In a report to Grimsby council, the integrity commissioner cleared Coun. Reg Freake of three code of conduct complaints made against him.
Michael Maynard, investigator with the Office of the Integrity Commissioner, presented a report at the Grimsby committee of the whole meeting on March 22, in which he examined three failed complaints against Freake.
The first complaint was brought forth by Coun. John Dunstall in November 2020 and the second by a member of the public in January 2021, but it was later withdrawn. The third complaint was from an anonymous complainant in December 2020.
Both Dunstall and the anonymous complainant alleged that Freake violated the code of conduct when he voted on a heritage committee endorsement package during a council meeting in November. The two complainants allege Freake had a conflict of interest because he lives within the proposed study area. Both further alleged that he had also violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act (MCIA). The anonymous complainant also questioned two other potential conflicts of interest, regarding developments near Freake’s residence.
Given that one of the developments with which the complainant had concerns has yet to be presented to council, Maynard determined the allegations regarding that development “are not within the scope of the integrity commissioner to investigate, as this development has not come before council.”
The other development the complainant was concerned with was presented to council in November 2019, but since it had happened more than six months before the complaint had been filed, Maynard deemed it “out of time” and it was not considered in the investigation as a code of conduct violation. However, it was still examined as a potential violation of the MCIA.
In his analysis, Maynard said no evidence had been presented pointing to a personal stake by Freake in the success or failure of the heritage committee development study proposal, beyond him satisfying his own political judgment whether it was in the best interests of the community.
"In other words, fulfilling his democratic obligations as an elected official to vote his conscience on matters of public policy,” he said.
Maynard further stated that “no case has been presented, nor is it otherwise apparent or evident that he stands to gain or lose anything personally by voting on the HCD proposal, whether in support or opposition thereto.”
Freake was not found to have violated the MCIA code of conduct either, Maynard said in his report, as the MCIA concerns itself with interests related to money. However, no evidence of financial gain or loss was presented.
After some deliberation by council and questions to Maynard regarding the definition of a pecuniary interest, council voted unanimously in favour of receiving the report.
Moosa Imran, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News