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Councillor calls leaking of legal memo 'flat-out disgusting' in wake of BIA byelection

Emergency meeting called this morning to discuss leaked document and the next steps; Group reconvening this afternoon

What Coun. Mike McCann once called "a season of chaos” seems to be continuing as the Downtown BIA held a closed meeting Friday morning after a legal document was leaked regarding the business association's recent byelection results.

BIA members met this morning at Barrie City Hall for an emergency meeting to review a confidential internal memo that had gotten into the hands of members of the public.

According to a source close to the meetings, the memo contains a complaint regarding the alleged improper use of proxy votes in the byelection to add six new members to the BIA board. The byelection was required after six people resigned from the 12-member board back in the fall due to in-fighting among its members. 

BIA board interim chair Coun. Sergio Morales, who spoke to the group gathered in the Sir Robert Barrie Room at city hall prior to the meeting going in-camera, expressed his disdain for someone leaking the memo.

“For our elections to be held in question is flat-out disgusting,” said Morales. “When the letter was shared with council, there were members away and members who would never share it. I have no proof that it was a member of this board who leaked it, but if it was going to be leaked, it would have been leaked right away.

“When we sent it to council for about 48 hours, my phone didn’t ring once," he added. "Within hours of sending it to the board, the letter got leaked.”

On Friday, Morales admitted he should have known better and told the board members present that moving forward he hopes all letters get salted. Salting is the act of handing out information to different people with each memo having something slightly different, enabling a leak to be more easily traced.

On Monday night, city council was expected to approve the six new members after giving the byelection results initial approval last week at general committee. However, the results were sent back to the BIA for further consideration without any discussion. 

After that council meeting, Morales told BarrieToday that the review could include confirming voting results and procedures, and that he was "not aware of at this time" of any irregularities.

A byelection was held to bring new members onto the BIA board, which has been full of disarray since last year.

In October 2019, six members resigned, followed by the two councillor respresentatives being removed by council and managing director Craig Stevens stepping down in November after taking a new job.

Joining Morales in Friday's in-camera meeting were current board members Randy Aylwin, Chad Ballantyne, Teresa Woolard (via video) and Michelle Huggins (via video). Also present was Ian McIntosh from Barriston Law, BIA staffers Stacey Zubczyk and Kristen Eatch, and a representative from Barrie police.

Morales told BarrieToday that the reason for going behind closed doors was to discuss client-solicitor privilege of internal legal advice to the board. The closed session began at 9:13 a.m. and ended at 11:02 a.m., when the emergency meeting was postponed until later this afternoon.

“We’re reconvening the same public meeting, so we’re still discussing the legal opinion for the internal memo, but we needed to call a recess until 3 p.m. since we are losing the room to another group,” Morales said.

Morales said no motions or direction was taken during this morning's in-camera meeting. 

The Ward 9 councillor also says he understands there are a lot of people who want to know what's happening.

Morales told BarrieToday they are “expecting but not guaranteeing a decision” to come down today. 

BarrieToday asked Ballantyne, Aylwin, McIntosh and Tourism Barrie's Kathleen Trainor, who chosen to oversee the byelection, for comment on the proceedings and the situation surrounding the BIA byelections, but they all declined to comment.

The emergency meeting reconvenes at 3 p.m. at city hall in the Sir Robert Barrie Room.


Shawn Gibson

About the Author: Shawn Gibson

Shawn Gibson is a staff writer based on Barrie
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