Taxpayers living in Lantzville could end up paying the legal expenses from a civil lawsuit filed by members of council earlier this year.
Lantzville councillors agreed during an in-camera meeting that a lawsuit filed by Mayor Colin Haime and councillors Denise Haime and John Coulson against former Lantzville councillors Jennifer Millbank, Graham Savage and Dave Scott is covered under a district indemnification bylaw, depending on the outcome.
The information was revealed on council’s Monday meeting agenda, but it was unclear what outcome would result in the district having to pay legal fees. Coulson and the Haimes claim that the three ex-Lantzville councillors engaged in a public campaign to discredit them according to documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court on March 24.
Ronald Campbell, the district’s chief administrative officer said he couldn’t comment because it was in-camera information.
The revelation that taxpayers could end up footing the legal bill comes after Mayor Haime had previously told the News Bulletin that the lawsuit is “not paid for by the district.”
Mayor Haime told council he would not comment on the matter.
Coulson told the News Bulletin he couldn’t comment on the matter “at this time” but would speak about it at a later date. He explained that the issue of covering legal fees had to be raised by “people” and approved by councillors.
“People have to request have to request that coverage. It then has to be approved by council. So, someone might question who. Did all of council approve that or did a select group of council approve that? As you will know, there are conflict-of-interest concerns that arises from it,” he said.
Coun. Will Geselbracht told the News Bulletin that the mayor and councillors Haime and Coulson have “let their bruised egos outweigh” their responsibility to the district by filing a lawsuit against the former councillors and that the lawsuit will likely lose in court.
“There are so many defences to this lawsuit of defamation like qualified privilege, fair comment and let’s not forget the last and most important, the truth. Those are all defences … that’s why I say in my opinion, the lawsuit is without merit. Why is it being done? Why is it being done two years after the fact? If they felt their reputations were damaged, wouldn’t one have issued that notice of civil claim immediately?” he asked.
Geselbracht said the lawsuit has already cost taxpayers and will continue to cost taxpayers as it proceeds through the courts. He said councillors were forced to get a legal opinion on the indemnification bylaw, which determined that it requires the district to defend the former councillors.