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Georgina mayor on leave of absence from LSRCA

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In Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority
Nov 13th, 2013
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By Heidi Riedner yorkregion.com  Nov 13, 2013

Georgina Mayor Rob Grossi was granted a leave of absence from his LSRCA chairperson post until after its AGM in January. He faces ministry charges for allegedly dumping fill without permission. Mr. Grossi has told media he has permits for work he did in July.

Mr. Grossi requested a leave until Ministry of Natural Resources Public Lands Act charges against him are resolved through the courts, however, the LSRCA board granted the leave without compensation until its annual general meeting next January. While serving as chairperson,

Mr. Grossi was charged in August by the ministry for work he did on his Lake Drive property in Georgina. Two counts were laid under ministry legislation for dumping material on Crown land July 25 without written consent and unlawfully filling shorelands. “Charges laid by another environmental agency against a serving member of the LSRCA board of directors is a matter of serious concern and a matter that the board of directors felt was imperative to review,” said newly appointed chairperson Debbie Bath in a Nov. 8 LSRCA public statement.

The LSRCA did not comment on ministry charges, stating it, as well as the court case, do not fall under its jurisdiction. But it did address its own governance and policy issues as a result of the matter. As a public agency serving as leaders in the protection and restoration of the environmental health and quality of Lake Simcoe and its watershed, it is the requirement and expectation of the LSRCA’s board that all serving members “conduct themselves with the highest level of professional integrity”, the statement reads.

Mr. Grossi was censured for conduct unbecoming a board member in the fulfillment of his duties after a special meeting of the LSRCA board Nov. 1. Fellow board member and Georgina Councillor Phil Craig was the lone “no” vote to the motion. Mr. Grossi was also suspended from his position on the Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation and issued a violation notice and additional fee for a retroactive permit as a result of the meeting.

The LSRCA confirmed written permission to carry out shoreline restoration work was granted July 31, which remains a valid and active approval. In the course of its investigation, however, the board became aware material had been placed, whether intentional or not, prior to written permission being granted. The Authority will not be pursuing charges, however, since the permit issued July 31 achieves compliance and resolves the violation in accordance with its policy and practices.

The board began its review of the matter of its chairperson facing ministry charges Sept. 17, which included outside legal counsel from the law firm of Beard Winter LLP. The matter was again addressed by the board in closed session at its Sept. 27 and Oct. 25 meetings. “The board of directors has taken this matter seriously and is satisfied that it has completed a careful, thorough and detailed review,” Ms Bath states, adding the board is satisfied Mr. Grossi was afforded the same service, information and respect as is provided to all applicants seeking LSRCA permits. It also heard from Mr. Grossi on two occasions during the course of its investigation.

While Mr. Grossi did not attend the Nov. 1 meeting, he did address the board through an open letter, in which he requested a leave of absence. Mr. Grossi is an appointed board member by the Regional Municipality of York and was elected chairperson during the board’s annual general meeting. The LSRCA board does not have the power to rescind municipal appointments.

While Mr. Grossi stated in the letter he is prepared to answer any and all charges, he felt it would be irresponsible to challenge any of the information that has been presented to the LSRCA board outside of the court case to which he is compelled to respond.

He did, however, offer his intent “was never knowingly to compromise myself or the authority” when he began discussions with the LSRCA and contractors regarding how he could protect his shoreline from erosion after spring high water events occurred. “I relied on what I believed was sound advice,” the letter states. “Over the years, I have had many conversations with staff members of the Authority about numerous issues. I believe you need to hear firsthand from them with respect to this issue,” it continues.

Ms Bath assured the public that in no way has the matter compromised the LSRCA’s ability to conduct its business to its usual high standards. “Our board will continue to exercise a high degree of integrity and accountability in all of our leadership and governance responsibilities,” she said. Nine member municipalities appoint members to serve on the LSRCA board of directors. It elects its chairperson and vice-chairperson at its annual general meetings, held the fourth Friday in January. Ms Bath will act as chairperson until either a new chairperson is appointed or until Mr. Grossi resumes his duties. Mr. Grossi attended court Oct. 25 and made disclosure to the LSRCA’s solicitor, according to the public statement. The matter was adjourned to Nov. 29.

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