THE DEMOCRATIC REPORTER
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Opening comments: More at the end.
The Toronto Sun - Sept. 23 1982 - By John Downing
But the timing, ma' am
Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion wrote judges how she had helped relieve their workload while another judge was considering a conflict of interest case against her.
The letter to Chief Judge W.E.C, Colter, head of the province's county courts, with a copy and note to B. Barry Shapiro, senior judge in Peel County, took some credit for provincial legislation transferring assessment appeals from their courts.
McCallion wrote the letters on July 7. Judge Ernest West of Peel county court heard a ratepayer's complaint on June 24 that she had contravened the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
He later found her guilty of breaching the provincial act in all four possible ways, ordered her to pay the considerable legal costs of the citizen who brought the action, but didn't oust her from office, the stiffest penalty open to him.
The citizen, Jack Graham, has now asked the divisional court of the Ontario Supreme Court to remove McCallion from office, while McCallion has counter-appealed, saying she didn't have a conflict when Mississauga council approved the start of residential development of a fortune in land.
The appeals will be heard Sept. 29 and will probably play a crucial role in this fall's municipal election. Ron Searle, a former mayor, announced last week that he will run against McCallion
It was on June 24 in a tiny Peel basement courtroom filled with politicians that West heard the arguments that McCallion did not properly declare her conflict when council considered huge tracts of land for development.
The McCallion family for many years have owned a home and five acres in one of the planning districts approved for housing against the recommendations of major officials.
At the same time the Legislature was considering Bill 140. It's designed to clear an incredible backlog of 50,000 appeals against the figures placed on every property for municipal taxation purposes.
That act was given third reading June 29 and became law July 7. It was good news for county court judges since appeals would now be heard by a new tribunal.
An official of the attorney-general's ministry said he was sure most judges knew exactly what was happening with the bill because it had such an impact on them.
He said various groups may have made recommendations as to solutions but this act was part of a larger ministry package designed to take minor civil matters out of county courts and have them handled more informally. Colter was consulted and played a major role in what the ministry did.
However, McCallion volunteered to give him a progress report on what had just happened to his own courts, unaware or unconcerned about the appearance of such correspondence.
She wrote Colter ---- the letter misspelled his name as Coulter — on July 7 and sent a copy to Shapiro with the note: "I hope that this will be good news for the judges in Peel County."
The letter said: "I know that you will be pleased, as I am, to know that Bill 140 ... has received third reading ...
"I want to express to you my sincere appreciation for the co-operation and the valuable information which you provided, which enabled me to take the matter to ... Roy McMurtry last fall, and to express to him our deep concern for the lack of action on the request made, both by the, county judges, as well as the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
"I trust that this action will greatly assist you in providing the necessary personnel to handle the overload which exists in the county courts ... especially in the Peel County area. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting with you and appreciate very much the valuable information which you provided."
Colter acknowledged politely on July 22. It was on the same day that West read his findings to McCallion and rows of reporters and politicians in Peel.
Colter thanked her for her letter and said he had been notified by his boss, the attorney-general, that the bill had been passed.
He added: "I do appreciate the trouble you took to facilitate the passage of the bill transferring the assessment appeal portion . . . and I am sure this will help to relieve the workload ..."
McCallion had both her letter and Colter's reply placed before Mississauga council on Aug. 8. When asked about the letters, she told me she doesn't understand why I or anyone else would wonder about the timing or appropriateness.
"These assessment appeals have been a problem in Mississauga going back to '76. I've been working on it for years. I have no comment ... I'm sure there are other letters ... I don't see any connection"
Some voters may also wonder if it was appropriate for a mayor to be telling judges what she had done on their behalf at the very time her future was being decided by the courts.
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