Dennis Craven can’t remember if Manny Baron disclosed there was a criminal investigation into his financial dealings in the Town of Petrolia. “Manny may have mentioned it but if he did I don’t remember,” says Craven a Councillor in the Township of Mapleton where Baron is the Deputy Clerk and Chief Administrative Officer
Baron’s criminal problems which could send him to jail for five years stem from his previous job as Chief Administrative Officer in the Town of Petrolia.
There he is accused of charging the town utilities in lieu of rent on a building he owned through a numbered company.
Town documents indicate Council agreed to commit funds to The Rec Room, a drop in centre for youth and seniors but was unware Baron owned that building, along with a second building through a numbered company.
Baron’s ownership was discovered by the local weekly newspaper The Petrolia Independent last October. He was put on administrative leave under a cloud of conflict of interest and a month later resigned.
Investigator John Fleming was retained by the Town and according to The Independent was troubled by his findings and called in the Ontario Provincial Police.
Baron left Petrolia but showed up in the Township of Mapleton near Kitchener two months later where he took a job as Clerk and Chief Administrative Officer.
At the time Mayor Neil Driscoll endorsed the decision to hire Baron telling First Monday he was aware of the conflict of interest allegation and “everyone needs a second chance”.
Craven says the Township still endorses Baron but late last month demoted him taking away his job as Clerk. “We had a lady who was Deputy and we should have made her Clerk before this,” says Craven admitting that the “optics are a problem”.
Baron will remain as Chief Administrative Officer and will have a reduced capacity as Deputy Clerk.
Craven added “we are very happy with Manny”.
Provincial Police spokesman Chris Doupe was asked about the severity of the charge.
Doupe says breach of trust by a public officer is a “criminal offense” under section 122 of the Criminal Code of Canada with punishment of up to five years in jail. He refused to outline details of the charge saying “they will be brought out in Court”.
Baron told the Wellington Advertiser, a widely circulated weekly newspaper in the Township of Mapleton that he was in conflict of interest because he failed to disclose his ownership in the buildings and wanted to make an “anonymous contribution to the community”. He added “I can assure you the Town was not out any money”.
Driscoll told the Wellington Advertiser he and Council were “fully aware of the potential situation” but were not aware of the police investigation. Just before publication, First Monday contacted Driscoll.
He refused comment about whether the Township would have hired Baron if it had known about the criminal investigation. Driscoll added “we will not be making any further comment until the court proceedings are complete”.
Legal advice received by First Monday suggests Mapleton Council took a “knee - jerk reaction” to the charge against Baron. “Replacing him as Clerk will not end the actions that will likely have to be taken”.
Signing off on contracts is both the responsibility of the Clerk and the Chief Administrative Officer which puts the municipality in a jam. Should Baron be found guilty the issue will be having someone with a criminal record in a position of public trust.
Our legal advisor suggests most employers would want to provide a severance and terminate. “Since Mapleton hasn’t done that the municipality will want to get both human resources and legal advice”.
Baron, who is 43 will appear in Sarnia Provincial Court April 16.