Edmonton pushing for provincial regulation power for cash-strapped ECSC

It’s no wonder the City of Edmonton has protected Pat Reid so fiercely from day one no matter how much or how badly he screwed up.

If he goes down, they all go down, like a house of cards.

Several city staffers were a part of the scheme that was concocted to anoint Reid with absolute power. And most have worked diligently since to make sure he stays there long enough to complete the final phase of the plan: to convince the Alberta government to let the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission take over regulation for the entire province.

Although they’ve wrapped the proposition up with a shiny bow, the truth is that financially and structurally the ECSC is a hot mess, and it’s the city’s  fault that it got this bad through ignorance, corruption, and greed.

They’ve been trying for the past six years to get the province to bite to no avail, but Reid promised when he was hired that he would get the job done. And they ate it up just like they did the rest of the former Ottawa billboard salesman’s tall tales.

Like when he promised city brass he’d get the UFC to come to Edmonton to inject millions of dollars into the economy. Its been six years and it hasn’t happened. Behind closed doors Reid says it’s because his commission’s rules are too stringent for the Nevada-based MMA organization and that he wont bend them for anyone. I’m pretty sure Herb Dean didn’t take Big John McCarthy’s COMMAND training course, you know, the one that’s mandatory for all officials who oversee MMA bouts in the city. Simply another case of Reid playing do as I say, not as I do.

Like when he regurgitated the same “I know it’s an oxymoron, but our number one concern here is safety,” line to me three times during our Feb. 13 interview. Then the truth came out when he later told me the first thing he did when he was hired was pay a visit to the city’s lawyers to see what he needed to do to ensure he wouldn’t get sued if someone died under his charge.

I’m no lawyer, but maybe making pro wrestling promotions like the WWE obtain insurance might be one thing he should consider doing. Reid told me the city doesn’t require wrestling promoters to get insurance because, “It isn’t even a real sport.” Not only is that offensive to the pro wrestling community that helps offset his lavish spending habits, but it’s also a blatant liability oversight, given that Calgary native Owen Hart died while performing at a WWE event back in 1999. I doubt Edmonton needs any more lawsuits due to Reid’s bad decisions. They already have two in the works that have been hushed up. More on those later.

The failed Pat Reid experiment is almost into its seventh year and has cost taxpayers well over $1 million and counting, and the city is getting nervous. Prior to Reid’s reign of error, the commission was completely self-funded and carried a $150,000 reserve account year after year, built up via smart investment of fee collection revenue. It was from that account they would pay the former part-time executive director’s $18,000 per-year salary and all commission expenses, including sending one delegate to the annual Association of Boxing Convention. Now the ECSC routinely sends two or three, and they don’t always make it to the convention if the night before gets too out of hand. Reid’s wife regularly goes with her husband to conferences as well. I wonder if they split on the double occupancy hotel upgrade and if she buys her own ticket.

As Reid told me, the ABC courses taught at the convention are “Mickey Mouse,” yet he still attends them, even though he’s “pretty much done with the ABC because they are in the UFC’s pocket” in his mind. Behind the scenes, Reid has also been trying to make a play to create and assume control of a federally-run national Canadian MMA federation that will supplant the ABC’s governance in Canada.

“I would like to see Gary Lunn, Sport Canada’s Minister of Sport, assign a federal government sport consultant to develop a national sport organization framework for MMA, complete with provincial and territorial tentacles,” Reid told FFWDWeekly in 2010. “Sports that have really flourished have federal-provincial-territorial sport minister collaboration and recognition. MMA needs to have that structure, the same as boxing and a number of other combative sports already have at the amateur level.”

Did I mention that Reid used to be a federal government sport consultant with Sport Canada for 17 years? He jumped ship for Corel three years prior to earning his 20-year government pension. It’s no coincidence that Reid suggested the Feds create a job he thinks he could fill like Edmonton did for him. He wants back into the federal government where wasteful spending is an acceptable practice.

In 2014 approximately $128,000 from that estimated $158,000 reserve fund, which included memorial award funds set up from the estates of late former commission members, was released to the ECSC’s main business account, where it was swallowed up before the end of the year

Coincidentally, the costs the commission claims it incurred ($188,000) regulating 13 MMA and four boxing events in the city that year were identical to the commission’s claimed revenue, leaving them with a zero balance to start 2015.

ECSC BUDGET 2015

They couldn’t even leave a few hundred in the account to make it look legit. Any profit, no matter how minimal would have at least made it seem like the struggling commission was turning a corner, and may have attempted to justify Reid’s inflated salary, which I’m told is over $90K per-year now, plus benefits and pension. The city is also paying for Reid to take his third crack at his PHD, this time through University of Alberta, which also plays its own part in the ECSC’s major corruption problem. More on that later.

The last time Reid plugged away at his PHD he did so for 10 years before abandoning the cause. Third time’s a charm, I suppose. Seems like tax money well spent.

I’m not sure how a PHD in physical education will help the ECSC or the city when Reid is doing a thesis on a hockey tournament.

I’m also not sure if taxpayers, the majority of whom likely aren’t combat sport fans, should be on the hook for the extra inspectors Reid hires every event to count punches and take before and after photos of fighter mouth guards for some of the other university studies he’s working on. Seems a little selfish to me to expect that, considering the cost should be on the student earning the grades with the work. But what do I know. I’m just an MMA reporter. Maybe one of the Edmonton city councillors who have ignored my emails can answer that.

If they admit defeat before the plan is executed to completion, it’s likely the fallout would be detrimental to all of the guilty parties’ salaried city positions, considering all the dirt that’s on their hands that cant be washed off. That’s why everyone in the Edmonton city manager’s office and community services department has scrambled to put out the fires Reid has started.

There is a glimmer of hope for the keepers of the plan. If former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel retains a seat in the provincial government after the upcoming May 5 election, they might have the in they so desperately need to finally switch to the provincial model they’ve been working towards the past six years.

Mandel is in on the plan. He ignored several serious complaints he was sent about Reid. Here is the ECSC Christmas card he posed with his former University Games bid teammate for back in 2009 – the year Reid was given his bottomless line of credit to city taxpayer money.

MANDELREIDXMAS

I’m sure these coveted cards lived on the refrigerators of promoters and fighters until they were torn and faded. Taxpayer money well spent yet again, kind of like the $70K Mandel charged taxpayers for his gold Edmonton Oilers season’s tickets. I wonder how many times he and Reid attended games together.

Mandel was tasked by city council with writing a letter to the province to ask them to take over the commission. When it was due he was in China lobbying for support of the city’s 2015 University Games bid. City Branch manager David Aitken got his boss out of his homework after it was already late by a month by writing up a report that that said it wasn’t a viable solution to ask the province to take over MMA regulation just yet. Kissing up to the mayor wasn’t the only reason for Aitken volunteering to write up the report. The other was that they already had the plan in motion.

They’d gone too far to turn back now. They had already spent $90,000 on a five-month Sierra Systems audit of the commission, and another $165,000 more council had given them out of its contingency fund to pay for their carefully modified version of the real Sierra governance implementation plan to be executed.

They had to finish what they started. Otherwise people might start asking where all the money went.

 

NEXT: How Pat Reid’s ECSC takeover was executed

 

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