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Council agrees to consider 'limited communication' during judicial inquiry

One councillor calls for limit to council communication related to judicial inquiry. Deputy Mayor reminds council, crowd of difference between OPP investigation and judicial inquiry
Councillor Bob Madigan. Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

As the judicial inquiry into the 50 per cent sale of Collus to PowerStream in 2012 moves forward, the public may be hearing less from members of council on the sale, the inquiry and any matter related to how the money from the sale was spent.

At a council meeting last night, council voted unanimously to have staff prepare a report on options for limiting council’s communications with the public while the inquiry is ongoing.

The motion was put forward by Councillor Bob Madigan.

“It’s about the stoppage of misinformation,” said Madigan. “It diffuses and depoliticizes it… it means we can’t really give a personal opinion on it.”

Madigan clarified he wanted staff to present ways to limit council’s communication to the public on matters related to the Collus sale, the projects funded by the sale money and the inquiry. It wouldn’t apply to other non-related matters of council.

It isn’t clear what those options would be as staff has just received the direction to prepare the report.

Soon after Madigan’s motion in the same meeting, Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson made a statement seemingly addressing the small crowd that remained at the meeting’s close.

He addressed the allegations in recent news from an unsealed court document detailing a police investigation from 2014 into fraud and breach of trust. The investigation is ongoing and is related to the Sprung structure deals for Centennial pool and Central Park arena, both of which were funded by proceeds of the 2012 Collus sale.

The allegations suggest Paul Bonwick, Mayor Sandra Cooper’s brother, received a $750,000 payment as a consultant hired by BLT Construction, the contractors hired by the town to build the structures.

“The mayor has stated today she was not aware of the payment to her brother,” said Saunderson, adding he asked senior staffers about the matter recently and concluded they were not aware of the payments.

“A public inquiry is not the same as an OPP investigation,” said Saunderson. “The OPP investigation is to look into criminal activity. It’s not our responsibility and we have no control over it.”

Saunderson said the judicial inquiry will look at not only the how the sale of half of Collus took place, but at where and how the money from the sale was spent.

“The inquiry is looking into how we account for every dollar we spent,” said Saunderson.

There had been a large crowd and standing room only at the beginning of the June 25 council meeting as protestors held a rally in front of town hall before the meeting and finished the rally by sitting in the gallery of the council chambers for some of the meeting. The protesters were shouting "we want answers" after the allegations from the OPP documents came to light this week. 

For more on the judicial inquiry and its status, click here.

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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 13 years of experience as a local journalist
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