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HomeNewsIntegrity commissioner rules Gravenhurst councillor made error 'in good faith'

Integrity commissioner rules Gravenhurst councillor made error ‘in good faith’

Gravenhurst Coun. Sandy Cairns will not be penalized for failing to declare a conflict of interest during a Dec. 2023 council meeting. 

Suzanne Craig, the town’s integrity commissioner, told council during its April 16 meeting that when Cairns put forward a motion that council participate in the 2025 Communities in Bloom it was an “error in judgment in good faith.” It proposed a staff-supported committee and a budget to pay for the entry fee and accommodation for the visiting judges. 

Craig estimated it would have cost the town around $700 if approved. 

She explained Cairns has helped with Gravenhurst’s participation in the competition for close to eight years. Craig references the Communities in Bloom website, which explains how the non-profit organization “strives to improve the tidiness, appearance and visual appeal of our neighbourhoods, parks, open spaces and streets through the imaginative use of flowers, plants and trees.” 

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“This is a totally voluntary position with no monetary or otherwise payment bonus or any personal gain,” wrote Cairns in a letter to Craig. “The only gain received is the betterment of the communities bringing people together promoting beautification and community pride.” 

Despite Cairns being an unpaid volunteer, Craig says she shouldn’t have been part of the discussion about the town’s participation. 

“She honestly believed that because she was an unpaid volunteer she did not have a pecuniary interest,” adds Craig 

She recommended no penalty be issued and Cairns should acknowledge she understands the report and that it’s up to her, not town staff, to determine if she has a conflict of interest in an item being discussed by council. 

Craig added this shouldn’t dissuade councillors from being part of community organizations, however, she reminded council of the importance of declaring a conflict of interest, if it’s necessary. 

“I understand the integrity commissioner’s complete report and I appreciate it,” said Cairns. 

The recommendations from Craig were approved by council with Couns. Jo Morphy and Penny Varney were the only ones to vote against it. Coun. Peter M. Johnston was away while Cairns was not allowed to vote. 

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