Tensions flared in Grimsby at a recent council meeting as the mayor was asked by a councillor if he had consulted with the town’s integrity commissioner about a possible conflict of interest prior to a discussion.
During routine adoption on Nov. 20 of previous minutes, Coun. Veronica Charrois asked to lift the minutes of a special council meeting that was held a week prior.
The special council meeting was held entirely in closed session and concerned two Ontario Land Tribunal Settlements — one for the property at 292 Main St. West, and one for the redevelopment of the Woolverton at 13 Mountain St. and 19 Elm St.
It’s the Woolverton property that Charrois had questions about.
She started by saying she had a procedural question.
Charrois asked Mayor Jeff Jordan if he had consulted with the town’s integrity commissioner prior to the discussion, and wondered if he should have announced a conflict of interest.
The Woolverton redevelopment is being done by Castlepoint Numa, of which Harley Valentine is a partner.
According to the financial statements available on the town’s website, Harley Valentine contributed $1,200 to the mayor’s re-election campaign.
“I’m just wondering if you consulted with the integrity commissioner, given your donation from the party—,” she said, before Jordan cut her off.
“Yeah, you can’t do this,” he said. “You’re welcome to file an (integrity commissioner) complaint against me and I welcome it because I will fight it because I did nothing wrong.”
Jordan said Charrois’ claim had nothing to do with the meeting, and he will declare a conflict of interest when he feels he has one.
Then, acting town clerk Bonnie Nistico-Dunk stepped in and said no one can declare a conflict of interest on behalf of anyone else, and it is entirely up to the individual to declare themselves.
In a message to Niagara this Week, Charrois said she was just looking to clarify whether or not Jordan had contacted the integrity commissioner prior to the meeting about the Woolverton.
“Our conflict of interest bylaw recommends seeking out such advice in advance of entering those decision-making processes,” she said. “I thought it was a reasonable ask to ensure we are following our own best practices.”
Charrois said she has no plans to file a complaint with the integrity commissioner.
In an email to Niagara this Week, Jordan said there was no conflict of interest to declare. He said he does not condone Charrois’ behaviour, and felt very disrespected at the council meeting.
“Should a council member believe a declaration was missed, that council member should be courteous to their fellow colleagues and not call them out in public, which infers unfound wrongdoing,” he said. “I believe this is common courtesy and demonstrates respect for one another.”
Earlier in the same meeting, Charrois had asked another question about a planning committee meeting that took place on Nov. 8, where a public meeting was held about the same development.
According to Charrois, Coun. Nick DiFlavio should have been allowed to ask questions, even though he’s not on the committee.
Jordan did not allow DiFlavio to ask questions, and said he should have submitted them ahead of time.
During that discussion, Jordan said he “didn’t like being blindsided by a councillor again and again and again.”
In response to Charrois’ comments, DiFlavio said he had questions for the developer.
“I knew the procedure, I didn’t want to debate, I only wanted to ask questions,” he said. “In this case, there was no information provided in advance. If I had questions in advance, I would have sent them in. My questions came up as a result of the presentation that happened that night.”
Dunk expanded that the concern with DiFlavio speaking may be that if enough councillors are in the room, it could be seen as having a quorum and moving business forward.
By Abby Green, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Nov 23, 2023 at 11:36