By Chris Pickup

The Ethics complaint against councillor Morison appears to have fallen into cracks between the county’s Code of Conduct, the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act (MCIA) presently in force, and the upcoming Modernizing Ontario’s Municipal Legislation Act which jncludes the MCIA, but doesn’t come into force until March 1, 2019.

Quite simply, the complaint was filed in the wrong place.

Complaints filed under the county’s Code of Conduct consist of an Informal Complaint through the clerk’s office, to be replied within ten days by the councillor concerned. If they do not come to an agreement, then the process moves to a formal Complaint.

Haldimand County’s recently appointed Ethics Commissioner John Mascarin, hired to investigate the formal Complaint, has released his report on the matter.

He notes “the Complaint alleges that a Member of Council for the county (the Councillor) contravened the County’s Code of Conduct and Complaint Protocol for Members of Council (the Code) by influencing council decisions or decision-making processes involving or affecting persons or organizations in which the councillor had a financial Interest. The financial interests referred to are in the nature of direct, indirect and deemed pecuniary interests.”

“The Complaint also expressly alleges that the actions of the councillor contravened subsections 5(1) and 5.2(1) of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.” 

Those allegations “ought to have been pursued under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act” says Mascarin, which requires the Complaint to be dealt with before a judge of the Ontario Superior Court.

(Although, ironically, a year from now Ethics Commissioners will be allowed to deal with these complaints under the Modernizing Ontario’s Municipal Legislation Act.)

Because he feels this section of the Complaint is not a matter to be dealt with under the Code, Mascarin has declined to investigate, since it is out of his jurisdiction.

However, “I have noted above that the Complaint does not include an allegation that the Councillor may have contravened section 5(c) of the Code through the improper use of “insider information” gained by virtue of his office as Councillor for the county (although it was included in the Informal Complaint).

“To the extent that this allegation remains unresolved or was mistakenly omitted from the Complaint, I reserve my right to consider and possibly investigate such allegation in order to provide some certainty on the issue for both the complainant and the councillor.”

The full report is on the Haldimand County website. It will be discussed at Tuesday’s Council Committee meeting.