Gloria McCluskey rapped by judge for bias in unsightly premises case
'Mr. Doucette did not know that the complaint had been lodged by Councillor Gloria McCluskey'
A Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice overturned an unsightly premises order against a Dartmouth man after it was discovered municipal councillor Gloria McCluskey made the complaint and then sat on a committee hearing it.
Architect Richard Doucette was slapped with the order in May 2014 during an extensive renovation of his 92 Crichton Ave. home that involved adding a second-storey, even though his two-year building permit does not expire until September 2015.
The May 5, 2014, complaint, made by McCluskey, was investigated within an hour and a half.
It read: "Have you seen the property at 92 Crichton Avenue recently. Would you like to have this in your neighbourhood or worse still next door? This is a total disgrace and has been going on for years with nothing happening to clean up the disgraceful look of it. "
Even though though municipal compliance manager James Donovan found that the work was proceeding properly, another inspector was sent out and an unsightly premises order issued.
Doucette appealed the order on July 10, 2014. The committee, which included McCluskey, voted to dismiss the appeal. The homeowner sought a judicial review.
"For reasons unknown to him at the time, it is now obvious that the court would have set aside the appeal decision and stayed the order because of a gross violation of Mr. Doucette's right to procedural fairness," wrote Justice Gerald Moir in a decision released Friday.
The municipality rescinded the unsightly premises order with a view to a fresh investigation of the current state of the property and on Oct. 9, 2014, a compliance officer inspected 92 Crichton Ave.
On Oct. 20, 2014, another order was issued. A second appeal was also launched, but McCluskey did not sit on that committee. That appeal was rejected in December 2014 and another judicial review sought.
"Staff knew. Councillor McCluskey certainly knew. Perhaps other members of the appeal committee knew. Mr. Doucette did not know that the complaint had been lodged by Councillor Gloria McCluskey, who sat in judgment of her own complaint," Moir said in his decision.
"Mr. Doucette had a right to make submissions about the improper participation of Councillor McCluskey at the first appeal, the knowledge of that impropriety on the part of staff who participated in the hearing and the danger that the members at the December appeal hearing were themselves really or apparently biased."
He also noted that inspectors failed to compare the property's appearance with other similar renovations in laying the complaint.
"As of May 2014, much of the renovation was complete, but new exterior cladding had not been installed for all of it," Moir said.
"Structural elements, studs, and some insulation were exposed to view. Apparently, the cladding materials were on site, ready to be installed when the renovation reached that stage. "