THE DEMOCRATIC REPORTER
Pages of Special Interest;
Other Table of Contents;
Scanned, recopied or Internet copy, if there are errors, please e-mail me with corrections:
Toronto Star - Sept. 24, 2009 - Phinjo Gombu, Urban Affairs Reporter
Video contradicts McCallion
Video of a Mississauga council meeting on May 21, 2008, shows that Mayor Hazel McCallion did not verbally declare a conflict of interest, despite minutes that state she did.
That discrepancy is now being investigated by city clerk Crystal Greer, after Councillor Carolyn Parrish raised the issue at yesterday's council meeting.
"The minutes indicate the mayor declared a conflict, but the video showed she did not," said Parrish. "My concern goes beyond a conflict into the realm of accurate minutes, or even worse, `doctored' minutes ... I'm hoping there's a simple explanation that I've clearly missed."
The issue involves McCallion's participation in private meetings about a development deal her son was pushing while the matter was under council scrutiny. When her involvement was revealed last week, she defended it by saying she had declared a conflict of interest.
McCallion was unavailable for comment yesterday and did not return calls from the Star.
Greer said in an email that her review of the discrepancy will take about a week.
But responding to the Star, Greer said declarations of conflict are always "voiced" at the start of the meeting, or during the meeting if a councillor forgets to do so at the start.
None of that happened in this case.
Minutes, a formal record of what happened at a council meeting, are recorded by an employee of the clerk's office. They may be amended at the following meeting if a correction is requested before they're formally adopted, but that also didn't occur in this instance.
The conflict involves McCallion's role in a $14.4 million land deal that was being engineered by her son, which fell apart early this year when landowner OMERS, a giant pension fund, backed away from the sale of prime downtown land to Peter McCallion's company, World Class Developments Ltd.
OMERS is a minority shareholder in Mississauga's hydro utility, Enersource, and the fund's president and CEO, Michael Nobrega, sits on the Enersource board with McCallion.
In an interview with the Star last week, McCallion defended her involvement by saying that as mayor she could not absolve herself completely from city matters even when they involved her son. She said she believed conflict-of-interest provisions applied only to council meetings, and that she had declared the conflict.
McCallion did declare a conflict at an April 21 meeting, a few weeks after she and senior city staff took part in a first meeting with hotel company representatives interested in Peter McCallion's project.
At the next council meeting on April 30, at which a vote was to be taken to lift zoning restrictions, she was absent. As it turned out, the decision was deferred because the land sale was not complete.
The rules required McCallion to declare the conflict again at the next meeting, May 21. That's where the mystery deepens.
The video shows the mayor chairing the meeting, which begins with her joking about the cold weather.
After the call to order, she gets to the second item on the agenda Ė asking if there are any declarations of direct or indirect pecuniary or financial interest matters.
Seeing none, she proceeds with business.
McCallion's involvement in her son's business dealings was revealed in documents filed in court over a business dispute that was recently settled. The affidavits by Peter McCallion's business partner show that the mayor participated in at least two private meetings, before and after her declaration.
The second meeting took place in late December, as the deal between OMERS and World Class Developments was unravelling.
In 1981, McCallion was found by a judge to have breached conflict-of-interest rules in a debate about a development in a neighbourhood where she owned land.
[COMMENTS BY DON B. - ]
Your Financial Donations are Greatly Appreciated