I've spoken to a lot of people about the City's decision to give Hess Village Real Estate $1.2 million in a loan and grant since writing about it yesterday. The people I spoke with were unanimously disgusted with Vranich's past behaviour, but two of the responses provided a different perspective on the situation, one that revolves around the fact that Hess Village Real Estate is a separate legal entity from Denis Vranich personally.
Raise the Hammer editor Ryan McGreal:
I'm really conflicted on this one. A corporation is by definition a legal mechanism that limits the personal liability of its owners and/or shareholders. When you do business with a corporation, you are doing business with the legal entity of the corporation and not directly with the people who own it. As far as I know, Hess Village Real Estate has not been convicted of any activities that would render it ineligible for the city's financial incentives.
I personally find it galling that a company owned by a convicted sex offender is receiving public money, but I worry about the appropriateness of denying an application that meets its eligibility criteria and follows the proper process. The alternative to a clear, transparent process is an arbitrary, politicized process that would be far more susceptible to cronyism and corruption.
If we decide that the application process should take into consideration the personal conduct of a corporation's owner, it seems to me that the proper course is for council to consider the feasibility of changing the process to reflect that.
I was also privileged to get an opinion from a friend who practises law. He wrote:
The spirit of the upset on this topic clearly comes from a whole hearted place. There may be a number of reasons why the funds should or should not be granted in this scenario. With this said, I may be swimming against the current here by suggesting that the past criminal convictions of the director of a corporation do not appropriately form the criteria when assessing entitlements to public funds. If it were The Charter of Rights and Freedoms would form the basis of some obvious challenges which may very well be prima facie cases of res judicata.
To save you the trouble of looking up "prima facie" and "res judicata", this basically says that the problem with denying Vranich's company a grant and loan on the basis of past criminal behaviour would be, on its face, a situation where Vranich was being retried for a crime that had already been adjudicated.
I understand these perspectives, so where does this leave me? First, it makes me feel better about the City's decision. If they followed their standard process in a fair manner, no one ought to criticize them for it.
Second, it keeps my ire focused on the person on whom it ought to remain: Denis Vranich himself, who has the gall to avail himself of the public purse in spite of his disgraceful conduct. As Undustrial pointed out in a comment:
It's not just the sex crimes.
First there's the numerous derelict buildings left to rot or burn (how many times did this one catch fire?), along with fire code citations. Then there's the bribery allegations. The unpermitted parking lots. It's not like the city hasn't had to demand these loans back from Vrancor before...
Oh, and the Rok Bar is now getting publicly denounced for wage theft from the waitresses.
There is every reason to be outraged here.
I want to be clear that this blog post is not intended to excuse this situation. Rather, it is an attempt to clarify how it may have happened. It is still outrageous, and it should cause us to examine whether or not there are legal ways to prevent this type of situation from happening in the future.
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