A screenshot of one of Mayor Andrew Jakubeit’s conversations via text message with Tom Dyas, one of the owners of Trio Marine Group.
Posted: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 5:18 pm | Updated: 5:54 pm, Wed Mar 15, 2017.
Penticton’s mayor agreed to meet privately at least five time last year with Trio Marine Group’s owners, one of whom also used his connection to fume about a separate business being shut out of community events, while the other complained about an apparent leak from City Hall.
Meeting arrangements are contained in documents released this week to The Herald in response to a freedom of information request. The package consists of emails and text messages exchanged in 2016 between Andrew Jakubeit and Trio owners Tom Dyas and Tom Hedquist.
It was during that timeframe that Trio and the City of Penticton negotiated changes to a deeply unpopular agreement that would have allowed the company to build a waterslides development in Skaha Lake Park.
Changes were also made to a related agreement giving Trio the right to run nearby Skaha Marina.
While the messages show the men enjoyed amicable relationships, the three also clearly expressed frustration with each other at times.
Can you do breakfast?
Dyas, who also owns TD Benefits, a Kelowna-based company that sells health insurance, reached out to Jakubeit for at least four meetings in 2016: twice in January and once each in May and October.
One of the January meetings was a breakfast date in Kelowna, while the latter two get-togthers were set for Skaha Marina.
Dyas, who’s also president of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, offered Jakubeit two potential meeting times for May 15: 10:30 a.m. or 1 p.m.
“Probably 1… then it can be a beer not a coffee,” Jakubeit responded. “Plus I usually try to go for a bike ride in the morning. Your marina is a good spot.”
Hedquist, who also owns Trademark Industries, a dock-building and crane company in Penticton, requested a meeting with Jakubeit at City Hall on Oct. 13.
“Will you have something to present to me or is this another conversation?” Hedquist asked Jakubeit just a few hours before the meeting.
“I have something on paper,” Jakubeit replied.
Two weeks later, the city unveiled revised agreements that killed off the prospect of waterslides in Skaha Lake Park. In those deals, Trio was awarded $20,000 in compensation for walking away from the waterslides, $20,000 to help pay for repairs at the marina, and had $39,000 in unpaid rent and taxes forgiven.
Dyas apparently began hammering out details of that revised agreement with the rest of city council at an in camera meeting Oct. 4.
“Andrew, thank you for the time today to have an open discussion with yourself and council,” Dyas told the mayor later that evening.
“I recognize that there are still a number of questions to be answered. Also that not everyone will be on the same page but I hope overall the time spent today was a step in the right direction.”
But it’s clear Dyas viewed Jakubeit as the key to getting council onside.
“(If) you can convince council to accept the enhanced marina agreement the way we have (proposed) we are done,” Dyas said in an Oct. 30 message to the mayor.
“(There) is not as much money in the marina agreement as (there) is in the waterpark agreement and we have a lot of work to clean up the marina area for Penticton.
“Hopefully your council can see this and agree on the big picture of the overall benefit to the community as we will continue to be a good partner for the local tourism. Also I think we all want to focus on other positives and not the small items (in) our last kick at the can. Good luck.”
Hurry up already
As the public unveiling of the new deals approached, however, it seems the men’s relationship grew strained.
On Nov. 1, just hours before the city was set to inform the public, Jakubeit was still trying to get a quote from Dyas for a press release.
With only 48 minutes to spare, Dyas rejected a suggested quote from Jakubeit that would have been attributed specifically to him, and sent a replacement from Trio as a whole that acknowledged the proposed waterslides had become “decisive” (sic) in the community.
Dyas told Jakubeit the reworked statement was “released on behalf of all principles and is not commentary on any particular individual. Over the next few days we will be establishing a much more in depth media response with regards to our thoughts on the changes we may (be) considering implementing.”
If such a response was established, it never found its way to the media.
Jakubeit and Dyas also sparred a few weeks later as the city awaited yet another revised agreement from Trio that did away with the prospect of a publicly approved amenity of any kind in Skaha Lake Park.
“The plan is to make this newest revision public at our meeting tomorrow or a statement Wednesday morning. Any idea when we will be getting your revised agreement?” Jakubeit asked in a Nov. 14 message to Dyas.
“I know they are working on it as we speak,” Dyas replied.
“What is the delay… council starts at 1 pm,” Jakubeit fired back the next day.
That second set of revisions wasn’t released publicly until Nov. 21.
Loose lips sink ships
The tension continued to build Nov. 14, when Dyas accused someone of leaking to The Herald news that Trio had failed to secure a needed lease from the B.C. government for part of Skaha Marina.
“Andrew, we are surprised and disappointed about the leaks around our conversation of last Thursday that have made (today’s) paper,” Dyas said via text message.
“I thought all (our) meetings were in confidence. We are working towards putting together another settlement (offer) but hope our conversations stay in confidence,” Dyas continued.
(For the record, the story never came from a leak, but rather through diligent reporting.)
Hedquist also had no trouble letting loose on Jakubeit.
In a July 5 message, he complained that one of his other companies, Superior Septic, had been “overlooked” to provide service to two community events: Slide the City and Prospera Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan.
“Having some difficulty as of late with our city not honouring their own mandate of ‘shop local,’” Hedquist said, before going on to note his Trademark Industries had donated use of a barge for a Canada Day fireworks display and that Superior Septic matches competitors’ prices.
“Losing contracts to a Kelowna operated company” is a “slap in the face,” Hedquist said.
“I am hoping you can explain why these events are not hiring locals that contribute to our community, pay local wages and city taxes. Very frustrating indeed,” he concluded.
Jakubeit pointed out the city didn’t run those events, but added he would “try to find out more details.”
Just doing his job
In a statement Wednesday, Jakubeit defended his hands-on approach with the Trio owners.
“The intention was to put some pressure on both Toms to come to grips with the reality that the original agreement needed to be revised and the longer it would take the more complicated the situation would snowball into,” he said.
“As mayor, promoting business and economic development in the city is a routine part of my job.”
Jakubeit also noted staff handled the actual negotiations with Trio, and that the rest of council was aware of his “conversations” with Hedquist and Dyas.
Freedom of information docs below