At a meeting of Innisfil Council, the six voting members of council voted to reject a report claiming Councillor Doug Lougheed leaked confidential information to a developer during ongoing negotiations with town staff. Lougheed immediately resigned from his seat as Ward 1 Councillor following the vote.
At the same meeting, council voted to sanction Mayor Gord Wauchope and Councillor Bill Loughead’s municipal salary for 45 days.
Three members of Innisfil council are in hot water, an Integrity Commissioner’s report suggesting they exchanged confidential information with the developer of a “significant” project.
Commissioner Janet Leiper released a report Wednesday, finding Mayor Gord Wauchope, Councillor Doug Lougheed and Councillor William Loughead discussed vital information with an unnamed developer. Leiper said it was “in the context of a significant application to the Town.”
Texts and phone calls exchanged with developer
Leiper say the three members called the developer with information they obtained from closed-door council meetings, and during key stages of the negotiation.
“These members of Council and other witnesses were unwilling to provide details, denied certain conversations or provided inaccurate information during the investigation about the calls.”
Leiper’s report makes systemic recommendations to remedy gaps in Town policy concerning lobbying activity and gifts to members of Town staff and elected members.
Neither the Commissioner’s report nor a media release from the municipality say who the developer is. The Commissioner would not weigh in on any merits of the development application, but suggests many felt the development would be an overall benefit to the community “and this may have been a factor in the willingness of some to help the process along via private communication channels. It also cultivated “back channels” of communication with some elected officials in what I concluded was a sustained effort to discover confidential information to assist in its negotiating strategy with the Town.”
Mayor Wauchope denied phone calls with developer
According to the report, Mayor Gord Wauchope initially denied having telephone conversations with the developer while the Mayor was out of Canada on vacation. It wasn’t until after Leiper showed the Mayor phone records of calls between his home, cell number and U.S. vacation location, and the developer, that he admitted the calls had taken place.
Councillor attempted to influence negotiations for future employment
The report says Councillor Loughead acted as a go-between with the agent for the developer and Town staff during active negotiations in March and April of 2018.
“He did this contrary to Council direction that the negotiations were to be carried out exclusively by Town staff and after Town staff requested that he not involve himself in the negotiation process.”
In May of 2017, Councillor Loughead had applied to work for the developer by sending a resume through the developer’s agent. He had also applied to work there in 2016.
Developer sent gifts to council members
The report goes on to say the developer sent gifts to the homes of council members and offered their families free meals, however Leiper says many councillors “properly refused” phone calls from the developer during the application process.
During the investigation, some witnesses accused others of lying to protect themselves, according to the report; it went as far as one witness telling another to “keep his mouth shut.”
Leiper’s report indicates the developer has denied contacting any member of Council to discover information about the closed sessions, but “this statement was found to be not believable, due to the volume of calls to multiple elected officials, the reports about such calls by members of Council, the timing of the calls, the evidence of lobbying of members during the negotiations and the absence of any other reason for sheer volume of calls to elected officials at key stages.”
Town Staff Aided in Investigation
The 53-page report takes note Town staff was cooperative, providing documentation helpful in putting together a timeline.
This was a positive development and allowed the investigation to begin expeditiously.
While punitive measures will be discussed at a September 5th council meeting, the report does make certain recommendations: the Integrity Commissioner is suggesting that Town Council vote to suspend Mayor Wauchope and Councillor Loughead’s pay for up to sixty days, while Lougheed’s be suspended for a maximum of thirty.