Ombudsman report on Billy T’s meeting out Tuesday
The report on a lunch meeting that included London Mayor Joe Fontana and six councillors at Billy T's Tap and Grill is being released Tuesday.
The February meeting at the Highbury Street restaurant has been the subject of a seven-month investigation by Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin’s team.
The lunch happened just days before the 2013 city budget was to be finalized and included Fontana and councillors Bud Polhill, Joe Swan, Stephen Orser, Dale Henderson, Paul Van Meerbergen and Sandy White.
After 60 complaints were filed the ombudsman began an investigation into whether it was a secret meeting that violated the Municipal Act.
They are claims Orser flatly rejected back in March, saying “I am not going to walk into a public restaurant and do something unsavoury. I have the right of association under the charter and nobody is going to take that away from me.”
Some councillors who didn't attend were surprised that the recommendations of a previous report seemed to have been ignored.
Councillor Paul Hubert said in March “I think it shows just a lack of wisdom in terms of their decision-making.”
An investigation into a similar gathering at the Harmony Grand Buffet in 2012 found no wrongdoing, but the Ombudsman issued a stern warning about ‘unsavoury’ optics.
Just eight months later interviews were being held about the lunch at Billy T's.
At the time, Fontana described the interviews saying it “Went well from my standpoint. And he's doing his job.”
However, inconsistencies during those interviews led to the ombudsman issuing legal summonses for a second round of testimony. In turn, council members hired a lawyer with taxpayer money.
In June the mayor said his testimony had been consistent, “I invited two or three members of city council to join me at different times during the day at Billy T's.”
The report will be released on the city website ahead of a press conference by Marin at 1 p.m. Two hours later there will be a special committee meeting of city councillors.