An Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) investigation has found there were no improprieties in a 2004 land swap between the Town of Halton Hills and North Halton Golf and Country Club. The OPP Anti-Rackets Section released the findings of its investigation Friday. In the media release it was stated OPP determined there was no relationship between the request of the land by the golf club from the Town and the subsequent resignation of former Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Steve Andrews (in July 2003). "The investigation also determined that any Town councillors with connection to the golf club declared their conflict when required and no improprieties were uncovered," it was stated in the release. OPP began looking into the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Andrews and the nine-acre land swap following a request last September by Halton Regional Police, who were originally investigating the matter after receiving a complaint last year from a group of Halton Hills citizens. On July 7, 2003, Halton Hills council approved the Arbor Valley subdivision being developed by Mattamy Homes. That same evening NHGCC president David McNally complained that nine acres of open space located within the Arbor Valley development abutting the golf course had been promised to NHGCC in a longstanding agreement with the Arbor Valley owner. But those nine acres had been dedicated to the town as open space. McNally had accused the Town (Andrews) of "interfering" with that longstanding agreement. Later that evening, council held an in-camera meeting, which has long been speculated to have included a vote on the fate of Andrews. His resignation was approved three days later. Several council members subsequently stated on the record that McNally's complaint over the nine acres and the Andrews' resignation were not related. The land swap deal was concluded a year later in June 2004 when the Town's nine acres were swapped for a similar-sized parcel on NHGCC's southeast corner, adjacent to the Stewart Mills subdivision. The deal had no financial impact. NHGCC used the nine acres as a buffer zone between the course and the new homes, while the other parcel, now owned by the Town, will be used as part of the town's trail system.
In deciding to turn the investigation over to the OPP, Staff Sgt. Don Cousens of Halton Police said it was "because of the fact we had a local council member (Clark Somerville) on the Halton Regional Police Services Board, (and) we wanted that transparency and an independent investigation." Derrick Williams, a Georgetown resident who was among the citizens who initiated the complaint with police, said Friday he was "very surprised" by the outcome of the investgation. "The way they (Halton Hills council) wouldn't tell us what happened in-camera we thought there was something wrong. If they had told us, we wouldn't have bothered going any further," said Williams, who has appeared before council more than once seeking answers on the land swap and Andrews'resignation. The other citizens who filed the complaint with Halton Police were George Marcoux, Stephen Grasby, Al Kirouac and Ted Thompson-- all who have had public disputes on various matters with the Town. The findings of the OPP investigation did not come as a surprise to Halton Hills Mayor Rick Bonnette, who said he was confident "there was absolutely no wrongdoing" on the part of council.
"I felt all along that the council acted in the best interest of taxpayers on the land transfer," said Bonnette. "But the police have to follow through because otherwise we would be disappointed if they didn't." Bonnette said he was "completely satisfied
with the investigation," and added it was done by the OPP because "some conspiracy theorists would have questioned if it was done by Halton Police."
"These costly investigations on whims from a few people in town do cost tax dollars and it's unfortunate that a few in town were going to Toronto national newspapers to discredit our community and for what purpose-- their own political gain," said Bonnette. McNally, president of NHGCC, said police questioned him about the land transfer. "I couldn't see any other outcome than what they came out with," said McNally, who didn't have any concerns with the golf club's dealing in the land swap, and was confident that council members didn't break any rules or laws. "I wasn't concerned at all about the whole thing. I found it alarming in the sense it's (the police investigation) a waste of taxpayers' dollars," said McNally. "There was nothing ever there," said Councillor Jane Fogal, sister of McNally and a member of the North Halton golf club. She was one of the councillors who declared a conflict on the land swap issue, and didn't vote. "It's just astonishing that people came forward with this," said Fogal. Councillor Moya Johnson, who also declared a conflict on the land transfer was confident in their actions. Her husband at the time worked at the golf club. "I was pleased they found out that every thing we did was right," said Johnson. "I know when I have a conflict, and always declare it." The third councillor to declare a conflict was Bryan Lewis, a member of the club.