGillivray had to say about it when I talked with them yesterday. The interview has been edited for relevance to the Ticket Atlantic issue (we talked, at length, about the management agreement as well. Read that here).
Metro: One of the things (auditor general Larry Munroe) focused on in his report is Ticket Atlantic, the creation of Ticket Atlantic … Basically he said that TCL did this unilaterally, and that Halifax regional council was not only not asked for permission, but not even informed that this move was happening. That happened while you were the president of TCL, so I’m wondering what your reaction to that would be.
Fred MacGillivray: Well, I was well aware of the discussions that were ongoing on that subject. They probably started back about eight years ago, and of course the file was handled by Scott Ferguson who was responsible for the Metro Centre and I assume continues to be. His discussions with senior managers from the city of Halifax, (former CAO) Dan English, I assume (former Deputy CAO) Wayne Anstey was involved, and with senior officials in the finance department, whether it was (former CFO) Cathy O’Toole or whomever it was, I don’t know. Those discussions would have been ongoing, the city of Halifax would have been well aware of what the potential changes would look like, and would have had the opportunity at any point in time to say, “gosh, we don’t agree with that,” or “that’s not something that we want to do.” You also must remember that the mayor of the city of Halifax and two members of council sit on Trade Centre’s board. They would have attended all of the meetings when any of those discussions were taking place …
M: So you feel confident city hall knew what was happening.
FM: No question.
M: There’s “no question” about that?
FM: No question about it whatsoever.
M: O.K. Do you think regional council should have been told of this, though? Do you think they should have been the ones to approve it? Essentially it’s an HRM asset.
FM: It is, and the senior management of the city of Halifax, whether it’s their responsibility to make council aware, would be a question you’d want to ask council and/or the mayor, probably. As far as we were concerned, at Trade Centre, we would feel that if the mayor and two members of council were sitting on the board, they would hear of these discussions taking place at both the senior level of Trade Centre and the city of Halifax.
M: Do you think it’s a problem that the auditor general was not able to find any documentation to that, though? He wasn’t able to find any kind of paper trail relating to the transfer before the transfer was made.
FM: I can only share with you that I was aware of several meetings, several discussions, I again would not have sat in on those, because the responsibility is clearly with our senior management, led by Scott Ferguson, and the senior management of the city, led by Dan English. Between the two, if there was a paper trail created, it would be with their offices not with mine.
M: It’s interesting that you bring up Mr. English. After Ticket Atlantic was formed, and after TCL took over the box office operations, Mr. English sent you an e-mail … asking for some clarification on what exactly happened. It took you a year to respond to Mr. English’s e-mail.
FM: Any question in that regard at that particular point in time I would have forwarded to the person responsible, to keep the individual aware of what the processes were at that particular time and what was taking place. Mr. Ferguson being responsible for those discussions would have forwarded the information to Mr. English. I’m sure because he sent me an e-mail again I would have asked senior management in Scott Ferguson’s office to please put something on paper we could reply with … that’s where the information would have come from.
M: Right, but if you’re so sure that senior management at HRM was made aware of what was going on with Ticket Atlantic, why would Mr. English send you an e-mail asking you what was going on with Ticket Atlantic?
FM: That’s a very good question. You should probably ask him that.
M: I would if I could track him down.
FM: And/or Mr. Ferguson. I’m sure he’d be available.
M: I’ve already spoken with Mr. Ferguson. So you take no responsibility for what happened here? None whatsoever?
FM: Well I’m not saying I take no responsibility. I was the president of the company. But I don’t handle every file, that’s why I had senior management working with me. And (Ferguson’s) responsibility was to run and be the overseer of the Metro Centre on behalf of the city of Halifax. Those discussions would have taken place on a regular basis between senior management of the city and Scott Ferguson.