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Tory not guilty of conflict of interest, Integrity Commissioner decides; Chaleff disagrees, but says he can’t afford to fight/lose in court

Photo: Toronto.ca

Toronto’s Integrity Commissioner Jonathan Batty has released his report into a conflict of interest complaint filed against Mayor John Tory.

“Having completed my inquiry, the evidence does not show that Mayor Tory violatd the MCIA (Municipal Conflict of Interest Act),” Batty wrote in his report. “I will not be applying to a judge to request such a determination, or impose any penalty.

The complaint was filed by Toronto resident Adam Chaleff in July alleging that due to Tory’s ties to Rogers Communications — the telecommunications giant that owns the Toronto Blue Jays — the mayor should have recused himself from a June 15 vote in council concerning the ActiveTO program.

Tory is a Rogers shareholder and an adviser to the Rogers Control Trust (RCT), a role that comes with annual compensation of $100,000. The RCT, set up after founder Ted Rogers died, is run by family and friends with voting rights. Tory publicly disclosed these connections in 2014.

“I have reached my decision based on this evidence, my analysis of how the law applies to these circumstances and the submissions I received from Mr. Chaleff and Mayor Tory. My reasons are set out below. If Mr. Chaleff disagrees with my conclusion he is able to apply to a judge to request this determination himself.”

Click to read the full Integrity Commissioner’s Dec. 20 report regarding Mayor Tory

Complainant Adam Chaleff, who had in previous years filed a successful complaint against then-Mayor Rob Ford, took to Twitter and issued a thread of responses to Batty’s report. Chaleff closed by saying he cannot afford to pursue and potentially lose a court case against Mayor Tory and that this is “the END” of his complaint.

Chaleff’s Twitter thread is reproduced in full, below:

“John Tory trying to serve two masters as mayor and a Rogers bigwig. Even though he has narrowly escaped legal accountability, Tory owes Toronto an apology for letting his Rogers interests interfere with the public interest.

Though the IC found that Tory had a “pecuniary interest” — a private interest distinct from the people of Toronto generally — because of his role with Rogers, the IC concluded that Tory did not contravene the MCIA. I disagree with this conclusion.

The IC says that Tory did not need to declare his interest in ActiveTO because his interest (and the Blue Jays’/Rogers’ interests) were too remote. The IC found this to be the case because in spite of publicly claiming ActiveTO “drastically” impacted their business, the Jays’ actually saw no impact to their attendance on ActiveTO days. Though I am willing to accept the Blue Jays lied (at Mark Grimes’ behest) about ActiveTO’s impact, the remoteness/insignificance exception in the MCIA is not a simple accounting exercise.

The MCIA has 11 exceptions for when a politician has a pecuniary interest but does not need to declare it. The final one is: ‘an interest of the member which is so remote or insignificant in its nature that it cannot reasonably be regarded as likely to influence the member.’

This exception is not about accounting but about Tory’s interest and the perception of that interest. Tory did not do an analysis of Blue Jays attendance to find out if he really had an interest. He became aware of the Jays’ letter and took its content at face value.

I contend that as a result of both Tory’s knowledge at the time and the perception that the Blue Jays had created about the impact of ActiveTO, Tory’s interest was neither remote or insignificant.

Now what? Though I am free to bring this matter before a judge, it would be at great personal financial risk. Tory is very wealthy, I am not. After Rob Ford got off on an MCIA technicality in 2013, he went after a citizen for $500k. I can’t take that risk so this is the /END.”