A Lantzville councillor warns that a new agreement with Nanaimo could get politicians into hot water.
Lantzville Coun. Denise Haime has sought an independent legal opinion on the need to put a water deal with Nanaimo to referendum, which she says shows councillors could be personally liable for signing the agreement without elector approval.
Haime commissioned an independent legal opinion from Kamloops-based Fulton and Company at her own expense in July after her first attempt to get a motion on the table for a referendum failed. The firm’s report, dated Sept. 3, was not seen by council prior to its vote to sign a 20-year water supply deal with Nanaimo, but suggests the agreement creates liabilities for Lantzville of a capital nature and the approval of electors is required if the municipality is to have proper authority to enter into the agreement.
According to the legal opinion, the Community Charter carries penalties for councillors who vote in favour of an expenditure contrary to the legislation, including personal liability to the municipality for the amount and disqualification from holding office for four years.
The information conflicts with the district’s own legal opinion. Mayor Jack de Jong told the News Bulletin there are no capital costs involved and the municipality’s legal team has advised that as long as it’s not made a condition of signing the agreement, the district doesn’t have to go to referendum.
The City of Nanaimo agreed to take out the clause requiring electoral consent in early August.
Lantzville’s mayor says he’s comfortable with the legal opinion and council needs to move forward.
“I had never expected this kind of obstructionism – that’s what I’m going to call it – and it’s not going to go anywhere. I have the legal opinion, council has the legal opinion, we published our own positions … so I am very confident,” he said. “In fact, it’s gone. I signed the document.”