'Non-existent' stakeholders committee will try to meet

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

Winnipeg Blue Bombers chairman Ken Hildahl says he's willing to call a meeting of members of the stakeholders steering committee, just as Mayor Sam Katz has demanded.

But that doesn't mean the Bombers acknowledge the committee still exists.

"I've talked to some of the individuals," Hildahl told the Sun. "We're going to try and get a meeting together, but it won't be a stakeholders committee meeting. They're free-thinkers. I'm committed to that, and I'm gonna do it."

For a year, the Bombers and Katz have been at odds over the existence of the committee, established in 2000 to oversee the team's debt-reduction plan.

The team says the community-appointed group served its purpose, and dissolved itself.

Katz says that move was improper -- only three of seven members had a say -- and has threatened to take action if the Bombers don't address the issue by the end of the month.

"Bring the stakeholders back together, and if in a real meeting it's decided they're no longer needed, I have no problem with that," Katz said late last week. "None whatsoever."

BAD BLOOD

The bad blood between Katz and the community-owned football team spilled over again late last week, when the mayor questioned the Bombers financial statements, which showed a $4 million surplus.

Katz said the team should be reporting a $3.6 million loan for stadium improvements made nearly a decade ago.

However, that debt belongs to the city through Winnipeg Enterprises, the former stadium landlord, a fact acknowledged by the city's chief financial officer.

The steering committee dispute is, potentially, much more serious, since it could determine which group will have the final say on major issues like privatization and a new stadium: the current Bomber board or the seven people who make/made up the committee.

"Why have another level of bureaucracy involved?" Hildahl said. "It was never intended to be a lifelong committee. You go into that stakeholders agreement, and it really limits the club's ability to operate as a grown-up as opposed to a child. It's (about) controlling your own future."


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