The commissioner overseeing a judicial inquiry into the sale of half of Collingwood's stake in a utility and the construction of two recreation facilities said both have been "stained" by undisclosed conflicts, unfair procurements, and a lack of transparency.
Associate Chief Justice Frank Marrocco delivered his final report into the months-long inquiry Monday.
Concerns were raised around the appearance of unfair influence and financial benefit of several top municipal staff members, former mayor Sandra Cooper, and her brother Paul Bonwick.
Marrocco called those concerns well-founded.
"When the answers to legitimate questions are dismissive, spun, or obfuscated, public trust further erodes," Marrocco wrote.
"When trust is lost, the relationship between the public and its municipal government may never be the same. The road back is arduous," he stated.
Marrocco wrote that the utility sale could be traced back to a series of unofficial conversations and private meetings. He also found that several town staffers over-stepped their roles.
The OPP said Monday that its Anti-Rackets Branch is still investigating a "complaint regarding allegations of financial irregularities between the Municipality of Collingwood and third-party enterprises."
Collingwood Mayor Brian Saunderson is "deeply troubled" by Justice Marrocco's conclusions. But he thinks the process was worthwhile.
"We finally have the answers, and with those answers, we have dispelled the clouds of rumour and innuendo that have hung over our community for too long," Saunderson said.
The mayor defended the $7.1 million cost of the inquiry. He sees it as an investment in the community.
"When you need to invest millions of dollars in your roads or other infrastructure, we do those projects," Saunderson said. "This was a very necessary project."
Justice Marrocco advised the town to engage in self-reflection and make a commitment to change.
His final report lays out 306 recommendations for Collingwood and the provincial government, including several proposed amendments to the Ontario Municipal Act.
Among Marrocco's recommendations were clearer definitions of the roles of mayor and CAO, expanding the list of family members captured by a conflict of interest, making clear that only a council as a whole can direct municipal staff, and establishing a code of conduct for that staff.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing told CTV News Monday that it will review any recommendations related to provincial laws for future consideration.
Justice Marrocco has advised that Collingwood provide an update on changes made within the next year.