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'Clear message': Area councillor reprimanded, loses 60 days pay

'I’m disappointed to see any member of council come before the (integrity commissioner),' says mayor, but calls sanction 'fair'
File photo.

Oro-Medonte integrity commissioner John Ewart appeared before township council Wednesday and recommended a member of council who breached both the Municipal Code of Conduct and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act be reprimanded and their pay be suspended for 60 days. 

Ewart also wants the councillor, who was not named in his report, to receive a copy of his report and to read the code of conduct and the legislation. 

All but one councillor, Richard Schell, voted in favour of the recommendation.

“Where did you come up with that 60 days?” Oro-Medonte Coun. Robert Young asked Ewart.

“When I look at the contravention in this particular case — we’re dealing with both a (Municipal Conflict of Interest Act) breach, which I did find, as well as that of the code of conduct — I thought it was appropriate,” Ewart answered.

The integrity commissioner said the range of sanction in terms of suspension of pay ranges up to 90 days.

“A clear message has to be sent and in doing so, I chose 60 days,” Ewart said. “I think it suggests, it conveys, the severity of what conflict of interest is.” 

Ewart said he has appreciation for those who serve on council, but at the same time “there’s overarching governance that needs to be recognized and conflict of interest being most severe," he added. 

In his written decision on Nov. 14, Ewart said the councillor breached the Municipal Code of Conduct by distributing a court document to five members of council on Aug. 29, 2023 in an attempt to "influence" council or members of council regarding short-term rentals.

Ewart's report also said the councillor contravened the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act after declaring a pecuniary conflict of interest.

The councillor, although not named in the report, was described as someone who “has recused himself due to a pecuniary conflict of interest on at least eight prior occasions from matters coming before council relating to short-term rental accommodations. The previous recusals were based on the fact that the member of council owns and periodically operates a bed and breakfast establishment," the decision says.

Oro-Medonte Mayor Randy Greenlaw and Deputy Mayor Peter Lavoie said they have never recused themselves from a discussion about short-term rentals, nor had Councillors Lori Hutcheson, John Bard, David Clark and Robert Young when the topic has come up.

Schell was expected to make a comment at Wednesday’s council meeting, but told BradfordToday and InnisfilToday he had an appointment to keep right after council and wouldn’t be able to answer questions about Ewart's report.

Greenlaw, meanwhile, said he thought the integrity commissioner’s report was thorough and measured.

“I’m disappointed to see any member of council come before the (integrity commissioner),” the mayor said. “Mr. Ewart came back with a very detailed report with a reprimand I think is fair.”

Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Wayne Doyle covers the townships of Springwater, Oro-Medonte and Essa for BarrieToday under the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI), which is funded by the Government of Canada
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