On Friday, March 2, 2018, Dunnville resident Clifford Ahrens filed an ethics complaint against Haldimand County Ward 2 councillor Fred Morison, who is also president and CEO of Morison Insurance and a commercial real estate developer.
In his affidavit Ahrens charges that Morison not only failed to declare a pecuniary interest in several Haldimand County projects that will enhance the value of his real estate holdings, but actually originated these projects and piloted them through council.
He cites the following grounds:
Councillor Morison has admitted that in 2014 his wife Jill Morison acquired the Haldimand Advocate Limited, which owns a vacant commercial property at 42 Talbot Street West in Cayuga
In October of 2015 Morison persuaded Haldimand council to increase the budget for the new Cayuga public library project by $600,000 and move it from the site of the old fire hall on the Market Square, which is 300 metres from his wife’s commercial property, and not visible from it, to a new site in “downtown” Cayuga, which to him means on Talbot Street. He moved the motion at both committee and council levels and voted on both occasions. He then encouraged county staff to purchase the Cayuga Hotel property at 19 Talbot St. W which is only 100 metres from his wife’s commercial property, and clearly visible from it.
On January, 2016, The Haldimand Advocate Limited amalgamated into O. B. B. Properties, Inc giving Morison direct control of the vacant commercial property at 42 Talbot St. W.
In the summer of 2016, Haldimand county purchased the Cayuga Hotel property as the new “downtown” site for the library, and the Haldimand Press (of which Jill Morison was the publisher) published a news report giving Morison credit for motivating the move and explaining that in its new location the library could serve as “a catalyst for growth in the downtown”.
On October 31, 2016, Morison’s O.B.B. Properties, Inc. acquired a second vacant commercial property at 1 Ouse St. N. that has frontage on Talbot St. W. It is within 120m of the new library site, which is clearly visible from this second property as well.
In November of 2016, Morison participated in the council decision to close the Haldimand County Museum and Archives building on the Court House Grounds, which are 500 m from his two vacant commercial properties, and moving a part of the collections to the new library building on Talbot St., W., only 100 m from his properties. He also persuaded council to increase the project budget by $460,000 in order to accomplish this move. He seconded the motion at the committee level and moved it at the council level. He voted on both occasions.
In early December of 2016, Morison persuaded Haldimand County council to develop the Cayuga Bridge Rail Trail, which would run right past his two vacant commercial properties. He moved the motion at both committee and council levels, and voted on both occasions.
In September of 2017, Morison persuaded Haldimand County council to spend $75,000 on a landscape architecture design project to enhance four parks, including two within 100 m of his two vacant commercial properties. He moved the motion at the committee level and seconded it at council. He voted on both occasions.
Ahrens provided documentation to support his complaints.
Haldimand County must now hire an ethics commissioner to review Ahrens’ complaint and make a ruling.