By: Mike Anderson
Regional Councillor Rob Grossi says he’s the victim of a political smear campaign orchestrated by a group of residents with close ties to Mayor Margaret Quirk.
Mr. Grossi’s allegation comes after Georgina Council accepted the integrity commissioner’s findings on Dec 11, and fined him ten-days pay for being in a conflict of interest after failing to disclose a “pecuniary interest” – that he owns a property on Lake Dr East – prior to the July 24 council meeting on the Lake Drive issue.
Mr. Grossi alleges that Joanne Henderson, the complainant named in the integrity commissioner’s report, was not acting alone when she filed her complaint against him.
According to Mr. Grossi, she was a “front person” for a group that wants to damage his political reputation and chances for re-election in 2022.
“I’ve spoken publicly at council about the Lake Drive ownership for the last 20 years. And no one’s ever challenged me,” he says. “These people are out to trap me any way they can.”
Mr. Grossi’s allegations are supported by a source who’s close to the matter, but doesn’t want to be identified.
The source told the Post he was contacted by Debra D’Souza, a Keswick resident and close friend of the Mayor, shortly after the July 24 council session.
According to the source, Ms. D’Souza asked him to file a complaint against Mr. Grossi on behalf of the Mayor. However, when he refused to do so, Ms. D’Souza became indignant and hung up on him.
Both Mayor Quirk and Ms. D’Souza declined to comment on Mr. Grossi’s specific allegations. However, in an email response to the Post, Mayor Quirk wrote the following:
“As with any inquiry regarding a Town issue or concern I refer that person to the appropriate department. In this case anyone that approached me about the July 24th meeting and Regional Councillor Grossi’s involvement in the discussion I referred to the Clerks department.”
In a Facebook post, Ms. D’Souza referred the Post to Deborah Anschell, the Town of Georgina’s Integrity Commissioner for further clarification, and cautioned the paper to “take the high road and report as objectively as possible.”
Ms. Henderson, the actual complainant, says she “did not require any encouragement to file,” but won’t confirm or deny if she was contacted by the Mayor, Ms. D’Souza, or another party prior to filing the complaint.
Mr. Grossi is also disputing the findings of Ms. Anschell who ruled that he breached the Town of Georgina’s Code of Conduct and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
According to Mr. Grossi, he and his wife Carolyn Grossi — and not the town — own the lakefront lot adjacent to his property on Lake Dr. East. Thus, his family’s property was not one of the several hundred lakefront lots in dispute, he says.
As a result, Mr. Grossi says any decision made by Georgina Council on the Lake Dr. issue would not impact him financially — in short, he had no “pecuniary interest.”
According to Mr. Grossi, he was not in a conflict of interest and free to take part in discussions, propose motions, and to vote at the July 24 council meeting.
As an elected representative, Mr. Grossi says he felt compelled to speak to an issue that impacts Lake Drive residents, many of whom are his neighbours, and has done so for many years without sanction.
Mr. Grossi also claims the integrity commissioner’s report is biased. According to Mr. Grossi, Ms. Anschell seemed to have made up her mind before interviewing him, and discounted evidence that supported his position.
Although Mr. Grossi provided Ms. Anschell with his original property title, which states he and his wife own “all lands in front to the water’s edge of Lake Simcoe excepting that part thereof used as a travelled road,” he says the integrity commissioner did not take steps to investigate his title.
Mr. Grossi also submitted work permits, obtained from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, which clearly states the Grossi’s — and not the Town of Georgina — own the lakefront lot adjacent to their home. According to Mr. Grossi, Ms. Anschell also ignored this evidence.
“I don’t think she even listened to me,” he says. “Because when I met her for the first time, it didn’t matter what proof I had. It didn’t matter what I said. I think she pretty well made her mind up that I was guilty.”
Mr. Grossi’s only avenue for an appeal is to seek a judicial review, which he says is still on the table.