Erin citizen committee member contravened Code of Conduct

ERIN – An Erin citizen has apologized and resigned from his committee roles for breaking the Code of Conduct for councils and local boards.

Robert Pearson sat on the township’s economic development committee and the committee of adjustment.

He resigned from these roles on May 8, the same day he was served a complaint by the Robert Swayze, the town’s integrity commissioner.

Swayze presented his report on the matter to council at its June 16 meeting.

According to the report, Erin council lodged a complaint with the integrity commissioner on May 6 alleging that Pearson had sent an email to council and two town staff members criticizing the way the tender for the design work on the wastewater treatment facility had been awarded.

The email particularly criticized staff, and council believed it contravened Section 8.3 of the code in that “it maliciously or falsely impugns the professional or ethical reputation of staff.”

Pearson sent the email to councillor Michael Robins and copied the mayor, the rest of council, CAO Nathan Hyde and director of infrastructure services Nick Colucci.

In it, Pearson said that especially given COVID-19 and the restrictions that has imposed on businesses, “to knowingly provide a restricted 20-day working period (if that) to prepare a proper bid on such a major project is unreasonable.

“This is a substantial project and demands the town provide a reasonable opportunity for all bidders to properly develop their submissions.”

Pearson went on to suggest that the town preferred to deal with businesses with which it had already had dealings.

“I believe that at least Triton and Ainley were afforded ‘preferential opportunities,'” he wrote.

“I strongly recommend and know it is possible that the town can cancel this initial RFP and put another RFP out for bid with a timeline that will allow for all those wishing to participate a fair opportunity to prepare.”

He concludes his email: “The Town owes this to the taxpayers – not engineering firms or developers.”

Swayze told council, “I don’t think [Pearson] was aware of the care taken with RFPs. The claim of preferential treatment is a very serious charge.

“But he apologized and resigned and that’s a good result.”

Swayze noted, and council already knew, that Dillon Consulting had been hired to oversee the RFP process on this aspect of the wastewater treatment plant.

The $1.5 milllion contract was eventually awarded to WSP Canada Group Ltd.

Swayze interviewed Darla Campbell, Dillon’s engineer, who told Swayze that 20 days to file a proposal is not uncommon and that eight bidders was “unusually high” for such a project.

She also told him there was not preferential treatment in the process and that neither company Pearson had named was the successful bidder.

“My finding is that the subject RFP process in Erin exhibited an extremely high standard of care and the criticisms of the respondent have no validity,” Swayze concluded in his report.

“These statements made by Mr. Pearson in his email addressed to council, (the employers of staff) contravene Sections 3 and 8.3 of the Code.”

Swayze said Pearson apologized for the email in a letter on June 1 and “advised that the note was initiated by his painful experience with the pandemic involving the death of two of his wife’s family members.”

Council voted to accept Swayze’s report and Pearson’s resignation.

“It’s always a sad time when we have to do that,” said Mayor Allan Alls, adding he appreciates that citizens who sit on town committees are volunteering their time and provide an important function for the municipality.