Caledon land-use fight heats up
Resident files conflict-of-interest claims against mayor, councillor
A Caledon resident is trying to remove the mayor and a councillor from office, filing conflict-of-interest claims in Ontario Superior Court alleging they “pushed development to the west of the town,” where they own or owned land.
“I believe it’s in the public interest,” said applicant Kelly Darnley, a 50-year resident of Caledon.
“This process will allow transparency and accountability to come into the public realm.”
Mayor Allan Thompson is named in one conflict application and Councillor Gord McClure is named in the other.
The applications lay out similar allegations against both politicians.
“I have not been served with any court documents to date, however, I can confidently say that any allegations of municipal conflict of interest against me would be baseless and without merit,” Thompson said last week. McClure did not respond to phone calls. The court documents were filed in Orangeville and dated July 20. Thompson and McClure have not filed responses.
The claims involve parcels of land in southwest Caledon, where Thompson and McClure independently own or owned land.
The conflict application against Thompson includes the following allegation:
“The respondent has actively pushed development to the west of the town where he or his family members have a direct or indirect interest in substantial land holdings, thereby increasing the value of the lands. In fact, the respondent has already profited from the conflict.”
The application states that Thompson “voted multiple times on motions” where he had an interest, without declaring a conflict.
Municipal councils in Ontario are governed by the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, which forbids politicians from voting on an issue if he or she has a pecuniary interest.
The act leaves a judge just one penalty option: removal from office, unless it’s deemed their actions were inadvertent.
Property transaction documents dated April 20 show Thompson sold land to developer Primont Homes for $9.4 million.
Thompson told the Star last month that he participated in votes on April 14 at a Caledon town council meeting in which councillors directed staff to ask the province to “expedite” release of lands along a proposed transportation corridor where his land was situated. Releasing the lands would open them up to development.
“The bottom line is, in my opinion, I’ve done nothing wrong because it is a provincial initiative and they’re representing my municipality and the other areas that it involves,” Thompson said at the time.
Thompson claimed the land deal was settled many months before the April meeting.
“Theoretically, I didn’t own the land at that point. Basically everything was firmed in November of last year. The closing was in this April. But the bottom line is, under the Municipal Act, I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m perfectly up and up.”
By “firmed,” he meant a verbal commitment, Thompson said.
Ownership documents show that McClure owns land very close to the parcel Thompson sold, in a 2,000-acre site that has been proposed for development.
When asked in June if he should have declared a conflict of interest when that development was dealt with at council meetings, including the April 14 meeting, McClure stated: “I have conducted myself to the best of my knowledge and understanding in my role as local councillor. In future, when in doubt I will seek a legal opinion.”
Thompson publicly defended himself against an allegation that he had personally profited from the land deal during a Region of Peel council meeting that dealt with the controversial issue of how land use in Caledon is being planned. Thompson, later in the meeting, led a walkout by Caledon council members at the region, when Brampton and Mississauga members called upon the province to investigate and make recommendations about development decisions in Caledon. Later in the month, that motion succeeded.
Two weeks ago, the town of Caledon issued a press release stating that it was applying to the Ontario Superior Court to quash Peel Region council’s decision to bring in the province to examine land use and development.
The conflict-of-interest applications against Thompson and McClure state the matter will go before a judge for a first hearing Oct. 13, in Orangeville.