By: Mike Anderson
Regional Councillor Rob Grossi has breached the town’s code of conduct by not declaring a “conflict of interest” during a special council meeting held to deal with the divestiture of the town’s lakeside lands on Lake Dr. East and North, according to a report filed by Deborah Anschell, the town’s integrity commissioner.
Specifically, Ms. Anschell states that Mr. Grossi violated sections of the Municipal Act that require town councillors to declare a pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, before taking part in discussions about, or voting on, a matter before council.
In her final report, Ms. Anschell states that Mr. Grossi failed to disclose his “pecuniary interest” at the outset of the July 24 special council meeting – he and his wife own a property on Lake Drive East – before engaging in discussions and voting on a motion that would financially impact property owners along Lake Drive.
Mr. Grossi then proposed a motion that would allow Lake Drive owners to acquire adjacent land in exchange for a pro-rata share of land survey and legal costs – a much cheaper option for them.
Although Mr. Grossi later withdrew that motion, he did vote on a final motion that council passed, directing the town to conduct appraisals to help it set an appropriate price for the Lake Drive property owners to acquire the adjacent land.
“In my view, Regional Councillor Grossi had a palpable and apparent conflict of interest that he should have declared at the Council Meeting,” writes Ms. Anschell. “In fact, given Regional Councillor Grossi’s vast experience on Town Council, I find it disturbing that he did not recognize the obvious conflict that arises from his pecuniary interest as a Lake Drive property owner.”
According to the report, the original complaint was brought forward by Joanne Henderson, a local resident and administrator of the Facebook group, “OUR Town of Georgina.”
The report states that in a written affidavit, Ms. Henderson says that “Regional Councillor Grossi did not declare a pecuniary interest at the Council Meeting.” And, that “Regional Councillor Grossi actively led and participated in discussions throughout the Council Meeting. He also voted throughout the Council Meeting.”
The report also outlines Mr. Grossi’s response to Ms. Henderson’s complaint.
In his reply, Mr. Grossi argues that he has no pecuniary interest in these issues.
He and his wife Carolyn Grossi purchased their Lake Drive East property on August 27, 1985. Since then, MPAC has assessed and taxed his property at a special rate, “as one fronting on a body of water.” So, the Grossi family, and not the town, own the land to the water’s edge.
Moreover, Mr. Grossi also “expressed the view that the value of the Grossi property would not change if he paid for a survey, paid legal fees, and paid to acquire the lakefront abutting his land.” In short, there is no pecuniary interest either way.
This argument did not sway Ms. Anschell. While she acknowledges that it is beyond “my purview” to provide a legal opinion of the ownership of the lakeside lands across from the Grossi property, she asserts the land “may” be owned by the town.
In which case, “Regional Councillor Grossi has a conflict. He may be directly impacted financially by any decisions of Council with respect to the Lake Drive Issue. A reasonable person would perceive that a councillor who owns property on Lake Drive objectively has a conflict when considering the Lake Drive Issue,” she writes. “I find that Regional Councillor Grossi’s participation in the Council Meeting caused him to be in a conflict of interest in contravention of the Act and the Code.”
But Ms. Anschell will not bring the matter before a court, where a judge could impose sanctions, including ultimately removing Mr. Grossi from office.
Ms. Anschell says such an action would be premature, ” as the town is still at an early stage with respect to its divestiture of the Lake Drive parcels of land.”
“Regional Councillor Grossi has not yet benefited financially, and there are no profits to disgorge. On this basis, I do not believe that it is in the public interest to pursue additional sanctions by way of application to a judge,” she writes.
Instead, Ms. Anschell is recommending that Mr. Grossi be sanctioned and receive a 10-day suspension of pay.
Mr. Grossi is also directed to disclose his interest as a property owner on Lake Drive at future council meetings, and not to take part in any discussion or vote on any question relating to the Lake Drive issue.
The Post asked Mr. Grossi to respond to the report and its recommendations. However, in an email, he said he couldn’t comment at this time. But at a later date, “I will have plenty to say.”