A councillor in Loyalist Township, Ont., finds herself the subject of a second integrity commissioner investigation, after the first one found her to have violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
Ward 3 Coun. Penny Porter could face a range of potential sanctions if she is found to have also violated the township’s code of conduct.
On Monday evening, council received the results of the integrity commissioner’s investigation into whether Porter violated the conflict of interest act when she took part in updating the township’s official plan.
The integrity commissioner found that Porter should have declared a pecuniary interest and not participated in proposing and voting on a number of modifications to the township’s official plan at a Dec. 15 meeting, because she is a real estate developer and owns property on Emma Street in Odessa through a numbered holding company.
“Councillor Porter’s proposed development on Emma Street unequivocally stood to benefit from the proposed modifications to the official plan,” says Loyalist Township Integrity Commissioner John Mascarin.
Porter expressed shock and dismay with the integrity commissioner’s findings, saying she sought legal opinions from two lawyers that specialize in the municipal act.
“I took that extra step,” says Porter. “I wanted to be sure that I was on solid ground, and that I was not acting in any way in conflict or dishonourably in any way shape or form.”
What rankled some area residents that spoke at the council meeting, was a lack of sanctions against Coun. Porter.
But Loyalist Township’s mayor says the integrity commissioner only had two options.
“He had to make a choice of referring it to a judge — referring it to court — or simply bringing it back to council for public presentation,” says Mayor Ric Bresee.
Mascarin cited the cost of legal proceedings to the township as one of the reasons for not proceeding to the courts.
In a unanimous vote, council did move to have the integrity commissioner conduct a second investigation to determine if the Ward 3 councillor had violated the township’s code of conduct.
If the integrity commissioner does find that Coun. Porter violated the township’s code of conduct, there are a number of penalties she could face.
“Those could include a simple reprimand, or they could include a request for an apology,” says Bresee. “They could also include removal from committees and conferences and things of that nature, to a maximum penalty of a loss of three months pay.”