Orlikow cleared of Parker lands ethics breaches, but urged to apologize

The office of Winnipeg's integrity commissioner has cleared Coun. John Orlikow of three allegations of Parker lands ethics breaches — while encouraging the councillor to apologize for disrespecting the developer of Fort Garry property.

Integrity commissioner's office says River Heights councillor disrespected developer Andrew Marquess

John Orlikow, seen here in the living room of his Crescentwood home, has been cleared of allegations about ethics breaches pertaining to the Parker lands — but has been urged to apologize to the developer of that property. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The office of Winnipeg's integrity commissioner has cleared Coun. John Orlikow of three allegations of Parker lands ethics breaches — while encouraging the councillor to apologize for disrespecting the developer of the Fort Garry property.

In a report obtained by CBC News, acting integrity commissioner Gregory Levine dismissed three complaints levelled by developer Andrew Marquess against Orlikow, the River Heights-Fort Garry councillor.

Marquess, who has owned the Parker lands since 2009, is embroiled in a series of legal and procedural disputes with the city over his efforts to build a residential development that would be known as Fulton Grove.

In 2018, Marquess alleged Orlikow attempted to drag him into negotiations to sell part of his land in 2016, encouraged protestors to camp out on the site in 2017 and discouraged other city councillors from attending a presentation about the development at the University of Manitoba in 2018.

In a 10-page report due to be published by city council on Friday, Levine analyzed and reviewed all three of the Marquess allegations and concluded Orlikow did not exert improper influence or derive any personal gain in all three instances. As a result, Orlikow did not breach a 1994 code of ethics that governed these complaints, Levine wrote.

"No breaches have been found respecting improper influence," he stated, adding provincial legislation ought to be amended to better flesh out what city councillors can and can not do.

But Levine also recommended Orlikow apologize for his actions related to two of the complaints.

The acting integrity commissioner concluded Orlikow disrespected Marquess by telling a reporter in 2016 he wanted to buy back some or all of the Parker lands in order to protect trees at the site — while it was clear the developer had no interest in doing so.

"Is determining an interest in land purchases [or] sales in his ward really part of the council member's role?" asked Levine, opining there is "a kind of coercive quality to the interaction."

The acting commissioner also concluded Orlikow disrespected Marquess by offering in 2017 to mediate the dispute between the developer and the protesters who were camping out on his land.

"Jumping into the fray in this way simply seems inappropriate," Levine stated.

Orlikow declined to comment Wednesday, when he was reached by phone by CBC News.

Developer Andrew Marquess, who intends to build 1,740 housing units on the Parker lands, said he feels vindicated by the commissioner's report. (Bartley Kives/CBC)

Marquess, meanwhile, said he feels vindicated by Levine's report.

"He raises some real concerns about the land negotiations," Marquess said in a telephone interview from Phoenix, Ariz. "No councillor is supposed to be negotiating individual land transactions."

Marquess said it will be up to city council to determine what it wants to do with the report. It will come before councillors at a meeting slated for Jan. 31.

The developer also said it will be up to Orlikow to decide whether he will apologize.

In a letter to city council, Levine said while it is not customary to submit a report to council in cases where no ethical breaches are found, the integrity commissioner can submit a report when it involves an issue of public interest.

The need for better legislation and training for city councillors constitutes such an issue, he said.

"Council needs to encourage members through training to appreciate the limits of their role," Levine said, adding the province ought to amend the city charter as well.

Levine dealt with the allegations raised by Marquess because Winnipeg integrity commissioner Sherri Walsh recuses herself from cases involving Orlikow.

Walsh made a donation of less than $100 to Orlikow's campaign for council in 2014.

The commissioner rapped Orlikow for offering to jump into the fray between Marquess and Parker lands protestors, but stated the councillor did not breach ethics rules. (Bartley Kives/CBC)


Bartley Kives

Senior reporter, CBC Manitoba

Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba.