Property sale to former Napanee, Ont., mayor draws backlash

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Property sale to former Napanee, Ont., mayor draws backlash
A Greater Napanee, Ont., property that was sold to former mayor Gordon Schermerhorn in 2019 has caused a local resident to ask questions after he says there was a higher bid ignored. – Jul 24, 2020

A Greater Napanee, Ont., property that was sold to a former mayor in 2019 has caused a local resident to sound the alarm.

Retired lawyer Hubert Hogle has been battling the Town of Napanee for over a year after he says former mayor Gordon Schermerhorn was given preferential treatment when awarded a surplus property.

“The former mayor ended up buying this piece of property for $10,100 when there was a bid on the table for $32,500,” said Hogle.

The town required all offers to be delivered by envelope on April 26, 2019. Hogle says he watched as his friend, local business owner Ripal Patel, placed his bid, although it came after the 3 p.m. deadline. Ultimately, Schermerhorn was awarded the property.

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“It was simply late. It was not noted that it was late. Nobody contested. It was late until it was simply not accepted,” said Deputy Mayor Max Kaiser.

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Kaiser says Patel’s bid came in four minutes after the deadline, and the policy is that if there is no communication with the town, they will not accept the bid. According to Kaiser, there have been similar situations with late bids in the past, but many have called ahead to notify the Town that they will be late due to issues, such as weather, for instance.

“With the winning bidder being submitted by the former mayor, there’s bad optics, and, you know, I apologize to Mr.Patel that he was unsuccessful,” said Kaiser. “A little communication might’ve helped him a long ways.”

Hogle admits that Patel’s offer was a few minutes late, but he was delayed at the bank and says that’s no reason not to take the highest bid. Hogle adds this is a glaring example of the lack of transparency from local officials.

“We’re about to become famous as being the only town in Canada that sells property to the low bidder,” said Hogle.

Global News spoke to Schermerhorn over the phone on Friday. He says he did nothing illegal, noting he saw an ad for the property in a local newspaper and made a bid before the deadline on April 26, 2019.

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As for the bidding process, Kaiser says he stands by staff for denying Patel’s bid for being minutes late.

“At what point do you draw the line? The deadline is the deadline. And as many people who work with deadlines know, four minutes is four minutes late,” said Kaiser.

As for whats next for Hogle, he’s not giving up. He plans to make an appeal to the privacy commissioner to see what was discussed during council’s closed sessions. Also, because he complained about the sale of Oke Rd. property — town council voted earlier this week to look at all surplus land sales by the Town going back 10 years.

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