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Court rules against ousted Elliot Lake mayor’s appeal

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A court has dismissed an appeal filed by Elliot Lake's Chris Patrie, who wanted to overturn a lower court decision that saw him removed from the mayor's office earlier this year for violating conflict-of-interest laws prior to being elected in 2022.

A court has dismissed an appeal filed by Elliot Lake's Chris Patrie, who wanted to overturn a lower court decision that saw him removed from the mayor's office earlier this year. (Supplied/City of Elliot Lake/File photo)The ruling by a three-judge panel means Patrie will not be returning to Elliot Lake's City Hall anytime soon.

The former mayor was removed from office in January after a judge ruled he violated two sections of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act (MCIA) during his previous term as a city councillor – the complaint filed in 2019 related to his work on determining a location for a future $30-million multi-purpose sports and recreational complex referred to as "the Hub."

In a 37-page decision released late Friday, the Ontario Superior Court’s Divisional Court ruled against each of Patrie’s eight grounds for much-publicized appeal to the higher court.

He had argued that the original judge made mistakes when admitting and weighing the evidence against him and had wrongly interpreted the Municipal Act.

The panel however ruled that the original judge properly admitted and weighed all the evidence against him and the imposed penalty – a disqualification from city council for two years – was appropriate.

Patrie also argued that the more than $89,000 penalty imposed against him was inappropriate, but the court refused to alter the lower court’s order that he pay the almost $90,000 in legal costs to the City of Elliot Lake’s Integrity Commissioner.

“Mr. Patrie has failed to identify an error of law or principle in the application judge’s costs decision,” reads the ruling.

“There is no reason to interfere with this discretionary decision of the application judge.”

Having lost the appeal, Patrie will have to pay an additional $12,000 to cover the integrity commissioner's subsequent legal costs and he remains disqualified from running for office until January 2025.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW

The role of mayor of the City of Elliot Lake has remained vacant since Patrie was ousted, with city councillor Andrew Wannan serving as acting mayor since January.

The city council will now decide how to fill the city's top job permanently, with the options including the appointment of a new mayor or the holding of a by-election – with the next general vote not scheduled until 2026.

Patrie is disqualified from running for office until January 2025.

A 37-page decision released by a three-judge panel of the Ontario Superior Court’s Divisional Court has ruled the penalties imposed on ousted Elliot Lake mayor Chris Patrie were appropriate -- including his two-year ban from office. (Supplied/City of Elliot Lake/File photo)

THE ORIGINAL COMPLAINT

Former Mayor Dan Marchisella filed the complaint about then councillor Patrie in March 2019.

The complaint accused that while lobbying for the new multisport complex to be located behind the strip mall he and his wife own instead of the recommended former Algo Mall site, Patrie threaten councillor Luc Cyr and impacted the council’s vote on the facility.

In September 2019, the city’s Integrity Commissioner concluded that Patrie did violate the MCIA by lobbying the mayor, fellow councillors and members of the public to build “the Hub” on land across the street from Oakland Plaza – the strip mall owned by Klover Building Inc., which is owned by Patrie and his wife.

Particularly, the accusations that Patrie bullied and intimidated Cyr into abstaining from the council vote, in 2018, to purchase the former site of the Algo Centre Mall as a potential location for “the Hub.” Because Cyr didn’t vote, that motion ended in a tie and the purchase was postponed.

Then in October 2019, the Integrity Commissioner commenced a court application to determine whether Patrie had indeed contravened the MCIA and if so, what the appropriate penalty should be.

The application was heard in August 2021.

TIMING OF THE COURTS DECISIONS

Following the hearing in 2021 a decision was not rendered until Jan. 9, 2023 – nearly 18 months later.

During those 18 months, Patrie had run for mayor and won the 2022 election. However, the judge’s ruling banning him from holding office for two years took effect immediately.

NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED

Patrie has been fighting since January to overturn the court’s ruling and return to City Hall as mayor of Elliot Lake, but Friday’s decision from the Divisional Court leaves him in almost exact same position. 

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