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Bluewater mayor accused of conflict of interest over wind development  

Credit:  By Vanessa Brown, Lakeshore Advance, www.lakeshoreadvance.com 12 July 2011 ~~

A conflict of interest complaint has been filed against the mayor of Bluewater in light of his alleged personal involvement with wind development in the municipality.

In his complaint – filed at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Goderich on June 22 – Bluewater resident William MacDougall alleged that Bluewater Mayor Bill Dowson, who is cited as the respondent, on May 16 participated in debate and voted on a resolution to charge wind developers $25,000 per future turbine erected in the municipality without declaring a pecuniary interest. Dowson and his two children in 2008 signed lease agreements for their properties with the Barrie company Canadian Green Power Investment & Management Services Inc.

“A pecuniary interest of the respondent arises as a result of the contracts with Canadian Green Power Investment & Management Services Inc., which I verily believe exist, between each of the respondent, his spouse… and his children… which contracts provide that Canadian Green Power Investment & Management Services Inc. shall pay monetary consideration to the respondent, his spouse, and his children, for the purpose of providing the said company with the present or future right to use the lands owned by the respondent, his spouse, and his children, for the construction and operation of wind turbines on lands owned by them and located within the Municipality of Bluewater,” MacDougall said in a sworn affidavit filed with the application.

“As a result of the above-stated pecuniary interest, the respondent was not entitled to participate in discussions or cast or influence the votes on any matters concerning wind turbines in the Municipality of Bluewater.”

According to court papers, public meetings held in 2006 and 2008 “publicly announced that Canadian Green Power Investment & Management Services Inc. was working to bring a large-scale wind power project to the municipality.”

Court papers include the minutes of various public meetings held between 2006 and 2011 in which the mayor participated in wind development discussion without declaring a conflict.

The affidavit highlights a draft copy of the minutes of the May 9 planning committee meeting, at which time the mayor declared a conflict of interest. During the meeting, council voted to bring the $25,000 annual fee resolution to the May 16 regular council meeting.

While he declared a conflict on May 9, Dowson did not do so on May 16, saying he had spoken with a lawyer.

“Until (developers) arrive at your property to ask if they can do a site plan or a minor variance to your property, that’s when you’ve got a conflict of interest,” he said at the time. “At this time, I won’t be taking a conflict of interest.”

The mayor voted in favour of the fee.

“This vote by the respondent together with his failure to declare a conflict of interest pursuant to the relevant provisions of the Municipal Conflicts of Interest Act give rise to this application,” the affidavit explained.

MacDougall is applying for an order that the mayor’s seat be vacated, and an order disqualifying him from running for re-election in Bluewater or any Ontario council or local board for seven years.

Neither MacDougall nor his lawyer could be reached for comment.

In an interview, Dowson denied he was in conflict.

“I’m quite confident I haven’t stepped out of the box,” he said. “I’m here to protect and to give the best possible job for the Municipality of Bluewater and all the ratepayers for or against turbines.”

Dowson confirmed he signed a lease agreement for his property with “Ontario Hydro,” saying “if you have some kind of a lease agreement, that doesn’t mean you’re getting paid anything more than that.”

He added that he is prepared to explain why he declared a pecuniary interest on May 9 but didn’t on May 16.

The complaint, filed under Section 9 of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, asks for a declaration that William Floyd Dowson, a member of the municipal council of the Municipality of Bluewater, did contravene Section 5(1) of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

A hearing on the application is scheduled for Aug. 10 at the Goderich courthouse.

Source:  By Vanessa Brown, Lakeshore Advance, www.lakeshoreadvance.com 12 July 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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