Penetanguishene councillor under fire by Wasaga Beach resident for 'double dipping'

·5 min read

A Wasaga Beach resident and former Toronto-area politician is questioning a Penetanguishene councillor's role as an elected official and his work as the chief administrative officer for a neighbouring municipality.

For Giorgio Mammoliti, it's clear Coun. George Vadeboncoeur, who is also CAO for Wasaga Beach, is "double dipping" with his two roles, as he states in this YouTube video.

"Immediately after he became councillor he was hired back into the position of CAO and never paid back the severance," said Mammoliti. "Now he holds the position of CAO, making more money than many CAOs of larger municipalities in the province, and he's also councillor of the (neighbouring) municipality."

He said he believes it's a conflict of interest.

"You're sworn to secrecy for a reason when you're councillor and as a CAO you have a different responsibility," said Mammoliti. "In this case, you're serving the same taxpayer and absorbing the same information from the province and federal government and staff and using that information as a councillor.

"Why don't people recognize that he has more information than most of his colleagues as a councillor and it's privileged information?" he added. "There are a lot of things that need to be asked. I'm asking some of those tough questions. I know it's legal and he can do it, but I do think the province needs to change the act."

Mammoliti also said he believes the matter should be clarified with the integrity commissioner.

He said he understands being a bureaucrat and a politician simultaneously may not be illegal, but it is something that needs to change.

"This isn't a personal thing," said Mammoliti, adding he took a leave of absence to vie for political office and resigned from his ministry job when he got on the City of Toronto council. "I have to be honest with you. I don't know (Vadeboncoeur) very well.

"I find that a lot of the decisions Wasaga Beach is making smell," he said, adding he has been asked by Wasaga Beach residents to run for the position of mayor --- a move he is currently not considering.

"I've been challenging them. At this time, I'm just raising questions. As an advocate for Wasaga Beach, I will keep doing that. My mindset is to make it better for those who live in Wasaga Beach and Simcoe.

A public statement issued recently by the Town of Wasaga Beach states unequivocally that there is no conflict of interest, trying to do away any doubts around the matter.

"Mr. Mammoliti should have reviewed the Ontario Municipal Elections Act, which clearly states Mr. Vadeboncoeur can serve as a part-time municipal councillor in his home community of Penetanguishene and work for the Town of Wasaga Beach," says the statement available online. "There is no conflict of interest. Moreover, Mr. Vadeboncoeur made council aware of his elected role in another community."

The Penetang councillor, who retired from his Wasaga Beach position in August 2018, contested the election successfully some two years ago. When he left his position, Gerry Marshall, former Penetang mayor and Simcoe County warden resigned from both political offices and signed a six-month contract with Wasaga Beach to serve as CAO. He was let go in December 2018, when Vadeboncoeur was called back.

Mayor Nina Bifolchi told the media at that time that the new council needed someone experienced and knowledgeable of the town's affairs at the helm.

When MidlandToday reached out to Vadeboncoeur, he said he had no further comment to add.

However, he did offer clarification around the severance issue that Mammoliti had raised.

"I retired from Wasaga Beach and I was successfully elected as councillor in Penetang," said Vadeboncoeur. "I did not receive any severance."

Where he wasn't willing to go further into the issues, his hometown mayor was more forthcoming in his opinions and thoughts.

"I know that this particular person, from what I've been hearing, has been making a lot of waves in Wasaga Beach with regards to their council and staff," said Doug Leroux. "There's nothing preventing (Vadeboncoeur) being CAO of Wasaga Beach and councillor of Penetanguishene, where he resides."

He said the Town of Penatanguishene will not be issuing a public statement, such as the one by the neighbouring municipality.

"The person making these statement is from Wasaga Beach," said Leroux. "Whatever they feel they have to say or do is strictly Wasaga Beach. It's not something Penetang has to get involved in. What happens in Wasaga Beach, can stay in Wasaga Beach."

He also said he couldn't see any conflict of interest for Vadeboncoeur being in the two positions simultaneously.

"I don't think he would be aware of any information that our CAO wouldn't be aware of either," said Leroux. "If something is coming down the pipe from the ministry or county, the CAOs are made aware of that situation and all CAOs share information every so often."

Further, he said, as mayor, he is automatically made aware automatically of any funding information, which can be shared with members of council.

Mammoliti's objection was around transfer payments.

"As a CAO, (Vadeboncoeur) is dealing with federal, municipal, and provincial transfer payments, and sometimes they're competing with other municipalities in Simcoe," he said. "Let's take a infrastructure project that the government is asking municipalities to bid for. As a CAO, he has the responsibility to recuse himself. I'm sure there have been scenarios where both municipalities were vying for the same money."

Leroux said funding requests are made directly to the province.

"I think it would be fair competition even if it is similar infrastructure," he said, adding, "(Wasaga Beach) infrastructure and our infrastructure would be two different things. If we have a road or a street that has to be redone and we apply to the province for funding, it's not the same as theirs. They could be applying for infrastructure entirely different than ours."

As for Vadeboncoeur's role on council, Leroux said, he's carried out his duties as councillor very proficiently.

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com