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HomeNewsDeveloping: City hall’s top real estate bureaucrat joins developer Aquilini

Developing: City hall’s top real estate bureaucrat joins developer Aquilini

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Bob Mackin

A memo from city manager Sadhu Johnston announces that the general manager of Vancouver’s real estate and facilities department is moving to one of the city’s most powerful development companies. 

Bill Aujla is quitting at the end of August to become vice-president of real estate at Aquilini Investment Group, which owns Rogers Arena and is a partner with the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh first nations in several projects to redevelop public land. Aujla will finish work in time for his Aug. 13 vacation, according to the memo. 

Bill Aujla (City of Vancouver)

Recruitment begins immediately, but director of strategic operations planning Lisa Prescott will be Aujla’s interim replacement. Prescott was formerly the manager of recreation at the Park Board. Gil Kelley, the general manager of planning, will take over community amenity negotiations. 

“Bill leaves his department in a very strong position for the future and we sincerely thank him for his contribution and leadership during his tenure as GM,” Johnston’s memo said. “We’ll all really miss Bill and we wish him a successful future as he progresses his career.”

Aujla, who was paid more than $296,000 last year, oversaw the controversial Olympic Village and led negotiations for the city to buy the Arbutus Corridor from the Canadian Pacific Railway.  

Aujla is the second top official from City of Vancouver to join the family-owned company that runs the Vancouver Canucks and Rogers Arena. In 2015, Vancouver Police Department chief Jim Chu retired and joined Aquilini as the vice-president of special projects and partnerships. Chu was appointed to the TransLink board of directors. 

Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC said Aujla’s departure is yet another reason why there should be a mandatory two-year cooling-off period for bureaucrats leaving a government job, to discourage moving so easily from the regulator to the regulated.

“It certainly adds to public cynicism prior to the election about the close relationship between city hall and property developers,” Travis said. “It’s why cooling-off periods were created for senior employees. We shouldn’t have a revolving door.”

Aquilini was a major donor to Vision Vancouver and, in 2014, bought the 67 unsold condos in the two waterfront towers at the Olympic Village for $91 million. 

Last year, Vision Vancouver operations director Duncan Wlodarczak left city hall’s ruling party to become chief of staff for developer Onni. The party’s former executive director, Stepan Vdovine, is the director of business development for Amacon. Former deputy city manager Brent MacGregor retired and became a consultant for B.C. Pavilion Corporation, to help develop what became the Parq Casino, which opened last year.

More to come…

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