Seymour-Fagan runs afoul of integrity commissioner

By Kirk Winter

Kathleen Seymour-Fagan, councillor for ward two, was docked two weeks' pay.

For the second time in 2022, integrity commissioner Charles Harnick has found a Kawartha Lakes councillor in contravention of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act and/or the Code of Conduct for municipal officials.

In a nine-page ruling, Harnick wrote that ward two councillor Kathleen Seymour-Fagan contravened section 5 (1) (b) and (c) of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act and hence violated section 6.1 (c) of the city Code of Conduct.

After receiving the report from Harnick and lead investigator Ellen Fry, council decided to penalize Seymour-Fagan for her failure to declare a pecuniary interest in meetings of both the Kawartha Lakes Planning Committee on July 14, 2021 and October 6, 2021 and a Kawartha Lakes council meeting on October 19, 2021.

Council has decided to dock Seymour-Fagan two weeks pay as discipline for her code violations.

Jodi Harper, owner of a property in Bobcaygeon, filed the complaint against the Bobcaygeon area councillor with the integrity commission on January 10, 2022.

Harper originally applied to Kawartha Lakes council “for a zoning amendment to expand permissible uses of her property (located .3 kilometers from a restaurant owned by Seymour- Fagan) to open a business in Bobcaygeon. The proposed uses to be added to the zoning of the property as stated in the application included a bruncheonette, bed and breakfast, bakery, bistro, coffee house, diner, snack bar and tea room.”

Harper indicated that a key element in her zoning amendment application was to change the total number of parking spaces required for the business to five, a decrease from the eight parking spaces required by the zoning by-law. She indicated that to require eight parking spaces would mean the project was not feasible and would necessitate the removal of several trees.

When the request from Harper was first heard at the Kawartha Lakes Planning Committee meeting on July 14, 2021, the chair asked if any member of the committee had a pecuniary interest.

Councillor Seymour-Fagan stated that “she owned a restaurant in Bobcaygeon.”

When asked by the chair if she was declaring a pecuniary interest, Seymour-Fagan initially said that “she didn’t know if she had a pecuniary interest.” The chair indicated that “a declaration of pecuniary interest was up to her to determine.”

According to the information gathered by Fry, Seymour-Fagan “then indicated she wanted committee members to know about her business but was not declaring a pecuniary interest because the proposed bruncheonette would not affect her business, and she did not care whether or not Ms. Harper’s application was approved.”

Seymour-Fagan participated in the discussion of Harper’s application, seconded the motion to refer back to staff and voted on the motion. The vote was a show of hands rather than a recorded vote and Councillor Seymour-Fagan voted in favour of the motion.

The application was again considered by the Planning Advisory Committee on October 6, 2021.

At the Oct. 6 committee meeting a report was provided by the Kawartha Lakes Planning officer Ian Walker recommending that the application be approved with five rather than eight parking spots. Walker indicated that only two of the seven members of the public who had contacted the city about Harper’s request opposed the plan, and neither of the objectors focused on the issue of parking.

A discussion then began on the zoning request. Seymour-Fagan again did not declare a pecuniary interest. According to the ombudsman’s report, “(Seymour-Fagan) raised the issue concerning the number of parking spaces and participated in the ensuing discussion. The discussion culminated in a motion by the mayor to recommend approval of the application with eight spaces rather than the five. Seymour-Fagan voted in favour of the recommendation.”

The issue came back to council for a formal approval on Oct. 19.

“Councillor Seymour-Fagan was present at the October 19 council meeting,” Fry said. “She did not declare any pecuniary interest. The committee recommendation to approve the application with eight parking spots rather than five was approved by council. Councillor Seymour-Fagan voted in favour of the recommendation.”

Council’s decision on the application is currently being appealed by Harper to the Ontario Land Tribunal.

After Harper filed the complaint and a five-month investigation was undertaken by the ombudsman’s office, Fry determined that Seymour-Fagan’s restaurant “would likely be in competition with Ms. Harper’s bruncheonette given the fact that the two restaurants would be near each other, have breakfast areas of the same size, both serve during the breakfast timeframe and both could potentially serve during the lunch/dinner timeframe. Accordingly, it is clear that Councillor Seymour-Fagan had a pecuniary interest in the application.”

“Councillor Seymour-Fagan could have sought the advice of the Integrity Commissioner on her obligations concerning any pecuniary interests under the Code of Conduct and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. She did not do so,” Fry said.

“Councillor Seymour-Fagan had ample time to seek such advice prior to the July 14, 2021 meeting, since she indicated she was aware for about a year and a half that Ms. Harper would be making a zoning application.  She also had ample time to seek such advice between the July 14, 2021 meeting when the possibility of pecuniary interest was raised, and the October 6, 2021 meeting,” Fry said.

Seymour-Fagan volunteered to Fry that “she was not fully familiar with the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, and if she were more familiar with it, she might have behaved differently. She also expressed the view that it might have been better if she simply stayed silent.”

Seymour-Fagan now joins ward six councillor Ron Ashmore as Kawartha Lakes officials who have been investigated and found in violation of municipal rules by the Kawartha Lakes ombudsman in 2022. Both Ashmore and Seymour-Fagan have been found in violation of the Code of Conduct for municipal officials, while only Seymour-Fagan has been found in violation of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.


  1. Sandra Junkin says:

    I think the councillor should have declared a conflict and not voted.

  2. D'Arcy McGee says:

    Well that’s 3 members of our currentcouncil who have ran into difficulty with the Integrity Commissioner or the provincial Ombudsman. Ashmore & Fagen were both found guilty & suspended for 2 weeks with loss of pay. Councillor Dunn who headed up the ATV task force,should accept responsibility for breaking the rules re “private” meetings. All 3 should have known better,& their actions should be considered in our municipal election later this year

  3. Robert George says:

    Wow Harper the applicant wants to add 8 , yes eight new uses but reduce the parking from 8 spaces required by the zoning bylaw to 5. It was a major addition of uses and a major reduction of parking spaces. The councillors and council really had no choice but to refuse the request!! The conflict is really a distraction from the real matter at hand sensible land use planning!!

    • Rob says:

      It’s going to be a small beautiful Cafe… other uses are simply there in case she needs to adjust to what works in the spot and for bobcaygeons

  4. Rob says:

    It’s a small Cafe on a beautiful property… with 80 parking spots across street…. this was a simple attempt to kill project… integrity commission suggested 2 months penalty. It was nice of Ms Harper to suggest a lesser penalty simply receive a fair decision

  5. Jodi says:

    In response to Robert George: The possible uses were suggested by my planner in the event the property changes hands somewhere down the road. It isn’t my intention to operate 8 businesses simultaneously. Furthermore, Letham only recommended approval with 8 spaces after Seymor-Fagan put up a fight, to have it opposed completely. When she had reluctantly agreed to it at the first meeting. She said “she didn’t care if it went through because it wouldn’t affect HER business…….It isn’t about how it affects HER. It is how small business initiatives enhance the economic development in our town! Is she in that position to be acting on behalf of the community, or her own interests?
    Additionally, Harnick recommended a 3 month suspension she got off with a slap on the wrist!
    And speaking of planning, has anyone seen the concrete, asphalt disaster that has taken the place of our beachpark???? Who was overseeing that? Take a look at the proposal. Where are the armour stone barriers? We got chainlink. Where is the reclaimed stone pathways? We got more asphalt. Where is the bandshell? We got a storage shed. Where are the 40 boat slips?….And, why were all of the trees completely removed?….Now it isn’t a park. It is a park-ing lot!
    Also, when are we ever going to get our bridge back????? Shouldn’t parts have been acquired before the bridge was removed. Who starts a major job without having the tools to complete the work…..You want to talk about lack of planning. And, who is responsible for overseeing these projects????

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