The Strathcona Regional District’s is not covering legal expenses for Area B Director Noba Anderson in connection with a recently-concluded court case.
The Mirror has received a copy of the letter responding to Anderson’s request the SRD indemnify her for the legal costs to defend herself against conflict on interest allegations in a court petition by 14 people dating back to January. The allegations were in relation to a GoFundMe site set up by a neighbour following a fire on property she co-owns.
The SRD letter was dated May 10, 2019, a month before the case was concluded locally in B.C. Supreme Court. On June 10, lawyers for both parties made a joint submission conceding there was no conflict of interest. The petitioners’ lawyer said little about the situation but did mention his clients had been influenced by others to launch the case.
Part of the agreement was a lump sum of $4,850 based on a tariff system rather than for costs on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing confirmed that under the Local Government Act, section 740, local governments have the power to indemnify (or compensate) a local government official for expenses because of legal actions. They can either indemnify through a bylaw generally or by resolution in a specific case.
The Strathcona Regional District covers this issue in Bylaw 287 from early 2018. In one section, the bylaw cites four reasons the SRD may refuse indemnification. These include cases where an official has failed to notify the regional district in accordance with the requirements of this bylaw; failed to cooperate with the regional district in its defence of the claim, prosecution, appeal or other proceeding; interfered with the regional district’s investigation into a claim, or with the settlement, negotiation or other proceeding related to that claim; or voluntarily assumed liability or settled a claim without notifying the regional district beforehand. The SRD letter, though, only cites the decision not to indemnify Anderson in her defence of the petition and does not cite a particular reason.
SRD board chair Michele Babchuk told the Mirror this week the decision was made during an in-camera discussion, which typically cover deliberations around land, labour or legal issues.
“Those documents are in-camera, so I’m not able to really speak too much about them,” she said.
She could not elaborate on the decision-making process, again stressing the confidential nature of the deliberations, though she suggested the court petition itself was not solely the issue for in-camera discussions around indemnification. Regarding the court case, she said, “The board has always considered that an external process.”
Babchuk added, “I feel pretty confident in saying the directors look forward to concluding all these issues.”