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City Ombudsman finds fault with arena board

Skating on Thin Ice: That’s the title of the 60-page report released by Toronto Ombudsman Fiona Crean Nov. 7, which investigated and found major governance concerns with Leaside Gardens arena’s citizen board.

Local realtor Patrick Rocca was asked by the board in late December 2011 to match a firm offer made by Longo’s to pay $125,000 upfront for the rights to advertise on the arena’s Zamboni for the next 10 years. Rocca, who had held the rights since 2001, had paid $1,800 per year. 

Rocca complained, not about the size of the offer by Longo’s, but the way he was treated. A long-time supporter of the arena, Rocca was led to believe Longo’s offer was a firm one, when it wasn’t. The company asked for exclusivity prohibiting any other grocers from advertising at the arena, but the board rejected that request, meaning there was no firm offer when Rocca was asked to match the bid.

Ultimately, Rocca made a counter proposal to pay $4,500 per year but by then Longo’s had dropped their exclusivity demands and the contract was signed.

Almost 18 months have passed since the Ombudsman launched her investigation and now for Rocca it’s water under the bridge. He continues to advertise at the arena and plays hockey twice a week there.

While the process might have taken an unfortunate turn or two, Rocca says, he’s a big believer in supporting the community where he lives and works.

The Ombudsman’s report made 18 recommendations including specifying that the chair of the board apologize in writing to Rocca by Dec. 15.

The new chair of the board, Ray White, wrote to the Ombudsman: “In reviewing the report and your recommendations it is evident that they will result in improved governance, accountability and more efficient operation.”