PavCo president and chief executive officer Warren Buckley has said T. Richard Turner helped the Crown corporation arrange meetings with Paragon Gaming Inc. executives. But that happened after PavCo had selected the Las Vegas-based company as the preferred bidder to develop the lands west of BC Place. And, according to Mr. Buckley, Mr. Turner - who is the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia's chair and has a longstanding business relationship with Paragon - "never attended" any of those meetings.
"Largely, in a lot of the negotiations, we were dealing with the Paragon lawyers based out of Edmonton. And we were trying to get to the principals" - chief executive officer Diana Bennett and president Scott Menke - "on one or two particular issues that we grinding down on legal terms and so forth. And we were just racking up legal bills," said Mr. Buckley in an interview with Public Eye this morning.
"And were expressing our frustration at getting these guys to the table. And I know (PavCo chair David Podmore) sent an email to Rick and said,'You're on the advisory board (for Paragon), give them some advice. We need to get to the table,'" he continued.
"Beyond that, he never participated in negotiating any of the commercial terms, he never attended any of the meetings...It was really just a couple times where we got bogged down and someone had to give them a wakeup call."
Earlier, a spokesperson for the Paragon Gaming told us Mr. Turner "was not involved" in the company's response to PavCo's request for proposals. During estimates debate yesterday, Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Kevin Krueger reiterated the ICBC chair "did not participate in the negotiations at all and had no influence in the content of the lease whatsoever."
Under that 70-year lease agreement, Paragon Gaming will build a $450 million entertainment complex near BC Place, featuring a casino with up to 1,500 slot machines and 150 tables.
Mr. Buckley also said it's his understanding Mr. Podmore "knew (Mr. Turner) in business and so on."