Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands Coun. Jeff Lackie won’t be facing punishment for a conflict of interest breach deemed ‘minor.’ (SUBMITTED) SUBMITTED PHOTO

Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands Coun. Jeff Lackie breached the requirements of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act during a June 5 committee of the whole meeting, the township’s integrity commissioner has determined.

“However, the breach was minor in nature,” the integrity commissioner’s report adds.

Lackie won’t be facing any penalties or suspensions.

“In this case, given the minor nature of the breach it is our opinion that a judge would be unlikely to impose any significant penalty on the member,” the report reads in conclusion. “As a result, we will not be applying to the Superior Court of Justice and the investigation is concluded.”

The investigation into this matter was completed by Tony Fleming of Cunningham Swan Lawyers.

As part of the Municipal Act, the integrity commissioner’s office was required to make the reason for its decision public. The report and findings were placed on council’s agenda from the Aug. 24 council meeting for information purposes to satisfy this obligation.

Lackie, a councillor for Ward 1, called the incident in question a misunderstanding.

The agenda item that prompted the report on which Lackie commented was regarding short-term rentals survey results and options for regulations. Lackie declared a pecuniary interest for the agenda item.

“I do collect employment from one,” said Lackie. “I don’t own one, not directly. But I manage one.”

“It was a new staff member that brought the report forward and I found (the report) interesting,” said Lackie.

“As you know, in this job, every day you’re learning something new. I do as well after all these years. The report that was provided to us was information I had no idea about and they did a thorough job on it, on this topic, and I enjoyed it. It didn’t matter (towards) the outcome because I didn’t vote on it, I didn’t try to persuade anyone, I didn’t phone anybody, I didn’t email anybody. I didn’t do anything. I basically thanked staff for a great report. Nowhere in my mind was I trying to persuade anyone. I never do.”

A complaint was received on June 7 against Coun. Lackie. It alleged that Lackie breached the Act by declaring a conflict of interest regarding a matter, but commenting “it is an excellent report” before removing himself from the discussion.

The complaint alleged this was deliberately or indirectly influencing other members of council by sharing his position on the agenda item.

As part of the investigation, the integrity commissioner’s office confirmed that after declaring a conflict of interest, Coun. Lackie stated “before I go, I just wanted to say it was an excellent report” before leaving the meeting.

“Members are required by legislation to refrain from participating in any way in a matter where they have a pecuniary interest,” the report reads.

“This includes comments such as those made by Coun. Lackie regarding the quality or merit of the report under consideration and comments providing any indication of the member’s position on the issue. While the councillor did not directly express an opinion on the matter before council it could easily be inferred by a reasonable person that the comment was intended to express an opinion on the merit of the recommendation contained in the report. This could be interpreted as an attempt to influence other council members who do not have a conflict of interest that are able to participate in the vote on the matter.”

The investigation is now complete and Lackie is looking forward to moving on from the incident.

“In my mind, and I’ll say it openly, it was an entire waste of taxpayers’ money,” said Lackie about the investigation.

“They did deem me guilty. They did their job. Now again, I’ve learned – shut your mouth and get out.”

(Keith Dempsey is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)

By Keith Dempsey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 28, 2023 at 11:31

This item reprinted with permission from   Recorder and Times   Brockville, Ontario

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