CORRECTION: Petrolia CAO on paid leave during investigation.

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EDITORS NOTE:

The Independent’s original story stated Manny Baron was on unpaid leave. At a council meeting Monday, Deputy Clerk Mandi Pearson confirmed a news release from the municipality stating the leave is paid was indeed correct. The Independent was relying on an audio recording which sounded like unpaid leave when Ms. Pearson said “on paid leave.” The Independent regrets the error and the confusion it may have caused.

The following is the amended story. See this week’s edition of The Independent for more details of this story.

 

Petrolia’s Chief Administrative officer has been placed on paid administrative leave and an investigator has been hired to look into his ownership of two buildings the town rents.

An investigation by The Independent found Manny Baron’s numbered company owns 4168 Robert Street – home to the town’s new youth and seniors recreation centre – and 395 Fletcher St. which the town rents for $2,500 per month.

Petrolia CAO Manny Baron presents Mayor John McCharles with a new chain of office during Monday’s council meeting. Baron suggested the chain was likely one of the nicest in Lambton County and would be worn “by the best mayor” in August 2016.

Baron purchased the Robert Street property 11 days before the youth/senior centre concept was approved by town council. The staff report referred to the building as being owned by LCDS and Baron did not disclose his ownership. He told The Independent he did not do so because the town was getting the building “rent free.” Councillor Ross O’Hara later said Baron had revealed to him the town was paying $1,800 in utilities for the building in lieu of rent.

The CAO, according to Land Registry documents, purchased 395 Fletcher St. on Sept. 29 from developer Horst Richter. Then during a council meeting Oct. 10, Baron told councillors Richter owned the building and didn’t disclose his ownership of the building.

Council held a 45-minute in camera (private) meeting Friday afternoon with the town’s lawyer, Robert Gray, and emerged saying Baron had been placed on unpaid administrative leave.  John Fleming had been hired to look into the CAO’s ownership of the two properties.

Mayor John McCharles says Fleming was hired at the suggestion of Nigel Belchamber who is acting as the town’s integrity commissioner through a provincial association.

McCharles says it is not clear how long the investigation will take.

Deputy Clerk Mandi Pearson will be in charge of the administration until the issue is resolved.

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