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Elliot Lake mayor guilty of conflict of interest should be removed from office: Superior Court

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An Ontario Superior Court judge has found the mayor of Elliot Lake guilty of a conflict of interest and says he should be removed from office and banned for two years.

An Ontario Superior Court justice has directed the City Of Elliot Lake not to formally replace Chris Patrie as mayor until Patrie’s appeal is heard. (File photo)

Chris Patrie was councillor for the City of Elliot Lake when he was accused by the integrity commissioner of trying to influence the local government's decisions about where to build a new $30 million taxpayer-funded recreational facility. The project was something that city council has been considering relocating and expanding since 2006.

A complaint about the councillor was filed in March 2019 by former Mayor Dan Marchisella.

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 is accused of impacting the council vote on the facility after threatening another councillor.

"Patrie influenced public policy by actions inside and outside of council chamber, by attempting to dissuade fellow elected members from building the project in the downtown core," the integrity commissioner said.

"The (integrity commissioner) alleges that from on or about November 2017 to April 2019, (Patrie's) actions included threatening another member of limited means with the legal jeopardy of an ethics complaint if this member did not recuse himself from the vote to purchase downtown core property for the hub."

The report said Patrie is also accused of pressuring city staff to write favourable reports for the location near his plaza, even though numerous professional reports had never considered it a viable option.

"When Patrie learned his actions were being investigated, he threatened one of the investigators with legal action and attempted to seize upon an administrative oversight to defund, terminate and demand a refund form the integrity commissioner (to avoid accountability.)," the report said.

Now, five months after the two-day hearing in August, Justice Annalisa S. Rasaiah released her decision on the matter.

Rasaiah said Patrie is guilty of breaching two sections of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, 5(1) and (2).

"This court finds that the appropriate penalty for this breach is removal from office and disqualification from being a member for a period of two years," the judge said in her decision.

Patrie, who was first elected as a city councillor in 2006, unseated incumbent Dan Marchisella in the October 2022 municipal election for the mayor's seat. Marchisella came in second with 461 votes less than Patrie's 1,619.

Correction

The City of Elliot Lake's integrity commissioner in 2019 was incorrectly identified as Robert Swayze. He was not retained until Sept. 14, 2020. Expertise for Municipalities (E4m) was appointed the city's integrity commissioner from Feb. 11, 2019. 

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