Questions are being raised after seven members of the so-called ‘Fontana 8’ voting block met at a north London restaurant on Saturday, just days before a vote on the city’s 2013 budget.
The timing and list of councillors who Mayor Joe Fontana says were there has some comparing the lunch to a meal that made headlines in 2012, also just before a final budget vote.
Fontana admits he met a number of councillors at Billy T’s Tap and Grill on Highbury Avenue Saturday afternoon.
Those councillors include Bud Polhill, Joe Swan, Stephen Orser, Dale Henderson, Paul Van Meerbergen and Sandy White.
But Fontana says “There wasn’t a planned meeting, there was no agenda, there was none of that. I’m just going for a hamburger and all of a sudden I said, you know what, I might as well be efficient with my time. A couple of members of council wanted to talk with me…and I said what better place [than] in public.”
Five of the seven who attended were also at a luncheon at the Harmony Grand Buffet Restaurant in 2012 just before a critical budget vote.
The Ontario Ombudsman investigated that lunch, but determined it was not a secret meeting, just a social gathering. Still, the ombudsman criticized it as ill-conceived and unsavoury.
Fontana says Saturday’s lunch was rather coincidental and social in nature, not a strategy session or strategic meeting.
The office of the Ontario Ombudsman says it is not aware of any complaints being lodged about Saturday’s lunch.
The 2013 budget for the City of London will be finalized on Thursday.