Thursday, July 7, 2016

Toronto Councillor Mark Grimes Broke Bode of Conduct: Integrity Commissioner

Toronto’s Integrity Commissioner has ruled Councillor Mark Grimes violated city rules twice in his dealings with developers, including appearing in a promotional video for one.

Integrity Commissioner Valerie Jepson found that the Etobicoke-Lakeshore (Ward 6) councillor violated council’s code of conduct in two separate incidents involving developers — one in 2011 and another in 2014. While she says council should adopt her findings at its session next week, no formal penalty is recommended.

Jepson investigated a complaint lodged by a member of the public related to Grimes, in one instance, appearing in a promotional video for a developer and, in another separate case, lowering community benefit fees to the tune of $100,000 for another developer outside of regular city practices.

Jepson said that Grimes should not have appeared in the promotional video for developer Empire Communities to help promote a project on Lakeshore Blvd. in 2014. The video is one of a series which encourages people to buy condos and while Jepson rules Grimes did not stand to gain monetarily, it was an improper use of his influence as a councillor.

When a councillor supports a developer in this way it creates the perception he has a stake in the project’s interest, she said.

“This perception can be damaging to the trust and confidence that the public has in City Council’s decision-making processes as it relates to land use planning,” she said.

Grimes told Jepson when he appeared in the video his intention was to promote the ward, not the developer.

In the second instance, Grimes moved a motion at the July 22, 2011 city council meeting that lowered the community development fees paid by a developer, Davies Smith Developments, from $250,000 to $150,000. Grimes had negotiated a “verbal agreement” with the developer to cut $100,000 from the agreement in exchange for work on a nearby park.

The complainant accused him of misleading council during the meeting by saying city staff was “OK” with the change. City staff testified during Jepsen’s probe that the matter was an issue for council to resolve, not something staff should weigh-in on.

“Councillor Grimes could have more accurately explained the context of the Motion; however, I find that he did not intentionally misrepresent staff’s position on the merits of the Motion,” Jepson writes, noting there is no evidence Grimes gained any private advantage.

But Jepson ruled that the way in which Grimes negotiated lowering the fees for the developer was outside of, and contrary to, the Community Benefits Policy, which is a violation of council’s code of conduct.

In both instances Grimes apologized for his conduct, she notes.

“The investigation has caused the Councillor to review his practices and to learn from this experience, all of which will cause him to approach these kinds of circumstances differently in the future,” Jepson said.

Request for comment from Grimes was not returned by press time on Thursday.
Please share this

No comments:

Post a Comment