Integrity commissioner dismisses citizen complaint against Grimsby councillor

Kevin Ritchie Photo credit: Town of Grimsby / Niagara Info

A citizen complaint made against Grimsby Coun. Kevin Ritchie regarding a confrontation last October has been dismissed.

In a report presented to council on Feb 16, Integrity Commissioner Charles Harnick found “nothing wrong” with flyers Ritchie was handing out on Grimsby’s Main Street. An anonymous complainant alleged Ritchie was using the flyers to spread misinformation in the morning hours of Oct. 27, 2020.

The report states the flyers Ritchie handed out contained information about the lack of awareness about a proposed heritage study bylaw, that would affect construction and demolition on Main Street East if passed. The heritage study period would potentially cost the town thousands in fines for delaying already approved projects.

In his report, Harnick rejected allegations from the complainant that stated that Ritchie was “caught” delivering flyers. 

“I reject this allegation given that he was delivering flyers in the mid-morning for all to see,” he wrote.

Harnick also rejected allegations of the flyers being misleading, noting he believed Ritchie’s intention in distributing the flyer was “for no improper purpose.”

It was while handing out flyers to raise awareness of the bylaw that Ritchie was reportedly approached by two Grimsby residents and asked why he was trying to “destroy the town of Grimsby.”

Ritchie said he knows who the two residents are that approached him and that they recorded the interaction. He said that one of the residents is a representative of the Save Main Street social media group.

As for what misinformation the complainant alleged Ritchie of spreading, he said “I never got a response on that.” Ritchie also said the footage of the incident was never released nor have the two residents ever approached him to talk about the issue, a conversation he said he would “always be open” to having.

“As an elected official you should never be afraid of doing the right thing,” Ritchie said. “You shouldn’t necessarily be mad at the public for being passionate about their items or their issues. You have to be responsive.”

He said that when it comes to contentious issues such as these, the onus is on both councillors and members of the public to do their due diligence.

Councillors voted in favour of receiving the report at the Feb. 16 meeting.