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"Ever wonder if City Council is as contentious and chaotic as it is sometimes portrayed? Here you can get a progressive perspective on some of the issues from someone who spent four years in the trenches. Totally unbiased, though! Feel free to comment but keep it respectful, just like they do at council."

Monday, November 12, 2012

No news is good news

The latest headline regarding our mayor’s business dealings outside city hall shouldn’t come as any great surprise.

“It was not a pleasure to do business with you,” it read. According to Free Press reporter Chip Martin, these words were sent to Mayor Fontana in an email from Trif Aurora, a Romanian lawyer hired to introduce Fontana, chairman of the management team at GPEC Global, to municipal officials in Romania with an eye to landing contracts to build a waste to energy system for their community.

The company was relatively new, having sprung up, it seems, in 2008, not long before Fontana joined the board of directors at Trinity Global Support Foundation at the invitation of his boyhood friend, Vincent Ciccone.

Fontana was between jobs. In the fall of 2006 he had vacated his seat in parliament after his party had lost the government and he his cabinet post, following the general election in January. He decided to find a position a little closer to home by running for mayor.

That turned out to be a bust, as did an offer from a neighbour in Arva, Robert Vanier, to start up an energy company, Allus Power Inc., in 2007. Although Fontana was made president of the company, he decided to leave it after his company car was towed out of his driveway for non-payment of the lease. Later we learned that Vanier had a long criminal history and ties to the Hell`s Angels. He was also in trouble with the Ontario Securities Commission for another energy investment company known as Onco which cost investors millions of dollars.

"It wasn't really a partnership," Fontana told the London Free Press. "It was a short-lived business encounter."

In an interesting side note, when Vanier`s Richmond St. office was being sold, it was purchased by Loredana Onesan of FinCore Solutions. A year later, she would become a director of Trinity Global Support Foundation at Fontana`s invitation. Currently, she has an application with the city for a $300M development on property owned by the city which she hopes to acquire as soon as possible.

In the meantime his friend and business partner, Vince Ciccone, was having problems of his own. He was trying to find investors to contribute to his firm but running afoul of the Ontario Securities Commission. While Fontana claimed that he had no knowledge of Ciccone`s business dealings despite their serving together on the Trinity charity board, others, including Ciccone, claim that Fontana played an important role in reassuring potential investors that Ciccone was a reputable guy; their money was safe with him.

So far, the investors have yet to see any sign of their original investment, let alone any interest or dividends.

These unfortunate experiences seem not to have deterred Fontana from activity in the energy sector. He soon became the Canadian director for Omniwatt, a German company, which has an office in London although there is little indication on its website about its current activity. He also became chair person of the Green Power Enviro Corp. No evidence of its existence can be found on the Internet today.

But GPEC Global, the company which ran into difficulty in Romania, still has a presence on the Internet even though it has seen its share of difficulties and the loss of its management team leader, Joe Fontana.

I first came across the website when Fontana began to talk about partnering with Toronto to develop a waste to energy plant to deal with Toronto garbage. In Something smells I wondered whether there might be some conflict of interest between the mayor`s two roles as elected official and businessman. He eventually stepped down from the GPEC position—at least his name was removed from the website—but not before I heard a complaint from a reader who had invested in the company but who was not receiving any of the promised dividends nor, indeed, any statements despite repeated enquiries. She had assumed that the company would be a safe one to invest in since it had billed itself as a "Christian business".

Apparently the connection to religion also appealed to Antonui Bacsa, the unlucky Romanian immigrant engineer who got caught up in GPEC`s rhetoric and ill-fated projects. One of Fontana`s partners, Derk Maat, maintained a blog about the company and its "kingdom principles". In it he notes how Tony (Bacsa) had never heard "a teaching that brought the Kingdom of Jesus Christ into the boardrooms of the marketplace." He was encouraged to read materials by self-styled evangelist, Ed Silvoso, who promoted GPEC Global and other companies on his Harvest Evangelism website. Then Bacsa was sent to Romania to engage city officials by promoting GPEC as a Christian company.

"Tony searches out cities that are relatively corruption free and engages each group or individual in discussions to select only individuals and or groups that are transparent and work with integrity to bring transformation of garbage to electricity in a way that truly blesses the community," wrote Maat in 2008.

Unfortunately, the integrity seems not to have gone both ways. Claiming that they had failed to attract sufficient investment to follow through on agreements and contracts, GPEC officials left the communities without energy, let alone the promised affordable housing and day care facilities, and Basca without a pay cheque.

For Bacsa, Romania, and GPEC investors, this was a lose, lose, lose situation. The Romanian consultant asked GPEC to leave. Basca has filed a million dollar lawsuit. What the investors are likely to do remains to be seen.

As for GPEC Global, the two other officers named in the lawsuit, Derk and Derek Maat, have an engineering firm that is looking for business, and Fontana has a charity that is generating interest from CRA and a well-paid job as mayor of London, Ontario. He is much in the news.

But if you click on News on the GPEC website, you will learn that "There are no news items."


Lily Tomlin said...

Re- our dear mayor, the mind boggles.

No matter how cynical you get, you can't keep up!

Anonymous said...

Prime example of the fable about the wolf in sheeps clothing.
There's nothing about these business dealings that are Christian.
They learned how to walk the walk, and talk the talk so they could steal from the Christians and not just their assets and resources either.
They stole their innocence, their belief in the goodness of all mankind, their trust, their faith, their freedom...and I ask why?

If they are God fearing church goers who believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah and go to church to worship and give praise their mind wouldn't be able to even fathom such a venture.

They aren't Christian. They are anti-christian sociopaths...and there's power in numbers.

Man oh man alive are we in deep shit now. We NEED a miracle...and I happen to know that miracles happen whether we believe in God or not...because HE believes in us.

Anonymous said...

The more I read of these dealings the more I think Mafia.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this just gets better and better. What will be next in the Free Press?

Veteran Observer said...

Oh, Oh!

Bad news after all for Joe.

I see by tonight's Free Press that
Denise Brown has defected from the
Gang of Eight.

G. Babbitt said...

Although a lot of fun and low hanging fruit, the focus on the mayor worries me. Frankly I think the problem lies less with the mayor and more with the incredible power developers are beginning to wield at city hall. I'm concerned that the mayor will resign and the light that Gina and others have shone on developers influence planning decisions will be ignored.

just askin' said...

Gee, I wonder why Joe would skip a meeting in Ottawa?

Mounties too close?

Tourist in Ottawa said...

Sensational trip!

Boy, that's the best vote I ever cast.

Waiting... said...

It's interesting that people who have or had political objectives keep stepping out of the woodwork to slam the Mayor, most times from hearsay.
Using this article, it refers to him
'being in trouble with the securities commission' regarding Onco. Reading the story about it on Chinneck Law, I didn't see a single mention of Joe's name...odd.
Just like some of the city councillors current, I wonder what their own agenda is for their requests to step down. Is it because they want his seat having failed their own attempts to get a Provincial one.
I really do hope that he is cleared of any misdoings so everyone can eat crow. But as usual, the worms coming out of the woodwork will just slither back in and won't be apologizing to him everyday for months on end as they should.
We'll just have to wait and see.

Anonymous said...

Hey waiting, the bit with the wedding cheque is only one of a number of issues. There is the crooked charity issue. The "friend" or "biz partner" in that one was up before the OSC. The new Board member is head of Fincore which he is pushing. There is question about why Fontana was promoting energy from waste at the landfill while still chair of GPEC. He is still being sued. So the only thing outstanding is whether or not he will be cleared of wrongdoing by the RCMP on spending public funds. This is somewhere closer to the crooked deals in Montreal than it is to sitting with the angels. And if I may be so bold, nothing close to this was associated with the previous two mayors while they were in office. As mayor, you should appear to be clean as well as be clean. There is too much of a scent around Joe.

Joe watcher said...

Mr. Waiting:

Sounds like you haven't been paying much attention to Joe's activities for the past 20 years or so. He's been a busy, busy boy.

But good luck with your hope for his complete vindication! I always like an optimist.

Betsy Odegaard said...

The commenter Waiting should read the above paragraph about Onco again. The paragraph reported that Joe was appointed president of Vanier venture called Allus Energy but left when his company car was towed (repossessed?) from his driveway. It did not say that Joe was involved with Onco, the company that drew the attention of the OSC.
Again and again we see that Joe has a penchant for getting involved with sketchy operators—Vanier, Ciccone and now the people behind GPEC. On top of that, he can’t explain his use of a federal government cheque to pay a private debt, and his involvement with a tax avoidance scheme that is an incredibly cynical abuse of the rules for charitable giving. It seems Joe will ride a bandwagon for lower taxes (services and fiscal prudence be damned) but has no hesitation profiting from loopholes (or worse) in the system. Those who wish Joe would go include those who never liked him, former supporters who are appalled by his private business dealings and many who believe with ample reason that his mayoralty has damaged London forever. When Joe takes his pensions and heads off into the sunset, Londoners will be left to pick up the pieces. Do you think Joe will ever apologize to us?

Anonymous said...

We have been invaded! The Republicans are here!