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Ongoing BIA byelection battle boils down to differing legal opinions

One side's lawyer says results should be voided and a new byelection held, while another says everything was fine and they should be ratified

The Downtown Barrie Business Improvement Association (BIA) is heading back to its lawyer for a second time after a legal document with advice for six members-elect countered what the BIA’s legal team had stated.

On Feb. 15, the BIA board set a March 3 deadline for concerns anyone had regarding the Jan. 24 byelection, which was necessary following the resignation of six people from the board within a span of only a few days back in October. 

A board meeting on Tuesday allowed the six members-elect to present what their lawyer had found to be fair in this situation.

Daniela Fuda, Rob Hamilton, Colin Hassey, Paul Lynch, Cait Patrick and Jason Ing are all contesting a BIA decision to not ratify the byelection results.

The BIA board’s legal counsel, from Barrie-based Barriston Law, suggested the byelection results be voided and a new one be held following a complaint from one of the candidates who alleges she didn’t know all the rules around the voting process before the Jan. 24 deadline. One of the main concerns was the use of proxy votes

BarrieToday obtained a copy of the legal document from Blaney McMurty LLP and lawyer Jack B. Siegel, who are representing the six members-elect. The document, dated March 3, was put together by Siegel, who specializes in election and voting processes. In it, the lawyer opposes Barriston’s advice and says that the results should be accepted and ratified by city council. 

“It is therefore our opinion that the results of the byelection should be accepted as proper, and that the process followed to conduct that byelection constitutes an alternative means of carrying out a general meeting at which corporate nominees were entitled to be treated as if they were members, and all members were entitled to vote by proxy," the document says. 

Fuda, who owns a Dunlop Street West building and has a legal background, having practised law for 11 years, told BarrieToday that the process has been frustrating, but she tries to understand the other side, too.

“I didn’t expect this for a volunteer position. It has been quite a process,” Fuda said. “I get that the current board is doing what they need to do and it gives them comfort, so I do understand.”

Fuda also said she believes everyone involved just wants what's best for the Downtown BIA. She says she's an optimist and wants to see the whole saga have a happy ending.

“The six of us are a vibrant group who just want to help the downtown and all of its members,” Fuda said. “I also believe the current board cares about moving forward and getting things going for the area. I feel that this is going to work out and, eventually, we’ll all be able to get on the same path."

The BIA is an arm's-length committee of city council. Council approves the BIA’s budget and its elections. 

City-appointed BIA representative Coun. Sergio Morales said he believes the issues should be resolved in the next couple of weeks, as the board takes information gathered before the BIA-imposed March 3 deadline back to their counsel.

No current date has been set to resolve the issues between the BIA and the six members-elect.