Chamber of Commerce announces its 2023-24 Board of Directors.

By Staff

April 19th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Burlington Chamber of Commerce announces its 2023-24 Board of Directors.

Chair: Randall Smallbone, Smallbone Consulting

Vice-Chair: Shafiq Mohamed, Stratus Building Solutions – Fully Promoted Burlington

Second Vice-Chair: April-Dawn Blackwell, Brock University

Director of Finance: Ravi Dhaliwal, Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)

Directors:

  • Joseph Apps, Joe Apps Technology Support
  • Lynn Beechey, Beechey Management Resources
  • Peter Choma, RBC Royal Bank
  • Shirlea Crook, Care for Life Support Services
  • Daniela Fonseca, KMB Law
  • Shaheryar Mian, LJM Developments Inc.
  • Kristina Shea, BlueSkys Life + Beauty
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Integrity Commissioner refutes Leblovic statements

By Staff

April 19th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

Janice Atwood, a partner with Principle Integrity explained what the firm did and why they did what they did when a complaint was brought to them about the behaviour of a member of the Committee of Adjustments.

The member is a knowledgeable and no doubt dedicated member of the Committee of Adjustment however, members are appointed to the city’s boards and are required to meet the standards regarding conduct. The parties that come before the committee of adjustment have a very reasonable expectation that they will be treated fairly the complainant reasonably raised her concern through this complaint process and sought to hold the member accountable for the standards set out in the code. And in our view, this is the result well a member of a committee of adjustment has broad jurisdiction under the legislation to consider the evidence and apply the law to the facts.

Committee of Adjustments member Nick Leblovic

Janice Atwood, Burlington Integrity Commissioner reported on complaint that the member had made statements at the hearing that were unfounded and false.

They do not have omnipotent powers to adduce their own evidence, nor to take judicial notice of facts that are heard third hand untested, unchallenged and without notice. If such were the case, the value of a public hearing would be largely defeated. It cannot be correct that there is no recourse regarding conduct of members of the Committee of Adjustment other than an appeal to a land tribunal. If that were the case, the member whose conduct disclosed for example, bias or undue influence or who even had a conflict of interest would be at liberty to engage in such conduct without consequence.

The complaint which we received on December 22, was that the member had made statements at the hearing that were unfounded and false. And that the member was engaging in what she perceived as malicious gossip, which risked influencing the outcome of the matter. And derailing the culmination of what was to her lengthy and costly process.

I won’t belabour the details of the report and drag you tooth and nail through them but suffice to say that this is, in essence a story of a longtime resident now living alone, seeking to turn her detached garage into a secondary suite in the back of the large home and the tribunal member trying to block her because according to an unidentified neighbour who is a friend of the members, she has been illegally renting out a basement apartment for years of fact, which she vehemently denies.

Taken aback by the misinformation, the homeowner wanted the member to resign his role. She discovered that both staff and Council were powerless to intervene in the conduct of members of a committee of adjustment. The tribunal member as a lawyer himself has criticized our investigation as lacking jurisdiction, because in his view, we are presuming to review the conduct of the adjudicator of bodies hearing. We are not. We agree that it is beyond the jurisdiction of an Integrity Commissioner to review the hearing process of the Committee of Adjustment.

However, it is well established that the conduct of members of local boards, including the Committee of Adjustment falls squarely within the jurisdiction of the Integrity Commissioner to review. In fact, it is only the Integrity Commissioner in this instance, who has authority to review and make findings on the conduct of individual members of a committee.

The there’s a lengthy chronology of correspondence back and forth, largely the respondent raising a number of preliminary objections and continuously resisting our investigation. And then our responses back and I will simply read you from one of the very earliest pieces of correspondence back January 5, where we had dealt with some of the preliminary objection objections and said concluded that January 5 letter with if you believe a conversation would be helpful. We would be pleased to arrange that although we would appreciate first receiving your written response to the allegations in the complaint. Never at any time have we declined or refused to have a conversation with a member never has he asked us.

Janice Atwood: “The member was impugning the professional ethics of the Planning Consultant.”.

The code of conduct for local boards sets out that members shall act with honesty and integrity serving in a diligent manner and performing their duties in a manner which promotes public confidence. adjudicate of boards are arm’s length and quasi-judicial and must the members must conduct themselves as such. Referring to what a neighbor has told him was not appropriate. It was nothing more than hearsay. It was not relevant. And even if relevant, it is not the role of the members to adduce their own evidence. A site visit, which often members of Committee of Adjustment are encouraged to make enables members to make observations firsthand. A members own firsthand observations are not hearsay. They are the members own firsthand observations. Hearsay is hearing something third hand from somebody who does not come forward to say it themselves. And this is what happened in this case.

I will read you very briefly from the members written response of January 20 to us.

“We also have some close friends who live in the immediate vicinity of the property and who are aware that I’m a member of the committee several years ago I learned from one of these friends that the complainant was planning to convert the garage on the property into a secondary dwelling unit. They asked me if this was coming to the committee for approval and I told them that I was not aware of an upcoming hearing on the project, but would let them know if and when the matter came forward.”

We have pointed out in the report notably the basement finishes do not even include a kitchen in questioning the integrity of the planning consultant during the hearing, the member was impugning her professional ethics.

He very clearly stated:

“I am questioning the integrity of the planning consultant. There is no video of the meeting. And as far as we are aware, no audio recording, at least none which was available when we sought it.

We don’t doubt that there isn’t an audio recording. However, we did conduct interviews so we are satisfied that our findings are well founded. This is not conduct which promotes public confidence as sometimes happens in our investigations and thankfully it’s very few some respondents take an extremely legalistic adversarial approach.

Our goal in investigating a complaint is aimed at upholding the expectations set by counsel for its appointees. The investigation was conducted following the tenants of procedural fairness, providing the respondent with an open ended opportunity to respond to the allegations and tour findings.

As you know, as part of our process, we provide our preliminary draft findings in complete except we don’t include the final recommendation but the entire report is provided to the respondent in confidence. Well before we finalize it and we seek any further submissions and comments significantly.

Janice Atwood: We optimistically believe that the member will … conduct himself somewhat differently.”

Nowhere does the member justify his discussing the case with others, by which he apparently heard of the gossip and members of adjudicate of tribunals, such as the Committee of Adjustment are not immune from review, for conduct for breaches of their code of conduct. That jurisdiction is well recognized. If no mechanism for complaints were available, there would be no recourse. Ultimately, we did not believe removal was necessary. Although certainly the complainants thought that we think the investigation may be sufficient to remind members to refrain from contributing to or giving credibility to gossip during an adjudication of a hearing and to treat those who appear before them with professionalism and respect. Notwithstanding the lack of awareness or lack of contrition from the member.

We optimistically believe that the member will if circumstances such as these were ever to arise again. We’ll conduct himself somewhat differently. We I’m the optimistic partner in the firm.

We do also observe that there’s an opportunity for the Integrity Commissioner to provide some ethical training for members of local boards. And we think all of those members would serve would be well served with that. We don’t think that it’s necessarily a legalistic training session on the rules of evidence and hearsay. We really think that there are some very basic principles that members of adjudicate of boards for example ought to be reminded of and that is, you hear the evidence that’s provided you review the report that’s provided you may ask your questions, but you do so in a courteous manner. These are basic principles that they don’t require illustrious Bay Street lawyers to be reciting to your volunteers on your various committees.

These are very basic principles. Most of them fall under the golden rule, treat others as you would have them treat you. So with that said, I’m happy to answer whatever questions you may have.

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Another tragic chapter in Canada’s mistreatment of Indigenous people began on this day in 1884

By Staff

April 19th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Each day the Globe and Mail publishes a short piece on the second page about an event that was historically significant,

The piece today is something that was certainly significant and something we should be ashamed of and work to change the terrible mistake that was made.

Another tragic chapter in Canada’s mistreatment of Indigenous people began on this day in 1884 with an amendment to the Indian Act that created residential schools. The change cemented in law the existing boarding schools run by religious groups.

The residential schools’ intent was to end the “Indian problem” by separating children from their parents, and erasing native cultures to assimilate them into Canada. An estimated 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were taken from their families and sent to the schools funded by the federal government and the churches.

Physical and sexual abuse, hunger, forced labour, neglect and illness were all parts of the system, victims told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which began in 2008. “We got taken away by a big truck.

I can still remember my mom and dad looking at us, and they were really, really sad looking,” said Alma Scott, taken to a school in Manitoba at the age of 5. “They were there to discipline you, teach you, beat you, rape you, molest you, but I never got an education,” Elaine Durocher said of the Roman Catholics who ran the school she was sent to in Saskatchewan.

The last residential school closed in 1996.

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After five years as Council members some did not fully understand what a Conflict of Interest is.

By Pepper Parr

April 19th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

During a lengthy city council meeting on Tuesday, Burlington’s Integrity Commissioner found herself having to explain to the members of Council what they should be doing in handling the perception of a bias or a Conflict of Interest.

These seven people have been in office for more than five years; two have been in office for more than 12 years – and they don’t fully understand or comprehend what a Conflict of Interest is and what is involved when they accept election campaign donations?

The 2022-2026 city Council being sworn in: Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte participated virtually.

These people are not stupid but there appears to be a wilful blindness on their part which damages significantly public trust in the administration of the city’s affairs.

A development that will add significantly to the population growth the city is experiencing.

Burlington is going through a form of population growth that it has never experienced before. In a decade it will be a much different city.

The public is having difficulty in adapting to the changes taking place and they look to the people they elected to office to be open, transparent, accountable and honest with them.

Instead what residents of the city get are statements that don’t ring true to many.

Mayor Meed Ward: The job is not to be liked but to lead.

Being elected to office means you are prepared to lead and to give the public not the answers to questions you think they want but answers to questions that reflect the reality the city faces.

City Councillors are not in place to be liked; they are in place to serve the public interest – not their own interests.

This Council is known for its internal bickering with complaints by some Councillors made to the Integrity Commissioner about other Council members.

The city has a Mayor who spent 14 minutes (you can listen to it HERE) doing her best to diminish a fellow Council member to the point where  that individual has been pounded so much she has difficulty serving her constituents.

The people of Burlington have a right to expect better of their elected leadership and that leadership has the responsibility to deliver on the promise to serve and not see the photo op as their most effective form of communication.

Related news stories:

Just what is a Conflict of Interest?

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Integrity Commissioner advises Mayor she has a Conflict of Interest: Mayor vacates the Chair and sit in the Chamber Gallery

By Pepper Parr

April 18th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Janice Atwood, one of the two partners of Principles Integrity moved the focus of her presentation to council on the matter of Conflicts of Interest saying:

Janice Atwood Integrity Commissioner for city of Burlington.

“I want to address an issue that I know has come up and it’s circulating; and that is where an individual such as the member in this case of the Committee of Adjustment has made campaign contributions under the municipal elections act to candidates who may now be sitting as Counsellors – does that not raise a conflict of interest for those members of council ?

“There is no obligation to recuse or step away and not to participate. So just to clear the air on that one. In order to publicly clear the air and in an effort to address the perception that there may be some conflict of interest, a perception that there may be some bias if you will, or a preconceived preference for a contributor, it is probably is helpful for the members of council to openly indicate that they embrace their responsibilities with an open mind notwithstanding any such contributions, their obligations to serve in the adjudicated capacity that Councillor Sherman mentioned earlier, and that is to hear and make a determination at the conclusion of receiving the integrity commissioners recommendation report.

“So that’s really on that particular subject. I think that’s that’s all that I need to say. If there’s any question on that particular issue. I’m certainly happy to address that and then I’ll launch into my comments on the report. Is there a question just on that ?

“Go ahead, Counsellor Kearns current.

Councillor Kearns steps in to serve as Deputy Mayor when Meed Ward is found to have a Conflict of Interest.

Thanks. So, I want to recognize, of course that I’ve had contributions to my campaign which are disclosed and public information now from the person identified in the report.

“Is there any other concerns that I should be aware of? That I would need to disclose whether they worked on a campaign, or had like gone to their house or anything like that, or is it just the only concern regarding potential or perceived conflict, just the campaign donation?

Atwood: Through the Mayor, that’s, an interesting wrinkle, Counsellor Kearns. Certainly, the perception of a bias or the perception of a, an apparent conflict of interests would arise based on a relationship and that is what we think of as a non pecuniary interest.

Is there a perception of a bias in this photograph? The Mayor and her husband on the right are having dinner with the Leblovics; he is a member of the Committee of Adjustments

“The common law concept would include those relationships which are so close that the public would the reasonable person and not just the objective test, would look at that and say, well, that that individual is unable to really deal impartially with that matter, because of the you know, the profound relationship or the long standing relationship, etc, that kind of thing.

“So we see that from time to time arising as well. It’s a non pecuniary it’s a common law, concept  what would that look like?

Meed Ward: Well, if if an individual were good friends with the member and they had, for example, been to each other’s houses or spent a great deal of time and one of the examples we use as if they’re over in your backyard, having a barbecue from time to time or you might go to their cottage from time to time those kinds of things definitely raise the perception of an inability to deal impartially with the matter and ought to be recognized publicly as giving rise to an apparent conflict of interest.

Atwood: Thank you, Your Worship. The advice of Principles Integrity is that a member say: I hereby state that I did receive a campaign donation from the respondent in this matter, to acknowledge that contribution and make a formal and public commitment to set aside any preconceptions in order to decide the matter with an open mind. I trust that will be sufficient and I would be I do not have any significant relationship above and beyond that with the respondent. Thank you. Would now be the time for anybody to declare that or should we wait until statements ?

Integrity Commissioner: I guess we’re kind of in it now so let’s just dispatch with this. There may be several folks that wish to comment on this. I think it’s a really important item to clarify for the public before we even get started.,

Councillor Galbraith, you are next.

Councillor Galbraith

Yeah, similar to Councillor Nisan and Councillor Kearns, I was also a recipient of a donation from the complainant. But I don’t have any other close relationship or any ties with him whatsoever.

Councillor Bentivegna

Counsellor Bentivegna  Do you want to comment on this item only? Go ahead.

“Just a quick question to the Integrity Commissioner on this conflict of interest.

“In my experience, conflict of interest is self directed only I can feel whether I have a conflict of interest with someone and I’m assuming every one of us at this table feel the same way. You know whether it is or it isn’t. My question is if there is no conflict of interest declared can someone bring it forward to the Integrity Commissioner later requesting an investigation on not declaring through the Mayor.

Atwood:  Yes. That’s a there’s sort of a blend of of things I would say but that one is the onus is on the individual member to identify a conflict of interest and to declare it and to take appropriate action.

Bentivegna: “Clearly, but anybody can look at a situation and say on those facts that looks to me like a conflict of interest, and then they can raise that as a complaint to the Integrity Commissioner. Now, certainly on the circumstances that has that we’ve just outlined or that I’ve just outlined to you with respect to a simply a contribution under an election campaign that’s properly disclosed under the municipal elections act that in and of itself does not give rise to a conflict of interest and if a complaint came in on that basis, it would get very short shrift. Thank you for that.”

Mayor Meed Ward then said: on this item “I have a relationship with both the complainant in this case and the respondent. So I will declare that the complainant is a friend and neighbour living around the corner from where I live, I’ve been to this person’s house and see them regularly and they also donated to my election campaign.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward sitting as Chair of the Council meeting is found to have a Conflict of Interest and turns the gavel over to the Deputy Mayor and sit in the Council Chamber Gallery

“With regards to the respondent. I have a personal friendship with the respondent have been to their house and they also made a donation to my election campaign and I am, like my colleague, formally declaring my commitment to maintaining an open mind with respect to the matters before us and doing my best to receive all of the information that is before us, including from the delegations to make a decision ultimately about this matter.

“So I guess a point of clarity from you –  does a personal friendship over and above a campaign donation since I have one with both the complainant and the respondent require me to recuse myself from this matter ?

Yes, Madam Mayor, it would.

Meed Ward: “So I will need someone to gavel; the deputy mayor is Counsellor Kearns; you are now in possession of the chair and I guess I will step away entirely from the desk and I will sit in chambers.”

Political power can be lost – just like that; something Council members need to keep in mind

Kearns then asked: “subject to there being any other questions should I proceed? No ?. So I need to say my piece:

Principles Integrity serves as the Integrity Commissioner for 50 municipalities in Ontario.

Kearns: “I want to say that I have donations in 2022 from from Nickolas Leblovic and in 2018. I had donations from the complainant. I have no relationship whatsoever besides anything cordial that I would have with anybody else and I can fully conduct myself without bias.

“So I can stay I guess as the gavel holder for the moment.”

Atwood: Our role as an Integrity Commissioner, as you know, is to independently and impartially, review complaints, make findings where necessary, and make recommendations were warranted and Council’s role is to publicly receive the integrity commissioners report and decide whether to impose sanctions if any are recommended. And in this case, there are no sanctions recommended and whether or not to approve the recommendation.

Principles Integrity serves as the Integrity Commissioner for about 50 municipalities across Ontario, including all of Halton

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Enhanced city wide windrow removal program could be in place for next winter

By Staff

April 19th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

As we pull away from winter and manage to get through spring to begin enjoying summer city council on Tuesday approved directions to the Director of Roads, Parks and Forestry to explore costs and options for enhanced city wide windrow removal program, including:

Windrows: The bane of hundreds of residents who clear their driveway and sidewalk.

– Revised cost and criteria in the existing Windrow Clearing Program

– Increase the program from the current maximum of 200 homes to minimum 500

Report to Environment Infrastructure & Community Services Committee with costs, options (including those ruled out) and any recommendations by Q3 2023 in advance of 2024 budget deliberations.

If they can keep to the schedule residents might see better service when the snow falls next.

And given climate change we never know just when that will happen next/

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How are Progressive Jackpot Slots Different from Normal Slots?

By Shelley Green

April 19th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

This page reveals the main difference between regular online slot machines and progressive jackpot slots.

If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a progressive jackpot slot and a regular online slot (aka non-progressive jackpot slot or fixed coin jackpot slot), you’ve come to the right place.

Traditional slot machines – being replaced by online games with more exciting jackpots.

On this page, you can learn the difference between online slots with progressive jackpots and online slots with fixed coin jackpots.

What’s the main difference between progressive jackpot slots and regular online slots?

A progressive jackpot slot is an online slot machine with a jackpot that can climb to no fixed amount before being won. As more people play jackpot slots, the higher the jackpot will climb.

In comparison, the jackpot in a fixed coin jackpot slot is capped at a certain amount and can never exceed this amount. For example, in many fixed coin jackpot slots today, the jackpot might be worth 100x, 500x, 5,000x, 10,000x, or 50,000x times your total stake.

Progressive jackpots are sometimes connected to more than one online slot machine, and the games are linked to huge networks of fully licensed online casinos.

What are the most famous progressive jackpot slots?

Today, some of the most famous progressive jackpot slots are the WOW POT progressive jackpot slots that are brought to you by a company called Games Global. This series has eight individual titles, and they can all be found at a highly recommended Online Casino in Ontario called Unibet.

At the time of writing, the Wow Pot Jackpot (the largest of four jackpots) is worth more than a jaw-dropping C$24,342,828, and it’s climbing by the second. This is the biggest an online jackpot has ever climbed to, and when a lucky player wins this huge jackpot, he or she will break the record for the biggest jackpot ever paid in an online slot machine.

If you’re feeling lucky and want to play any of the Wow Pot jackpot slots right now from your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer, the games to keep an eye out for are the following:

9 Blazing Diamonds Wow Pot online slot – this one was developed by a company called Spin Play Games

Ancient Fortunes: Poseidon Wow Pot online slot – Triple Edge Studios developed this one

Sisters of Oz: Wow Pot – also Triple Edge Studios

Cash ‘N Riches Megaways: Wow Pot – also Triple Edge Studios

Queen of Alexandria: Wow Pot – Neon Valley Studios

Wheel of Wishes – Alchemy Gaming

Sherlock and Moriarty: Wow Pot a Just for the Win (JFTW) Studios

Book of Atem: Wow Pot – All41 Studios

You can play these games in the real money mode from as little as C$0.10 per spin, and the Wow Pot progressive jackpot can be won by any player at any time of the day.

A Canadian prize winner

What happens if I win the Wow Pot Progressive Jackpot?

If you are the lucky player that wins the jackpot, you will become an instant multi-millionaire. The Wow Pot progressive jackpot will immediately reset to its original seed amount of $/€/£2,000,000.00, and it will gradually start to climb again until another lucky player scoops the jackpot again.

At some online casinos, you will be paid your jackpot win in one lump sum; at others, you may receive it in huge instalments over a certain number of months.

What other famous progressive jackpot slots are there?

Apart from the Wow Pot Jackpot slots from Games Global, some of the other famous progressive jackpot slots to check out are the Mega Moolah jackpot slots from the same online casino software provider.

In this series, you can find Immortal Romance Mega Moolah, Gold Factory Jackpots Mega Moolah, Mega Moolah The Witch’s Moon, Atlantean Treasures Mega Moolah, and Mega Moolah Luck Bells.

There’s also Absolootly Mad Mega Moolah, Juicy Joker Mega Moolah, Starlite Fruit Mega Moolah, Thunderstruck II Mega Moolah, and Paddy’s Pot Mega Moolah.

Other famous jackpot slots include the Mega Fortune online slot from NetEnt, the Dream Drop Jackpot slots from Relax Gaming, and the Age of the Gods jackpot slots from Playtech, to name a few great games.

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Is there a basement apartment in the house on Caroline that is rented out? No!

By Pepper Parr

April 18th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There was some confusion about just what is in the basement of the house on Caroline Street east of Brant that was the subject of an application to the Committee of adjustment to turn a garage that is not attached to the house is as a separate residence.

Was there a separate living unit in the basement?

Committee of Adjustment in a meeting.

Neither Nick Leblovic nor the Planning Consultant representing the owner of the property has ever been in the residence.

I have been in that basement part of the house on several occasions.

There is a bedroom, a bathroom, a small room where people could sit in chairs and meet.

There is no kitchen, there is laundry washer and dryer and a small shelf on which there is a coffee pot and a couple of cups.

There is a walk out to a very small back yard.

This is not by any stretch an apartment.

It was used is as a place family friends, visitors would use to sleep over.

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Nicholas Leblovic was not having a good day

By Pepper Parr

April 18, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It was going to be a bumpy meeting and it didn’t get off to all that good a start.

Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna

Nick Leblovic said that he needed additional time to complete his delegation which was added to the agenda. In order to get more time council had to agree to waive the procedural rules.

A two thirds vote of council members was required for the rule to be waived.

Mayor Meed Ward was not able to get a seconder to the motion to waive the rules.

Before that vote was taken ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna asked:

“Is it the same delegation that will be done verbally? Or will there be other information and the reason why I say that is because I had to read it three or four times. And I actually don’t understand any of it. So I’m concerned about giving the extra 15 minutes and I can’t make out what the issue is so unless you know that maybe paraphrase in five minutes.”

Jim Thompson reacting to remarks Nick Leblovic was making during his delegation to city council.

So Leblovic had to limit himself to just five minutes. However, before it was all over he was at the podium for more than an hour.

The recommendation to Council was that training be provided to members of boards on the ethical framework these boards should be working within – with the training taking up to an hour or an hour and a half in length.

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Nickolas Leblovic wanted 15 minutes to explains to Council what he said and why he said it - they gave him 5 minutes

By Pepper Parr

April 18th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Nickolas Leblovic explained to city Council:

I’m here today to address the integrity commissioner’s report related to a Committee of Adjustment meeting on December 12, 2022, related to the proposed conversion of a garage in a historical Burlington home into a secondary dwelling unit.

Following the hearing the owner of the home filed a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner stating that during the hearing I’d made a statement to the effect that she had an undocumented rental unit in her basement.

Nicholas Leblovic addressing city council

I categorically deny that I made that statement and advised the Integrity Commissioner accordingly. What I said was that a house that had five bedrooms already and was increasing it to six could in fact, by a future owner, be converted into a multi residential unit or an Airbnb if you want to use the vernacular.

I’m certain that this matter could have been resolved easily through an informal resolution process specified in the code of conduct. Unfortunately, the matter did not end there.

Because the Integrity Commissioner decided on his own and without any outside complaint, which is required by the code of conduct, to review my entire involvement in the hearing. As a result of this review, he unilaterally, and in my view, improperly expanded the scope of the complaint to include the manner in which I can question the applicant’s representative at the hearing.

Dianne Leblovic listening intently as her husband addresses city council.

The issue arose because of a discrepancy between the description of the basement in site plans tabled by the planners who were representing the applicant and a description in a heritage impact study prepared for an earlier meeting of the Burlington Heritage Committee.

Specifically, the heritage impact study described living facilities in the basement which the site plans did not. In my opinion the material was material to the application.

On the first issue, the planner was clearly unfamiliar with the heritage impact study. Even though her firm had represented the property owner at the heritage committee. Based on my own experience as a lawyer, I believe that my questioning of the planner and my comments on our responses was entirely consistent with what in similar circumstances would have come from a judge or commissioner in a judicial or quasi judicial proceedings.

The Committee of Adjustment is a quasi judicial committee. In addition, I would note that the chair of the meeting, who has the control over the protocol at the meeting, did not raise any objection to the questioning.

On the second issue, the Integrity Commissioner concluded that much of the information and documentation that I had, referred to in my questions was constituted hearsay evidence, and was therefore inadmissible. It should be noted that this opinion was not supported by any citation of applicable case law statute or learned article. I have separately concluded that under Ontario law, hearsay evidence is in fact acceptable in proceedings or quasi-judicial bodies, in contrast to the unsupported opinion of the Integrity Commissioner on this issue,

I’ve included in the material filed with my delegation, which is what Councillor Bentivegna referred to is both statute, the Statutory Powers Procedures Act and a learned article on the issue which conclude that in fact, hearsay evidence is acceptable in statute in what’s called local boards, and statutory committees.

I’ve also took the trouble of getting a separate opinion from an individual who is also an Integrity Commissioner, and a senior partner of Fasken, a Toronto law firm, which further confirms my position.

In light of the above I submit that the Integrity Commissioner is wrong on the issue of hearsay evidence, and as a result his allegations concerning this issue are not supportable.

At this point Nick Leblovic had used up his five minutes. Questions were then put to him by members of Council.

 

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Mental health and student proficiency levels top issues for District School Board

By Pepper Parr

April 18th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Chair of the Halton District School Board Margo Shuttle worth commented yesterday on the statements made by the Minister of Education who apparently wanted the Board to take a clearly defined position on the attire of an Oakville High School teacher who is not currently in a classroom

Halton District School Board chair Margo Shuttleworth

Shuttle worth explained that the Director of Education has been given the task of bringing in some support to guide the trustees but that has yet to happen.

The Board of Education has yet to get its budget back from the Ministry “so we are not sure just what we have to work with” said Shuttleworth.

She added that requiring teachers to have proficiency with math is useful – what she was not able to comment on is where the 1000 additional teachers the Minister mentioned are going to come from.

The selling of school properties is something the government wants to have more of a role in – Burlington City Manager Tim Commisso has a clear plan for what he hopes to be able to do with any surplus property that becomes available. Burlington would appear to be ahead of the province in its thinking.

Social distancing.

Asked what the overriding concern is for the trustees Shuttle worth said “without a doubt – the health of our students – particularly their mental health”

The pandemic hasn’t helped but there is a larger problem – children don’t appear to play anymore – their lives seem to be determined by the number of online friends they have and the number of “likes” they have accumulated.

The Director of Education has sponsored several on line session on mental health issues for parents that have been very well received.

Schools, like every other sector, are dealing with a level of change that is taking to time to understand and then adapt to.

It will be interesting to see who the people in wards 1&2 choose is as their trustee. There are eight candidates.

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Integrity of city council is at risk - report from the Integrity Commissioner is being challenged

By Pepper Parr

April 18th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

Today may prove to be a momentous day in the history of the city.

During a city council meeting a report prepared by the city’s Integrity Commissioner will be put before Council

The report had to do with a complaint made by a citizen over the way her application the Committee of Adjustment (CoA) for a minor variance to a property on Caroline Street was handled.

Members of the Waterfront Access and Protection Advisory Committee which was sunset by the city in December 2012. Nicholas Leblovic, Chair of the Committee is on the left.

A member of the CoA took exception to the application and chose to impugn the reputation of the professional planner who was representing the applicant and to introduce hearsay evidence and put forward a piece of evidence that was not part of the material before the CoA

The member of the CoA, Nicolas Leblovic and his wife were campaign donors to Councillors Nisan ($250), Kearns ($250) Galbraith ($250) and Mayor Marianne Meed Ward ($1200)

Some of the donations were from Nicholas; others were from Nickolas and Diane his wife.

The recommendation in the report is that Leblovic be required to take part in a training session to better understand the ethics of being a CoA member.

Leblovic was strenuous in his objections to the application and continued with his remarks despite being admonished by both the Chair and another member.

The penalty recommended by the Integrity Commissioner was to require CoA members to be trained  by the Integrity Commissioner on the ethical framework applicable to local board members.

Leblovic’s hubris might get in the way of that training session ever taking place

Leblovic is a retired lawyer with more than 40 years experience. One would expect that he would be fully aware of what lawyers can and cannot do.

During the Council meeting today Leblovic will be introducing a 13 page document setting out why he did what he did and the justification for his actions.

Delegations are entitled to 5 minutes; Leblovic has asked for 15 minutes and the sense is that the Mayor is going to support his position.

The four members of Council that received campaign donations from the Leblovic’s should be recusing themselves from the discussion.

Leblovic did take a leave of absence from the CoA during the 2022 election.

His term as a CoA member had ended but he was returned when a new CoA was membership was appointed.

Councillors Bentivegna and Galbraith were part of the committee that approved the appointment decision.

The objective of a council member is not to reward those who donated funds to an election campaign.

The integrity of the current city council is at risk.

Related news story

Integrity Commissioner not tough enough on CoA member

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Many of Mayor Meed Ward's campaign donours in the 2018 election took a pass in 2022

By Staff

April 17th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Donations to the Mayor Marianne Meed Ward 2022 election campaign were down significantly from 2018.

The competition for Mayor the second time around was much easier and likely many people felt they didn’t need to make a donation, and perhaps she didn’t work that hard to seek them out.

Marianne Meed Ward being sworn in the first time in 2018

However, it is notable that quite a large number of people who donated and were very close supporters in 2018 did not donate in 2022 regardless.

In 2022, she received 35 donations over $100.; 5 of those were from outside Burlington – interestingly, those 5 were among her larger donations: collectively, they total $3900.

The 35 donations in 2022 total $17,907.00

In 2018, she received 99 donations over $100. Only two of those were outside Burlington, and those two totalled $1494.

The 99 donations in 2018 totalled $46,300.00

Of those 99 donors in 2018, 11 of them donated again in 2022.

Contributions in goods and services in 2022 – 2 donations, totalling $1347.

Contributions in goods and services in 2018 – 27 donations, totalling $5,024.

Meed Ward received the maximum donation of $1200 from the spouse of Nick Leblovic, who sits on the Committee of Adjustment. This is only relevant with respect to the Integrity Commission complaint regarding Leblovic which council now must consider on Tuesday.

Mayor Meed Ward has always been close to Diane and Nick Leblovic. How she chooses to defend him at the Council meeting on Tuesday when the Integrity Commissioner appears to speak to his report and recommendation is an open question to many.

People are asking: Should the Mayor recuse herself due to this conflict?

Similarly, Meed Ward also received donations both in 2018 and 2022 from the resident at the Caroline Street address of the Complainant in this matter.

This address is listed on the relevant Heritage Committee Minutes from June 8, 2022, the date cited in the Integrity Report as the date the Heritage Impact Study was considered and approved by the Heritage Committee.

The Mayor received her 2022 election donation from the female homeowner at that same address on June 13, 2022.

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Ward 3 Councillor had more financial support in the 2022 election from people who did not live in the ward than from those who did

By Staff

April 17th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan at one of the few Council meetings he attended in person.

Rory Nisan, the candidate for ward 3 in the October municipal election who was returned to office did not contribute any of his own money to his campaign (aside from buying signs).

He received 36 donations over $100. Only 16 of those donors reside in Ward 3. Of those 16, 10 are in rural area, only 6 reside in “urban” Ward 3.

Six live in ward 6 – 4 in Millcroft

Six live outside Burlington (including one erroneously listed as a Burlington address but which is in fact Toronto).

Four donors who donated to him in 2018 donated again in 2022 (one from outside Burlington).

One might ask if Nisan actually prioritizes his Ward 3 residents or is he spending more time and energy on those outside Ward 3? If so, why?

Rory Nisan retrieving a package from the back seat of his car at a house in ward 2 that he purchased in June of 2022, before he was re-elected in ward 3. Building permits were obtained in December of 2022.

We will watch with interest to see what he does or doesn’t do for Ward 3 this term. He does still live there, right?

The Chair of the Heritage Committee donated $300 (Rory sat on Heritage Committee last term but isn’t on it now).

Nick Leblovic, Committee of Adjustment member donated $$250 to the campaign. This is only relevant with respect to the Integrity Commission complaint regarding Leblovic which council now must consider. Will Nisan recuse himself due to this conflict?

Rory had a fundraising dinner on June 23, 2022, $250/ticket – 8 tickets sold. After expenses, this brought in just under $1000. Dinner touted a “special guest”. Anyone know who the special guest was?

Karl Wulf donated food and beverages the day after this event, at a cost of $748.46. He is the Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Millennial Advisory Committee and understood to be a local realtor. This amount may have been a portion of the $983.30 expense listed under “Food and Beverage” for the June 23 fundraiser.

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Ward 2 Councillor got more votes than any other member of Council and was able direct campaign donations to local charities

By Staff

April 17th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Ward 2 city Councillor Lisa Kearns

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns won more votes of any ward councillor in the 2022 election, with 4453.

Lisa vowed to run a “frugal” campaign, and did so.  She didn’t have a fundraiser – instead having attendees of a ward event consider donating instead to charity, and part-way through her campaign she announced that she had enough donations for her campaign, and urged people to donate to charity, if desired.

She had 25 donors, mostly all Ward 2 residents, and took in $4,450 in donations over $100; $175 in donations not exceeding $100.

Nick Leblovic, a member of the Committee of Adjustment, donated (with his spouse) $250 to Lisa, their ward 2 councillor.  This is only relevant with respect to the Integrity Commission complaint regarding Leblovic which council now must consider.  Should Lisa recuse herself due to this conflict?

When the campaign financial documents were recently posted on the City website, Lisa took to social media with the following message:

“Thank you to Ward 2 residents who contributed their time, talents and financial resources to our inclusive and frugal campaign.  A special note of appreciation to those who wished to donate and re-directed those funds to a local charity in our community.  By being frugal we were able to help others.

“It’s vital, said Kearns, “to understand the potential biases that may influence actions once in office.  This is why full disclosure of campaign contributions can provide clarity around potential conflicts of interest and influence.  By understanding where a candidate’s financial support comes from – transparency can be improved.  Without transparency in campaign contributions, it becomes much more difficult to hold elected officials accountable for their actions.”

 

 

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Nominations for HDSB wards 1&2 trustee now closed

By Staff

April 17th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The official list of certified candidates running for the position of Halton District School Board Trustee – Burlington, Wards 1 and 2 is as follows in alphabetical order:

      • Robbie Brydon
      • Celina Close
      • Michael James Duhacek
      • Chris Goff
      • Anthony Alexander Hoyes
      • Omar Kayed
      • Ross Montgomery
      • Daniel Warren Oke
  • Voting for the School Board By-Election takes place between May 15 and 29, 2023.
  • Eligible voters have three ways to vote:

online, using Internet voting, from May 15 to 19, 2023

in person, at advance polls on May 24, 202 in person, on election day, May 29, 2023

  • Individuals eligible to vote in the by-election for Halton District School Board Trustee – Burlington, Wards 1 and 2 must be:

             a current English-public school board supporter

           resident of Burlington (own or rent) in Ward 1 or Ward 2

           non-resident, but you or your spouse own or rent residential property in Ward 1 or Ward 2

           18 years of age or older

           a Canadian citizen

           not prohibited from voting under any law

 

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Province wants more input at the school board level; HDSB doesn't come out smelling like roses

By Pepper Parr

April 17th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The province isn’t happy with the school boards across the province are doing. They don’t like the number indicating where student achievement is waning. They want more power over school boards’ academic priorities and in particular wants to improve training for senior leaders.

Legislated tables today by the Minister of Education would impose new standards of training for directors of education and senior staff, as well as how their job performance is measured, giving trustees a say as well as an opportunity for the Ministry of Education to weigh in.

Education Minister Stephen Leece at a community event.

Minister Lecce said: ““It’s about expecting better from the system,” adding that “Boards need to refocus on what matters, which is student achievement.”

The legislation would also give the government a say in priorities in student achievement, especially in the basics of reading, writing and math, and ensure all 72 publicly funded boards provide information on that progress to parents in a transparent and timely manner, as well as update teacher training at universities.

On the trustee side, the bill would ensure boards are using integrity commissioners to deal with disputes between elected officials in a bid to keep their focus on students.

The bill is also intended, in part, to address the varying academic performance among boards and would give the province a say in “setting priorities for student achievement” as well as usher in “more consistent information (for parents) and approaches to student learning.”

The legislation comes after the province had to step in and supervise and reform the Peel public school board amid allegations of systemic racism. That came three years after the York board failed to act on parent complaints that racist incidents were being ignored, and as multiple incidents of trustee misconduct and dysfunction were brought to light.

More recently, Lecce has publicly chastised the leaders at the Halton District School Board for failing to deal with the controversial dress of a shop teacher that led to months of disruption at Oakville Trafalgar High School, including protests and bomb threats.

The Halton board, which more than a month ago voted to bring in a special adviser to help it move forward, has yet to do so. It also released promised a “professionalism policy” but parents are calling for more specifics on standards of dress for educators.

Minister Leece with a group of students.

The focus on the basics may be in response to parent concerns that boards are focusing too much on non-academic issues.

The province is making a number of changes with the legislation, noting that while Ontario has a 89 per cent graduation rate after five years, some 15,000 students aren’t earning a diploma in that time. EQAO results in math have been an ongoing concern, as have those in literacy, where roughly two-thirds of students in grade 3 aren’t meeting the writing standard, which is equivalent to a B grade.

The Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act is wide-ranging legislation that would also speed up disciplinary processes for teachers, particularly in cases where the educator has been found guilty of a crime.

It would also give the province first say when school boards are selling off properties, and will mandate better communication with municipalities. To save costs and but also bring in consistency and help cut red tape, boards would also have a set of standard new school designs to choose when rebuilding.

It comes as the province is focusing on the skilled trades and ensuring students have a pathway to earn a diploma should they choose to take on an apprenticeship in Grade 11.

On Sunday, Lecce announced $180 million for literacy and numeracy supports, saying it would create 1,000 additional teaching positions to help students, many of whom are struggling with post-pandemic learning loss.

NDP Education Critic Chandra Pasma expressed disappointment with Minister Stephen Lecce’s recent ‘smoke and mirrors’ announcement, stating that it is unimpressive and fails to address the urgent needs in Ontario’s education system:

“The government talks about accountability but blindsides us with last-minute changes to the education sector without adequate funding for meaningful change,” Pasma stated. “As a parent, this announcement is frustrating and feels like smoke and mirrors. The underfunding of our education system is impacting our kids directly. We know why they are struggling – oversized classrooms, lack of specialized learning programs, and anxiety levels at an all-time high. How can students focus and succeed in such conditions?

“Adding new demands at this pace sets our students up for failure,” Pasma emphasized. “We need a government that truly address the scale of issues we see in the education system, including huge class sizes, issues with violence and mental health.”

Pasma further raised concerns about the government’s approach to funding, citing the disparity between the government’s stated increase of 2.7% in GSNs (Grants for Student Needs) and the much higher inflation rates of 6.8% in 2022 and the predicted 3.6% for 2023.

“How will this meagre increase in funding help when inflation rates are much higher, and the scale of issues in education requires much more support?” Pasma questioned. “We need a government that takes responsibility and stops shifting the blame for the fact that schools are struggling. The funding announcements are well below the inflation rate, and more is needed to address the scale of issues we see in our education system. The government’s failure to adequately fund education hinders the system’s ability to provide quality education to our students.”

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Provincial Liberals decide on when their new leader will be selected

By Staff

April 17th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Ontario Liberal Party’s new Executive Council met to establish the leadership process for electing a new leader in 2023.

Following our membership’s decision to move to a direct voting system in March, I’m excited to share details of what will be our most inclusive and accessible leadership process – ever.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie – will she reach for the brass ring. She was certainly doing that the the provincial Liberal AGM

• Party members will cast ranked ballots on Saturday, November 25, 2023 and Sunday, November 26, 2023.
• Voting will be available in person for almost all constituency associations, student clubs, and women’s clubs, with a small number voting by mail.
• Ballot counting and the announcement of round-by-round results will take place on Saturday, December 2, 2023, with the OLP’s new leader announced the same day.
• The final date to join the Ontario Liberal Party, as a member of a constituency association or women’s club, and be eligible to vote in the leadership election, is Monday, September 11, 2023.
• The final date to join the Ontario Liberal Party, as a member of a student club, and be eligible to vote in the leadership election, is Tuesday, September 26, 2023.

Under the new leadership election system, each constituency association will be allotted 100 points, to be awarded to leadership candidates based on the proportion of votes they receive. Student clubs will be allotted 50 points and women’s clubs will be allotted 5.

Simon Tunstall, former Executive Director of the Ontario Liberal Party, will serve as the Chief Returning Officer.

During the leadership election, the Party will also host at least five debates around the province. Dates and locations for these debates will be announced at a later date.

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Member of Committee of Adjustment gets hammered by the Integrity Commissioner - report goes to Council on Tuesday

By Pepper Parr

April 17th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

This report is excerpted from a report prepared by the Integrity Commissioner and sent to City Council.  Thew fill report is available on the city website. There is the potential for considerable debate at Council on Tuesday

The perception that a community’s elected representatives are operating with integrity is the glue which sustains local democracy. We live in a time when citizens are skeptical of their elected representatives at all levels. The overarching objective in appointing an integrity commissioner is to ensure the existence of robust and effective policies, procedures, and mechanisms that enhance the citizen’s perception that their Council and local boards meet established ethical standards and where they do not, there exists a review mechanism that serves the public interest.

The City of Burlington Integrity Commissioner released the following report earlier in April related to a complaint that had been made from a resident about how her application to the Committee of Adjustment (CoA) was managed.

The application was approved at the CoA by a vote of 3-2

The Municipal Act requires that municipalities adopt a code of conduct for members of local boards, and appoint an integrity commissioner responsible for overseeing the application of the code of conduct for local board members.

Integrity commissioners carry out a range of functions for municipalities (and their local boards). They assist in the development of the ethical framework, for example by suggesting content or commentary for codes of conduct. One of the most important functions is the provision of advice and guidance to members to help sort out ethical grey areas or to confirm activities that support compliance. And finally, but not principally, they investigate allegations that a person has fallen short of compliance with the municipality’s ethical framework and where appropriate they submit public reports on their findings, and make recommendations, including recommending sanctions, that council for the municipality may consider imposing in giving consideration to that report.

Our operating philosophy dictates the format of this report. The tenets of procedural fairness require us to provide reasons for our conclusions and recommendations, and we have done that.

In this regard, we have assessed the information fairly, in an independent and neutral manner, and have provided an opportunity to the respondent named in this Report to respond to the allegations in the complaint, and to review and provide comment on tour preliminary findings report.

The Complaint

On December 22, 2022 we received a complaint from an applicant to the CoA in regard to the conduct of member Leblovic at the hearing of her application for minor variance held on December 7, 2022.

The complaint asserted that member Leblovic made statements at the CoA hearing that were unfounded and false, and risked influencing the outcome of the hearing on the application. In her view, the member had engaged in malicious gossip almost derailing a long and costly minor variance process, which no member of an adjudicative tribunal should be allowed to do.

It was alleged that the member’s conduct breached the Code of Conduct for Local Boards.

Notifying the Respondent on December 29, 2022 of the complaint against him, and providing adequate disclosure of the information we possessed so that he could prepare his response

After initial resistance to the process, wherein the Respondent raised preliminary concerns questioning the complainant’s motives, asserting reputational damage, and challenging our jurisdiction and process, we extended time for, and ultimately received, the Respondent’s response to the complaint in a 13-page response.

Diane and Nickolas Leblovic with Mayor Meed Ward and her husband.

The Respondent Nicholas Leblovic is a member of the City of Burlington C/A and on the C/A for another Township where he owns another property, and has served as such for eight (8) years. He is a lawyer with over 40 years’ experience, retired from practice at a large law firm.

The Complainant is the owner of a century home in downtown Burlington which she has owned and lived in for 42 years.

This is the story of a long-time resident, now living alone, seeking to turn her detached garage into a secondary suite in the back yard of her large home, and a tribunal member trying to block her because, according to an unidentified neighbour who is friends with the member, she has been illegally renting out a basement apartment for years – a fact she vehemently denies.

The tribunal member, as a lawyer himself, has criticized our investigation as lacking jurisdiction because in his view we are presuming to review the conduct of an adjudicative body’s hearing. We agree that it is beyond the jurisdiction of an Integrity Commissioner to review the hearing process of the Committee of Adjustment.

However, it is well-established that the conduct of members of local boards, the Committee of Adjustment included, falls squarely within the jurisdiction of the municipal Integrity Commissioner to review.

The member claims that we have improperly embarked on a review of the procedure at the hearing – something which can only be reviewed by appealing the decision. The focus of our investigation, and findings, is solely the ethical propriety of the member’s own conduct.

In October 2021, the homeowner retained a planning consultant firm to assist her with navigating the process for obtaining the necessary permissions to construct an accessory dwelling unit; the project required 7 minor variances, regarding which staff of the City of Burlington had no objection.

On January 13, 2022 the Complainant filed an application to the CoA for the minor variance to allow the conversion of a detached garage to a secondary dwelling unit.

On December 7, 2022 the application for minor variance was before the CoA for hearing.

The Staff Report from planning staff supported the application.

Nobody appeared in opposition to the application.

The homeowner was not present at the CoA and was represented by her planning consultant.

Although the Heritage Impact Study was not included in the Application Package before the CoA, member Leblovic produced it at the hearing in order to ask the planning consultant questions.

The member proceeded to ask questions of the homeowner’s planning consultant, focused on what he perceived as inconsistent descriptions in the Heritage Impact Study about the interior finishes in the basement of the home – in particular, what he perceived as conflicting information about the presence of a bathroom and a bedroom in the basement – revealing, in his view, the existence of a rental suite.

It should be noted that, although the complainant’s home does not include a secondary suite or basement apartment, we understand that a secondary suite would be permitted as-of-right, should she have desired one.

Member Leblovic made a statement asserting the existence of an undocumented rental unit in the basement, claiming that the neighbours all knew about it.

The member’s comments at the hearing are reflected in the Minutes as follows:

N. Leblovic did not support the application; noted for the following reasons: did not believe the Owner/Agent were being entirely truthful regarding the use of the existing home and had knowledge from other community members as well as the Heritage Impact Study that the home had been previously renovated to include a basement living space which was not reflected in the site plans presented and that non-family members had lived in the house; believed some of the information provided by the applicant was questionable; these concerns prevented the member from supporting the application as presented and believed that perhaps a deferral might be an option to allow the agent to go back and work with the Owner to provide additional information regarding the current use of the property; from a legal perspective, could not support the application.

The next member who spoke reminded members that the CoA must confine itself to consideration of the application based on the merits and the evidence before the Committee. This is reflected in the Minutes, as follows:

…the Committee must evaluate an application based on the merits of the application before the Committee; noted that the application itself became a sworn affidavit when submitted for review; there were no members of the public in opposition to the proposal nor were written comments provided as a result of the public notice; how the Owner utilizes their property was not the purview of the Committee and if there were enforcement concerns there were more appropriate City departments to handle those matters;

Subsequently, the Chair also chastised member Leblovic for his statement, noting that enforcement concerns were not the purview of the Committee; there were other City departments in place to handle enforcement issues; and that the applicant presented good planning rationale for the proposed development.

One other member of the CoA adopted the position and the rationale articulated by member Leblovic.

In the end, the CoA Decision to grant the minor variance was reached on a 3-2 split.

In the days that followed, the complainant raised her concern with the Secretary- Treasurer about the conduct of the member and the unfounded statements which very nearly resulted in a refusal of her application.

The Secretary-Treasurer advised that the Integrity Commissioner was the proper party to consider her concerns.

Member Leblovic’s statement made during the hearing regarding his belief that there was already an existing rental unit at the home, was improper for 3 reasons:

As it was based on what the neighbours apparently had told him, it amounted to nothing more than hearsay, and was not admissible as evidence;

Even if true, it was not a relevant consideration for the C/A; and

Even if relevant, the member was attempting to introduce evidence at the hearing, which was improper given his role as a member of the tribunal adjudicating the hearing.

Had legal counsel for the owner been present at the hearing, the statements by the member would likely have provoked a swift response.

The applicant’s planning consultant, who was present at the hearing, was blind- sided by the line of questioning and attempted to navigate the unexpected tangent.

Having not attended at the home of her client, the planning consultant was at a loss to explain what member Leblovic perceived as inconsistencies in the Heritage Impact Study.
Nevertheless, when the member produced it unexpectedly at the CoA hearing, the planning consultant simply advised that she was unaware of the existing interior improvements of the owner’s basement, but that to the best of her knowledge the owner lived alone in the home.

During our investigation, the member provided the following explanation around the unfolding of events at the CoA as follows:

Also… provided was a draft Heritage Impact Assessment dated May 22, 2022, prepared by Robinson Heritage Consulting relating to the house and garage on the Property. …

In reviewing this documentation, I noted a major inconsistency relating to the basement of the house. The Heritage Impact Assessment at pages 28 to 32 had a brief description of each room in the House and contains the following statement at page 32:

“The basement is finished and is large and bright with laundry, bath, bedroom and family room with walkout to the rear yard.”

However, the Site Plan of the basement area of the house (at page 92 of the Staff Report) showed existing space labelled as laundry room, mechanical room, unexcavated and existing basement with no existing space identified as a bath, bedroom or family room.
At the hearing, the Complainant was represented by XX. In my questioning of XX I asked her to reconcile this inconsistency.

…[the planning consultant was unable to explain the inconsistency, in that she had not attended the property to observe the basement layout, and she understood that her client lived alone in the home.]

When it was the time for Committee members to reach a decision on the application, I made comments to the following effect:

• I did not accept the testimony of [the planning consultant] as being credible on the issue of the additional dwelling unit in the basement as it was inconsistent with both the clear wording of the Heritage Impact Study as well as the prior information that I had obtained from my friends noted in the fourth paragraph of this letter.

• The potential existence of an additional dwelling unit in the basement of the house was in my mind extremely material to the application as it raised the prospect of their being three not two separate dwelling units in the house and garage. This in turn would
increase the potential number of people who could live in the house and renovated garage.

• This would result in potential for material compatibility and nuisance issues with the neighbourhood, which was entirely comprised of single-family dwellings, the likelihood of overcrowding of the limited on-site parking space and the possibility for future use of the house as a rental or short-term rental facility.

When the planning consultant would not agree with the member’s suggestion that there was a rental unit in the basement, he stated that he was ‘questioning the integrity of the application and the integrity of the planners’.

The planning consultant was shocked, upset and taken aback. All the while, her supervising partner was watching the virtual meeting electronically.

Planners are subject to a Professional Code of Practice and Standards of Practice; ethics and integrity are cornerstones of their professional reputation.

Questioning the integrity of a professional planner goes to the core of their professional reputation.  The member, in openly questioning the planning consultant’s integrity during the hearing, was impugning her professional ethics.

From an evidentiary perspective, it is apparent that the finished basement contains no kitchen, which would be crucial in determining whether a basement rental apartment existed – were that a relevant consideration before the C/A. This underscores the problem of introducing hearsay conclusions in the course of a hearing held for other purposes, and which was supported by ample professional evidence tendered by both the applicant and City staff.

Irrelevant Considerations

Even if the information had been introduced by an objector to the application, it is well-established that non-compliance with existing regulatory requirements is not a relevant consideration on an application for minor variance at the C/A.

Alleged illegal or non-compliant use of property can only be pursued through enforcement action because:
withholding a minor variance because of alleged zoning violations constitutes an error of law; and enforcement action provides the property owner with due process and ensures a full and fair opportunity to defend against unfounded allegations.

Though not the case here, existing non-compliance – with zoning or building requirements – is often the motivation for making minor variance applications to the C/A.

Concerns about existing non-compliance are simply irrelevant to the CoA’s considerations.

Similarly, speculation about the possibility that the minor variance may open the door to a future illegal use is equally irrelevant.

As noted above, the Chair and at least one other member of the CoA were at pains to correct member Leblovic as to the irrelevance of the alleged existence of a second dwelling unit.

Improper for Tribunal Member to introduce own evidence

It is important that members appointed to adjudicative bodies understand the nature of their role.

Misunderstanding their jurisdiction or the need for procedural fairness may cause a tribunal to exceed its jurisdiction or otherwise err in law in arriving at a decision, leading to unnecessary and time-consuming appeals to the Land Appeals Tribunal or the courts.

In the complainant’s application hearing, despite attempts by another member and by the Chair to correctly guide the CoA away from irrelevant and erroneous considerations, the member’s strong and authoritative assertions influenced another member to take into consideration irrelevant and possibly erroneous statements, improperly introduced.

Even if the member had personal knowledge of the existence of a second dwelling unit in the home (which he admits he does not have), tribunal members – like judges – must make their decisions based on the application of the law to the facts presented at the hearing or trial.

A tribunal member cannot introduce their own evidence, or supplement the evidence before them with anecdotal information drawn from their own sources.4

The bald unchallenged assertion made by the member abrogated the procedural fairness of the CoA hearing and risked tainting the decision, as underscored by the narrow margin on the vote, which might have resulted in an unnecessary, time- consuming and costly appeal for both the applicant and the City.

We find that the conduct of the member on this occasion undermined public confidence in the adjudicative body.

It is important that misunderstandings – about jurisdiction, procedural fairness and appreciating what are the relevant considerations – be corrected, especially since an erroneous or misguided approach by a single member may influence the thinking of other members. Ultimately, these may lead to undermining the public’s confidence in the process.

Members of adjudicative local boards are not expected to possess legal expertise, and indeed, the Chair and staff play an important role in guiding the committee to staying focused on relevant considerations and ensure procedural fairness.

There are also opportunities for municipalities to ensure that their local boards, including adjudicative committees, receive training from the Integrity Commissioner, the Ontario Association of Committees of Adjustment, and from staff.

Impugning reputation of planning consultant

When the planning consultant would not agree with the member that there was a basement rental unit in the home, the member stated that he was ‘questioning the integrity of the application and the integrity of the planners’.

The member thereby cast doubt on the information properly before the CoA and cast a shadow over the planning consultant’s honesty and integrity.

Although there is no specific provision under the City of Burlington’s Local Board Code of Conduct which addresses impugning the professional ethics and integrity of others – whether members of the local board, staff or others – it should be recognized as inappropriate and contrary to a standard which requires Members to act with honesty and integrity, serving in a diligent manner, and performing their duties in a manner which promotes public confidence.

Challenging the truthfulness of a professional, without a rationale basis, is tantamount to calling them a liar.

Burlington Council’s own Code of Good Governance states the following which, although in regard to social media (Rule 13), nevertheless provides good guidance:

We will ensure that commenters are respectful, and do not impugn the motives, integrity, or competence of our Council colleagues, other members of the public, or staff.

We find that the conduct of the member in impugning the integrity of the planning consultant was inappropriate, and constituted behaviour which did not promote public confidence.

When the complainant raised her concern with the Secretary-Treasurer in the days that followed, it was explained to her that there was nothing the staff or the City could do and her only recourse was a complaint to the Integrity Commissioner.

The member has expressed to us his concern that the complainant’s inquiries to the Secretary-Treasurer’s office have damaged his reputation.

While a member may regard any complaint about his conduct as concerning, and the scrutiny of a member’s conduct may bring unwanted attention to short-comings, persons feeling aggrieved by a member’s conduct should not be deterred from legitimate complaint by the fear of an accusation of ‘damaging the reputation’ of a respondent.

Certainly there was nothing inappropriate for the complainant to speak with the Secretary-Treasurer; the complainant pursued the only recourse available.

Member’s Response to Complaint and Findings

Rather than acknowledge room for improvement on his part, the member has dug in, justifying his actions and attacking the investigator, engaging in ad hominem attacks on the Integrity Commissioner alleging bias, incompetence, arrogance, negligence, lack of diligence, legal errors, ignorance of the law and practice, and a lack of jurisdiction and procedural fairness.

This sometimes happens in Integrity Commissioner investigations – the respondent takes a legalistic or adversarial approach. Care should be taken to recognize that an Integrity Commissioner’s goal in investigating a complaint is aimed at upholding the expectations set by Council for its appointees.

It cannot be the case that members of adjudicative local boards are at liberty to engage in inappropriate, unfair or otherwise improper conduct with impunity.

While ultimately, removal of the member by Council is a possible remedy, any member might rightly demand the procedural fairness of an investigation before being removed. This is the function which the Integrity Commissioner provides.

The member has asserted that there can be no finding he contravened the principles of the Code of Conduct, because in his opinion the guiding principles are unenforceable.

We believe that the better approach is to embrace the Code of Conduct as a policy statement adopted by council, and to understand that the underlying guiding principles, as well as the specific stipulations in each provision, are indeed capable of articulating enforceable standards and expectations unless specifically excluded.

Especially where the goal is public confidence, and where Guiding Principles underly and support the standard of conduct expected, it cannot be the case that a violation of the Guiding Principles is incapable of forming the basis of a finding that the member has failed to meet the standard expected.

This view would be completely inconsistent with the purpose and objectives of providing a framework to ensure members conduct themselves with the highest standards of integrity in a manner that withstands public scrutiny.

Conduct or behaviour which contravenes and undermines the Guiding Principles should not be ignored or condoned, simply because there is not a specific provision of the Code which prohibits it.

Afterall, there are any number of matters not articulated in provisions of a Code – for example one would not find specific provisions prohibiting lying while carrying out their public role, yet no one would argue that this could not sustain a complaint under the Code.

Nicholas Leblovic was Chair of a Waterfront Advisory Committee that was sunset by the city in 2012.

We find that the conduct of the member on the occasion in question – engaging in hearsay on matters irrelevant to the Committee of Adjustment’s proper considerations, and purporting to introduce evidence in the course of a hearing – undermined public confidence in the adjudicative body, in breach of the Guiding Principles of the Code of Conduct applicable to him.

We also find that impugning the integrity of the planning consultant, which was tantamount to calling her a liar, was inappropriate and a breach of the Guiding Principles.

An Integrity Commissioner may recommend that sanctions be imposed, including a reprimand, or a suspension of pay for up to 90-days.

Members of the Committee of Adjustment receive a nominal per diem, however, we are of the view that a sanction which included suspension of a per diem would be of little consequence.

The complainant sought the member’s removal from the Committee of Adjustment, and that he not be appointed to serve on any other City committee.

There is no doubt the member has the ability to offer legal expertise to the Committee of Adjustment, however his defensiveness to criticism and refusal to acknowledge room for improvement, does not lend itself to course correction.

Despite this, it must be recognized that a similar situation is unlikely to be repeated, and if it were, we are optimistic that the member would be more circumspect in his conduct .

As a member of the Committee of Adjustment, member Leblovic holds a privileged position. He should embrace the opportunity to serve in that capacity with courtesy, and a modicum of humility.

We would also hope that the member would publicly concede second thoughts for his conduct.

We believe that the complaint investigation may be sufficient to remind him to refrain from contributing gossip (or giving credence to it) during the adjudication of hearings, and to treat those who appear before the board – whether staff or others – with professionalism and respect.

As such, in contrast to the complainant’s position, we are not recommending his removal as an appointed member to the CoA.

Rather, as is commonly the case for municipal local boards, we recommend that all members of local boards for the City of Burlington be required to participate in training to be conducted by the Integrity Commissioner, to ensure an understanding of expectations for their role set by the Code of Conduct and the MCIA.

Accordingly, it is recommended:

That Council direct staff to make arrangements for the conduct of training to be conducted by the Integrity Commissioner on the ethical framework applicable to local board members.

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Changes in Education policy to be announced by the Minister of Education today

By Staff

April 17th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Minister of Education Stephen Lecce

Minister of Education Stephen Lecce plans to introduce legislation today that will “ refocus the education system on improving outcomes for students.”

He will speak to media as soon the legislation has been tabled.

The Ontario government is investing more than $180 million in targeted supports in the classroom and at home to help students build the math and reading skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the workforce. This investment will support nearly 1000 more educators to help students develop these important skills.

 

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