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National Post - Oct. 1, 2009 - By Kenyon Wallace
No Conflict, Says Defiant McCallion
Judicial Inquiry; Councillors want answers in Mississauga deal
Mississauga City Council has called for a judicial inquiry into Mayor Hazel McCallion's involvement in a $14.4-million development project arranged by her son after she allegedly failed to declare a conflict of interest.
The decision to call for an inquiry came in a 6-4 vote after a private meeting in which councillors reviewed a legal opinion prepared by Toronto law firm McLean & Kerr. The city requested the opinion after it was revealed Ms. McCallion attended several private meetings concerning her son's land deal while the project was still before council.
"We have to raise these concerns and have an independent third party look into them," said Nando Iannicca, the councillor who tabled the motion for the inquiry. "Any other way and this would have looked like a whitewash."
The legal opinion states Ms. McCallion contravened the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act by failing to declare a conflict on May 21, 2008, when council discussed zoning surrounding the development --a project in which World Class Developments Ltd., owned by Peter McCallion, was to buy downtown Mississauga property for a hotel from OMERS, the Ontario municipal employees' pension giant. (The deal has since fallen through.)
A defiant Ms. McCallion told the National Post last night that she had complied with the Act.
"My lawyers told me I complied with the Act. The city hired an independent lawyer who said I complied with the Act," she said, referring to the McLean & Kerr report, which states that if Ms. McCallion failed to declare a conflict of interest because of "an honest error in judgment" or "through inadvertence" she would not be subject to any legal penalties.
The opinion also notes that because the case has yet to be tested in court, it could be proved wrong if discussion surrounding the hotel deal was merely "procedural" in nature as opposed to "substantive."
Ms. McCallion added she had already declared a conflict of interest at an April 21 meeting, but said she couldn't specifically remember declaring a conflict at the May 21 meeting.
On Tuesday, Mississauga's city clerk, Crystal Greer, discovered that official minutes taken at the May 21 meeting showing Ms. McCallion declaring a conflict of interest were incorrect. The discovery came after viewing video footage of the meeting. The city is looking into how the error occurred.
Mr. Iannicca said the city solicitor will outline the inquiry's framework and scope in the near future.
The call for the inquiry is driven by "other motives," said Councillor Pat Mullin, who voted against the motion and suggested an integrity commissioner could handle the case rather than a costly judicial inquiry. "There's a plot against the Mayor and I firmly believe that," she said.
Councillor Katie Mahoney said she voted against a judicial inquiry because the motion was clearly "political."
"There are councillors who have ambitions that go beyond their present position," she said.
Councillors Carolyn Parrish, Frank Dale, Eve Adams, Carmen Corbasson and George Carlson voted for the judicial inquiry while councillors Mahoney, Mullin, Pat Saito and Maja Prentice voted against it.
Ms. McCallion, 88, has been the mayor of Mississauga for 31 years.
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