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Judicial team hears from public in open-mic session

Judicial inquiry judge speaks to public and encourages input at Monday night meeting.
The team in charge of the Collingwood judicial inquiry including Shelly Fuhre, Janet Leiper, Frank Marrocco, Kirsten Thoreson and Peter Rehak.

A public information session last night gave Collingwood residents a chance to meet and speak to the team leading the inquiry into the 50 per cent sale of Collus to Powerstream in 2012.

Associate Chief Justice Frank Marrocco addressed the packed B and C meeting rooms at the Collingwood Public Library.

“A public inquiry is public,” said Marrocco. “It’s a public examination of a matter that has attracted the interests of the public. The task of the inquiry is to find out how and why the problem attracted the public’s attention and interest occured to determine whether there is a problem and if there is, how similar problems can be avoided in the future.”

The judge introduced the team working on the inquiry including his lead counsel Janet Leiper, one of Canada’s first integrity commissioners.

Leiper hasn’t been part of a public inquiry such as this one yet, but she has experience as an integrity commissioner and the investigation process related to that work. She is one of two integrity commissioners for The Blue Mountains.

“There are some similarities to an integrity commissioner’s work,” said Leiper. “They are both about getting to the truth.”

Leiper, Marrocco and the rest of the team including Associate Counsel Kirsten Thoreson, Executive Director Shelly Fuhre, and Director of Communications Peter Rehak, listened to 11 people give their perspective on the situation and ask questions about the Collus sale and resulting town capital projects (Centennial Aquatic Centre and Central Park Arena).

Comments ranged from defense of those involved in the decision, to suggestions aspects of the deal has appeared to be criminal.

Leiper acknowledged there are some impassioned comments and questions coming from members of the community.

“Human beings have a desire for fairness,” Leiper told CollingwoodToday following the public meeting. “That’s why we need process, and everybody needs the process to be fair ...

A lot of the issues that are part of the inquiry go back years. That’s part of the nature of a small town – of any town – people get really interested in the issues.”

Judge Marrocco carefully explained the inquiry is not a trial, even though it may look like one.

“It’s an investigation, and it’s different than most investigations because it’s public,” said Marrocco, who worked as counsel on the Walkerton water judicial inquiry. “Inquiries have a way of impacting legislation, regulations passed by the province and codes of conduct passed by the town. And generally, they can have an impact on policy.”

Paul Grennis, a Collingwood resident, was one of the 11 speakers during the public information session.

“In the event the entire inquiry is completed, if you deem there has been criminal activity, do you then send that information to the crown or the OPP? What would be the process?” asked Grennis.

“My responsibility is to report what happened,” said Marrocco. “I don’t recommend criminal charges, or tell someone they should sue someone else … I describe it, find out about it, put it down on paper for others to read … people who have the responsibility read it and do what they have to do.”

Former councillor Ian Chadwick, and current candidate for deputy mayor, said the inquiry was about two of many challenges “council faced and overcame.”

Chadwick said the action by Collingwood council to call for a public inquiry was “politically motivated,” and suggested the inquiry team compare the deal made in 2012 to the recent sale of Collus Powerstream undertaken by the current council.

“I trust you not let it descend into a witch hunt,” said Chadwick.

Councillor Kevin Lloyd is on the current council and was a member of council in 2012.

“I have a clear perspective,” said Lloyd. “The sale of 50 per cent of Collus [in 2012] was a decision that held the public’s interest at highest priority … I would make the same decisions today.”

Michael Blair, a candidate for mayor in the upcoming election, said he was interested in whether the process followed should remain the status quo or be changed.

“How was the purchase price arrived at?” he asked, among others requesting details of the sale and its oversight. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

John Worts, a former member of the Collus board said he did a “deep dive” into the particulars of the deal from Collus’ side and has “complete comfort in knowing it was all done to the industry standard.”

Peter Dunbar, former recreation director for the town of Collingwood, gave his perspective on the relationship between the YMCA and the town, suggesting there was history of “animosity” between the groups.

“This thing didn’t develop overnight, it’s been a long time coming,” said Dunbar.

Clay Powell, a Collingwood resident with a background in criminal law referenced an OPP investigation into the Sprung structure deal suggesting it appears to have been stopped. He recommended the inquiry call the investigating officer as a witness over the course of the investigation.

David O’Connor is legal counsel for Paul Bonwick, and presented at the meeting suggesting his client’s reputation has been smeared.

“This is all being done as a political witch hunt to advance the interests of the people who are promoting this,” said O’Connor during the meeting.

Dale Elley-Bristow said she wanted to know why Collingwood opted to sell while other towns, such as her former home (Sarnia) did not sell under the same circumstances of a changing Ontario energy industry.

Irene Francis Matwijec was the final speaker at the meeting. She asked where the money for the inquiry came from and why there was funds in a reserve for an inquiry but not for other needs in Collingwood.

“We will do our best to do our duty and make a full and proper inquiry and report to you as soon as it’s possible for us to do that,” said Marrocco. “I urge you all to pay attention to the inquiry.”

For the information on upcoming events, meetings, and public releases visit the inquiry website here.

Marrocco is currently hearing presentations from those seeking official standing in the public inquiry at town hall on Aug. 14 from 10 a.m. on. Once he has heard the presentations he will make a ruling on who will have standing in the hearing and the results will be posted on the inquiry website.

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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 15 years of experience as a local journalist
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