The judge hearing the conflict of interest case against Belleville Mayor Taso Christopher has reserved his decision until a later date.
Justice Timothy Ray made the announcement in Kingston Superior Court Friday, at the end of a two hour session in which lawyers for both sides gave their final submissions.
City resident and realtor Gary Davidson has claimed that under the Ontario Municipal Act, Mayor Taso Christopher should have left the council chambers and not voted last fall on a major project involving infrastructure upgrades around Maitland Drive in Thurlow ward, because he was a director of a company that owned some land that the project would require.
Davidson’s lawyer, Tony Fleming of Kingston, said the mayor knew the financial interest and knew he ought not to deal with it.
Fleming said Mayor Christopher’s actions are significant because he declared a conflict on other occasions but not this one. He said Mayor Christopher knew the financial interest and knew he ought not to deal with it.
Fleming pointed out that a numbered company purchased the land in July but the mayor said he was not aware of it until about eight months later in March, despite the fact he was a director with the company, and his brother was an owner.
The judge questioned whether or not there would have been a directors’ meeting in all that time when the mayor could have learned of it.
Fleming said the mayor had not done “due diligence.”
Mayor Christopher did attend the court session.
His lawyer, John Mascarin of Toronto, argued that Mayor Christopher saw this project as important for all the city, that all the city would benefit, and he wanted to see the project, rehabilitation of Maitland Drive and the roundabout, go ahead.
He said the vote October 26, 2016, during the city’s capital budget meeting, involved the design of the project.
But Justice Ray pointed out that the mayor admitted under oath that to go ahead with the project included acquisition of property, “That’s far more than design.”
It was then that Ray shouted loudly that Mascarin should stick to the evidence, “If not, I’m not going to listen. I’m not being persuaded and quite frankly you’re losing ground.”
Mascarin argued Mayor Christopher had declared a conflict twice in closed session, it was not likely he would be influenced by a $5000 sliver of land, and it was an honest error in judgement.”
Referring to the mayor, Mascarin said, “It was an honest bone fide error in judgement. He (the mayor) failed to recognize he had a conflict of interest on the issue, he acted in good faith. Nothing says he acted regarding a fraud.”
Mascarin repeated that it was an honest error in judgement.