06/14/2013 04:02 EDT | Updated 08/13/2013 05:12 EDT

Hazel McCallion, Mississauga Mayor, Survives Conflict Of Interest Case

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - One of Canada's longest-serving mayors may have shown wilful blindness and defied common sense when she voted on a development deal but it wasn't enough to warrant ousting her from office, a judge ruled Friday.

In his judgment dismissing an application to find Hazel McCallion violated conflict of interest laws, Superior Court Justice John Sproat decided the mayor's conflict was minor.

"In my opinion, a reasonable elector, apprised of all the circumstances of the votes, would not regard the deemed financial interest of Mayor McCallion as likely to have influenced her vote," Sproat wrote.

Sproat also based the case dismissal on a technicality: the complainant had waited too long to bring the case to court.

The case arose as a result of a vote McCallion, 92, cast at regional council in the fall of 2007 to defer certain development fees.

World Class Developments — a company owned by her son Peter McCallion — stood to benefit from the deferral by as much as $11 million had it qualified under the deferral provisions.

That prompted local resident Elias Hazineh to argue her voting violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

Sproat rejected McCallion's claim that she didn't know anything about her son's stake in the company.

However, he did decide that World Class Developments would not have been able to take advantage of the fee deferral, and therefore had no financial interest in the outcome of the regional votes.

"On that basis alone, Mr. Hazineh's application must be dismissed," Sproat wrote.

The justice also had harsh words for the popular, three-decade mayor known affectionately as "Hurricane Hazel."

He noted McCallion had testified she didn't know about the potential savings to the company, but would have voted anyway even if she had known.

"This understanding of her legal obligations is contrary to common sense," Sproat said.

"Further, McCallion was wilfully blind to the status of the WCD development."

In response, McCallion said she was glad the legal ordeal was over, saying she would try to recover some of her $500,000 it took to defend the case, and called for changes to conflict laws.

Despite Sproat's comments, the mayor was adamant she had no knowledge of her son's interest in the company.

"I have no regrets in regard to the issue," McCallion said.

"I did not know of Peter's interests and that's it."

The justice rejected Hazineh's evidence of when he discovered the vote-conflict issue.

Hazineh maintained he only found out about it in October 2011, and brought the application within six weeks as required.

However, he also suggested in an out-court hearing that he may have read about the allegations in a newspaper in July 2010.

Sproat decided Hazineh had not been totally honest in his court testimony.

"By the time he testified in court, he appreciated that his earlier evidence might doom his application to failure," Sproat said.

Hazineh said he would consider an appeal.

McCallion repeated she would not seek re-election after her 12th term ends next year.

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