Town of Wasaga Beach Takes Action to Protect Public Trust, Transparency and Accountability
November 30, 2023
Town hands evidence of wrongdoing and records destruction over to OPP while Council approves motion to request that Attorney General investigate
Wasaga Beach – The Town of Wasaga Beach has handed evidence of wrongdoing and records destruction over to the Ontario Provincial Police, and today Council approved a motion to request that the Attorney General’s office investigate.
The vote followed a presentation by the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Andrew McNeill, who provided a detailed update to the public and Council on the findings of an internal investigation into alleged wrongdoing and records destruction.
“Council has learned that the Town has evidence that a large number of municipal records were destroyed in 2022, in the days following the municipal election. We also have evidence that a number of land transactions completed between 2018-2022 may have broken the law or violated the Municipal Act, and cost the taxpayers of Wasaga Beach up to $35 million,” said Mayor Brian Smith. “Council’s focus remains on ensuring that mass records destruction does not happen again, that people are held accountable, and that there is increased transparency and accountability for the taxpayers of Wasaga Beach, going forward.”
The scope of the Town’s internal investigation includes four areas of concern:
- 2019 new arena/library land purchase
- 2021 beachfront land appraisal
- 2022 business park land transaction
- 2022 destruction of records
Highlights of the presentation include:
- All Council emails from 2018 – 2022 were permanently destroyed, with the exception of the one remaining, serving member of Council. The mass, permanent destruction of email records in this manner is outside of Town policies, agreements, and the Municipal Act.
- The Town has evidence that in August 2022, the previous Council was misled by the CAO about the benefits of the Business Park land transaction. The estimated cost to the taxpayers of Wasaga Beach is $16 million to $30 million.
- The Town has evidence that in April 2021 the previous Mayor and previous CAO had access to a significantly higher appraisal for beachfront lands that they withheld from Council. The higher appraisal was valued about $8 million higher than the one presented to Council.
“The goal of this investigation has always been to protect the public trust and ensure the highest level of transparency and accountability – and to get to the bottom of questionable actions and information that has been provided to the Town’s leadership, by employees, in the days following the last provincial election,” said CAO, Andrew McNeill. “The Town has received legal advice and we understand we have a fiduciary duty to investigate, report to Council, and take appropriate action. In this case, the Town has handed all information and evidence over to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) to determine next steps.”
The CAO’s presentation can be viewed on YouTube: Wasaga Beach Investigation Briefing
- The goal of the Town’s internal investigation is to protect the public trust and ensure the highest level of transparency and accountability for taxpayers.
- The Town is taking every action necessary to create a safe and rewarding work environment that protects town employees from abuse of authority, including harassment or intimidation in the workplace.
- Since launching an internal investigation, the Town has implemented a whistleblower policy – the first in the history of the municipality. Town of Wasaga Beach staff are now protected and encouraged to come forward when they suspect or become aware of any potential wrongdoing.
The CAO’s report to Council today supports Council’s priorities: to ensure that the Town is well run. This includes ensuring the highest level of transparency and accountability for the taxpayers of Wasaga Beach, striving for excellence in customer service and creating a corporate culture that will attract and retain top talent.
Director of Strategic Communications & Intergovernmental Affairs
Read this article on the Town website.