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Georgina Mayor Rob Grossi’s comments upset LSRCA

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In Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority
Dec 4th, 2013
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By Heidi Riedner Georgina Advocate

Georgina Mayor Robert Grossi’s public statement last Friday explaining why he pleaded guilty to filling in shore lands without a permit on his private property has “deeply disappointed” the board of the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority.

“It can certainly be read as calling into question the professional competency and integrity of the board of directors and senior staff, which is simply unfounded,” LSRCA chairperson Debbie Bath said Tuesday.

Mr. Grossi’s written statement — released to the media Friday after his court case was settled with a plea bargain and a $1,500 fine — addressed work done on his private Lake Drive property that landed him in hot water with the Natural Resources Ministry last August.

Maintaining since July he had all appropriate approvals in place and refusing further comment while his case was proceeding, Mr. Grossi opted to pay a fine and go public now rather than wait for a lengthy and costly court battle.

“I plead guilty (to a charge filling in shore lands without a permit) so that I could explain my side of the story now instead of spending $20,000-plus and being able to only tell my side of the story when the trial may occur in three or six months or longer, depending on when the court would hear my case,” Mr. Grossi told The Advocate last Friday.

A second charge for depositing material on public lands without the written consent of the minister was withdrawn.

In a written statement, Mr. Grossi denies work was done without permits, fill other than granite boulders was used and that any work was completed in defiance of any inspection or order from any approval agency.

“The matter was resolved in court and I’ll leave it at that,” a senior spokersperson with the ministry said Tuesday when asked to clarify why Mr. Grossi was charged if all the appropriate approvals were in place, as he contends.

To ensure repair on a section of his shoreline property that was washed out in the spring was carried out properly under environmental requirements, Mr. Grossi said he relied on the expertise of the LSRCA.

Specifically, he refers to the LSRCA’s director of planning and development services, Rob Baldwin, and its general manager of watershed management, Mike Walters.

It was they, Mr. Grossi asserts, who told him the shoreline work was simply a repair and who suggested the LSRCA permit, while minor and probably not necessary, should be applied for since the mayor was an elected official and the sitting chairperson of the LSRCA board at the time.

Three truckloads of granite boulders were brought to the property in advance of receiving the LSRCA permit, Mr. Grossi said, because he was advised by those senior managers it was OK to do so.

Mr. Grossi also said he was told the LSRCA permit was the only paperwork necessary after he specifically asked if other permits were required.

He admits 15 of the stockpiled boulders fell into the lake after the pile shifted, but Mr. Grossi says it was a “mistake” and that he considered it “insignificant” since the contractor would be doing the work within the next two weeks.

Mr. Grossi says he was surprised, therefore, when he was informed by the ministry he needed provincial permits to proceed, despite being advised by the LSRCA to the contrary, as well as the fact he was being served with a court summons for the granite boulders that had fallen into the lake.

“I couldn’t understand since I had done everything that I was asked to do why I was being charged with something that clearly wasn’t intentional, was ‘insignificant’ — how the LSRCA referred to it — and was going to be rectified as soon as my contractor did the work, which has subsequently been done and approved by both the MNR and LSRCA.”

He also called into question the LSRCA’s investigation of the matter regarding the “minor permit at my property”.

Mr. Grossi says he was not privy to presentations made to the board, that both Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Walters were not allowed to discuss the matter with him and that he believes both senior managers have not had the opportunity to tell the board what they advised him to do.

“I, like others within the Lake Simcoe watershed, have relied on the expertise of those at the LSRCA,” stated Mr. Grossi.

“Both Rob Baldwin and Mike Walters are professionals and I respect their advice. I am surprised, however, that they have not been allowed or been able to respond to this issue. Hopefully, when they are allowed, the board at the LSRCA and others will see that what I did was unintentional, insignificant and without malice.”

But the LSRCA board maintains the matter was not insignificant, as Mr. Grossi contends.

It further affirms it completed a lengthy and thorough investigation into the matter and was completely satisfied that it had all the information it required to conclude its review, including information regarding staff conduct and comments related to the permit required for the shoreline repair work.

Mr. Grossi was provided the opportunity to address the board during its investigation, added Ms Bath, who replaced Mr. Grossi in the position after he requested and was granted a leave of absence Nov. 1 in light of the charges against him.

“Let me assure you that the board of directors commends staff for its professionalism. This is not an insignificant matter,” Ms Bath said.

Georgina Mayor Rob Grossi ordered to pay $1,500

By Heidi Riedner Georgina Advocate December 1 2013

Georgina’s Mayor Robert Grossi has been fined $1,500 and given 90 days to pay after two charges, laid against him by the Natural Resources Ministry in August, were settled in court last week.

Mr. Grossi, who stepped down last month as the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority’s chairperson pending resolution of the charges, entered a guilty plea to the charge of filling shore lands without the authority of a work permit, a senior spokesperson for the Ministry confirmed today.

“I plead guilty so that I could explain my side of the story now instead of spending $20,000-plus and being able to only tell my side of the story when the trial may occur in three or six months or longer, depending on when the court would hear my case,” Mr. Grossi told The Advocate last Friday.

A second charge for depositing material on public lands without the written consent of the Minister was withdrawn.

The matter, which involved stabilizing the shoreline on Mr. Grossi’s private Lake Drive property July 25, was decided in Newmarket Provincial Offences Court Nov. 25.

While serving as the conservation authority’s chairperson, Mr. Grossi — who requested and was granted a leave from the board Nov. 1 in light of allegations — was charged by the Ministry in August.

Maintaining since the charges were laid in July that he sought out and followed proper protocol based on expertise and advise from senior LSRCA staff, Mr. Grossi said he now hopes the public “will see that what I did was unintentional, insignificant and without malice” in a written statement also released to the media Friday.

Although he was advised to take the issue to court, Mr. Grossi preferred the plea bargain avenue to save himself $20,000 in expected legal fees, he said.

“I am not prepared to waste my money on this issue,” he further stated in the release.

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