Integrity commissioner dismisses complaint filed against Mavridis

Coun. Maria Mavridis isn’t surprised the town’s integrity commissioner dismissed a recent complaint filed against her.

In early December, a resident submitted paperwork with the municipality’s watchdog after the councillor participated in a discussion about the town’s seasonal patio program, arguing that she should have declared a conflict during a November meeting due to her family’s affiliation with two restaurants in the old town – Firehall Flame and Corks – both on Queen Street.

“While the complainant was not aware if the councillor had an equity interest or employment position in either business, he believes that both are family businesses of the councillor and any decision on a patio program by council would impact both businesses,” said integrity commissioner Edward McDermott in his decision.

However, Firehall Flame closed before the November meeting and her father no longer operated the local eatery at that time, Mavridis explained in her position, outlined in a report brought to council on Tuesday night.

The space in question does not apply to the town’s patio program, which started in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, and was continued for another year temporarily recently while staff works on a permanent program, as directed by council.

McDermott wrote that no vote was held on any patio program at the Nov. 21 meeting and no direction was given by council as to what the report should contain, as it was simply referred back to staff for a report to be forthcoming at a future date.

The integrity commissioner continued that the complaint must be dismissed on the basis that the matter before council at that time was simply to request a full staff report on the issue, not to approve anything, and that there was no need for Mavridis to declare a conflict.

McDermott also said Mavridis advised that Corks does not have a patio space covered by the temporary patio program and that the area in question at 19 Queen St. is actually a permanent room, which is part of the building on the leased premises, not on public property.

In an interview with The Local following the integrity commissioner’s decision, Mavridis said she was “frustrated” throughout the process, and that she did research and sought legal advice before she ran for council for the first time in 2022.

“I knew it was going to come back the way it did,” she said.

“I know ahead of time what I have to declare a conflict on and what I don’t,” she said.

On Jan. 16, Mavridis did declare a conflict when the patio program was on a council agenda due to the complaint already being filed against her.

Mavridis also argued against the complaint that the patio program affects all of the town, not just businesses on Queen Street.

She said she ran for public office based on her knowledge and experience in the local tourism sector and her ability to represent businesses and residents.

“To preclude me from doing so would significantly impede my commitment to public service,” she said.

She recently declared a conflict over zoning bylaw and official plan amendment applications before committee-of-the-whole on Feb. 6 regarding Holiday Inn Express and Staybridge Suites at 524 York Rd., which sits within 500 metres of lands owned by her father.

She said the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act dictates this as a clear conflict because it’s a neighbouring property that could be affected by the proposed development.

However, the Glendale Secondary Plan, which also applies to that area, isn’t something she would need to declare a conflict on because it affects the entire community, she said.

Kris Dube, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara-on-the-Lake Local