The City has no conflicts of interest in the Invest Medicine Hat tendering process

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A search of the company register shows that the company was formed in February 2021. Melhoff is listed as a director, as is Chris Perret, the city’s current director of land use planning and real estate. Eric Van Enk, another city staff member, is also listed as having a stake in the company.

A website from Orka Management Group features other members of the Invest Medicine Hat team, including Kelli Ireland, the city’s current marketer, and Jon Sookocheff, the city’s current economic stimulus. The website lists 660 Second Street as the address, the same location where Invest Medicine Hat was located when it was operated by Ryan Jackson.

When asked on Tuesday if there was a conflict of interest given Melhoff’s position as a city staff member, City Manager Bob Nicolay said the city has a very fair and comprehensive process and that there was “absolutely no conflict”.

City Councilor Phil Turnbull shared this view and said the public need not be concerned about a conflict of interest in the tendering process.

“There is no conflict of interest. He’s under contract if the company he’s formed doesn’t get the offer, then he’s just going to go about his other business, and what happens to the other four or five? Well, if this entrepreneur has his own staff, he will lose his job, and that’s kind of how the system works, ”Turnbull said.

But some members of the public disagree and argue that a conflict of interest is present and that the decision should not come before the election.

“I was appalled as a citizen and I was outraged,” said Brian Webster, who is also a candidate for city council.

“The city preaches transparency, it wants to be transparent and this process has only been transparent,” Webster said.

Richard Connolly, a city manager who will be involved in the procurement process, said the city has measures in place to ensure that no conflict occurs. He said a third group, MNP, has been tasked with overseeing the assessment process. The third group will hold a minority stake. Other players in the assessment process, according to Connolly, include CEO Rochelle Pancoast.

A request for proposals for the new investor at Invest Medicine Hat was issued on June 15 and is scheduled to close on Monday, July 19. Joel McNally is a registered plan holder. He said he would not make an offer. McNally said his reason had nothing to do with Melhoff. But he said the bidding process for the particular contract is cause for concern.

“I don’t think a serious bidder will invest the time and effort to create a serious bid because of the short lead times involved and because one of the bidders has such an advantage,” McNally said.

Phone calls to Mayor Ted Clugston and Jason Melhoff went unanswered on Friday.

The city is expected to award the contract to the new private operator in early September.


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