A Niagara-on-the-Lake councillor is being investigated by the town’s integrity commissioner after someone complained she failed to declare a conflict of interest.
“A fellow business owner reported to the integrity commission that I should not be having any say or vote on patios,” Coun. Maria Mavridis told The Lake Report in an interview Jan. 15.
She would not identify the business owner who reported her, citing confidentiality concerns.
People who submit complaints to the integrity commissioner’s office are required to sign a confidentiality agreement, viewable at the town’s website.
“A final investigation report will cease to be confidential once it is included on a municipal council open session agenda,” said the agreement.
Mavridis has been a supporter of temporary patios in NOTL during her first term on council and there is a temporary patio at her family’s Queen Street restaurant, Firehall Flame.
When asked in February 2023 if she should declare a conflict in the patio debate, she said no.
“I stand by my decision,” she told The Lake Report on Monday.
“I don’t own that business. (My) father does and I don’t work at that business.”
In a followup interview, she would not discuss further details about her role at the restaurant or the investigation.
Since Mavridis’ father Bob Mavridis owns Firehall Flame and other NOTL restaurants the councillor could theoretically have a financial stake in temporary patios continuing.
However, under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, councillors are not required to declare a conflict where their pecuniary interest is shared “in common with electors generally.”
At a council meeting Tuesday night, Coun. Sandra O’Connor raised the idea that the town should end seasonal patios and take the time to build a new program that accounts for problems caused by patios.
Mavridis declared a conflict before the discussion and left the room.
While waiting to hear back from the integrity commissioner on whether there would be an investigation, she told The Lake Report on Monday that she is in favour of ending seasonal patios so long as a permanent program could be properly planned for the future.
“Patios are great. I love them. I think they’re a great addition. But we have to make up for the lost revenue in parking spaces.”
Some seasonal patios used by NOTL’s restaurants are set up on public parking spots.
How to recoup the lost revenue from those occupied spaces has been an ongoing concern for councillors in talks on whether to keep the temporary patios.
One option the town has considered is charging a fee to restaurants with patios that encroach onto the street.