In a ruling entirely in keeping with obvious case law, Ontario’s Divisional Court is making the Municipality of Leamington redo its appeal hearing after the municipality’s Appeal Committee failed to conduct a procedurally fair hearing regarding a tavern.

Similar to Hamilton, Leamington’s Appeal Committee is composed of elected councillors.

Municipal license appeal proceedings are quasi-judicial affairs. Councillors are sitting in judgment and are expected to be independent arbitrators reviewing staff decisions.

The City’s case is made to the council panel by a lawyer, nearly always a staff lawyer. Naturally, the council members are familiar with the internal lawyer. In the Leamington case, the Councillor chairing the meeting introduced the City’s legal counsel as “our lawyer.” The Divisional Court noted this as a problem.

Adding, “It is also concerning that the Chair referred to Mr. Pritiko by his first name during the hearing, creating an impression that Mr. Pritiko had an advantage with the Appeal Committee. While these matters may seem insignificant or innocent, they could reasonably cause the Applicant to conclude that the Appeal Committee was aligned with the Municipality and would not decide the issues fairly.”

There’s much more to the ruling; Leamington’s Council violated key fairness principles.

I note this case for the benefit of the four councillors who now make up Hamilton’s License Appeal Tribunal: Ward 5’s Matt Francis, Ward 9’s Brad Clark, Ward 11’s Mark Tadeson, and Ward 13’s Alex Wilson.