Baron’s lawyer says program that led to charge withdrawal saved “a hell of a lot of money”

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The lawyer of Petrolia’s former CAO says the province “saved a hell of a lot of money” because his client took part in the Direct Accountability Program.

It also led to the withdrawal of the charge of breach of trust against Manny Baron Sept. 6. Baron, whose numbered company owned two buildings used by the town, resigned in November. The OPP charged him with breach of public trust in March. A trial date was expected to be set in late November, but Philip Millar announced the resolution of the case Sept. 7.

The assistant crown attorney in Sarnia said Baron participated in the Direct Accountability Program. He admitted to an administrative error and gave a donation of $1,000 to the Petrolia Community Foundation. The crown then withdrew the breach of public trust charge.

Millar, Baron’s lawyer, said in a Sept. 7 telephone interview with The Wellington Advertiser, Baron’s donation to the Petrolia Community Foundation played a part in the “resolution” to the case.
“They withdrew the charges… He made a donation and they withdrew it.”
“It was put on the record that he made the donation. He saved the system… a hell of a lot of money.”
Millar adds, “In Manny’s case, you know he should have disclosed ownership… so he acknowledged it, but he was like, ‘I didn’t make a penny more than I would have anyway.’
“Clearly it wasn’t criminal when they got down to it.”
Asked why Baron resigned his position in Petrolia following the release of the investigator’s report, Millar said Baron conceded the property issue was handled incorrectly.
“I guess what I would say is, this happened, but, you know, it doesn’t make it criminal,” he said.
Millar added he called the situation a “witch hunt” because he felt police were pushed to lay unnecessary charges.
“The guy resigned. He acknowledged it. Move on,” he said. Baron had told both The Independent and The Wellington Advertiser he never intended to make money but to give back to the community.
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed he had received nearly $5,000 from the municipality for first and last months rent and utilities for the youth/seniors’ centre.
Neither council nor Baron and his lawyer have ever accounted for that money. Baron did assure The Wellington Advertiser the town was “never out any money.”
The documents which might clarify what did happen, including the report by Investigator John Fleming, have never been released by Petrolia Council. The town and The Independent are now in the inquiry stage of the adjudication of The Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.
When asked what made the investigation a “witch hunt,” Baron referred the question to his lawyer.
Millar stated, “Somebody was pushing for it,” adding he believes  police could be moved to action, “If enough people call… When you have adversaries in areas, and some have influence, they just try to wield power.”

For more on the story, pick up a copy of The Independent in a store near you or subscribe by calling 226-738-0728.

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