In an unusual statement last November, which made national headlines, five councillors led by Bill Bestwick and the city’s chief administrator Tracy Samra accused mayor Bill McKay of being “in direct violation of his obligations and duty to the City.”
They claimed a months-long investigation into the mayor by staff had found that he failed to declare gifts, took free trips without council approval, and violated the provincial Offence Act by disclosing confidential and privileged information to help a 42-year-long city employee in her wrongful dismissal claim against the city.
On Tuesday, however, the RCMP and a special prosecutor said they were shutting down their inquiries into the matter with no report forwarded to Crown counsel. When police do not send a report to Crown counsel, it’s typically because they have found nothing to substantiate a complaint.
On Friday, Ms. Samra sought to downplay the significance of the RCMP dropping the city’s complaint. In an emailed statement, she said the city had been told that “after consulting the federal and provincial Crown counsels,” the RCMP concluded the city had other remedies available besides involving police.
However, that directly contradicted what RCMP Island Division spokesperson Cpl. Tammy Douglas told News Nanaimo. She said the 11-month investigation was concluded in consultation with Special Prosecutor Mark Jette, a Vancouver-based criminal lawyer in private practice, who was appointed to distance crown counsel from the case since it involved elected officials.
It’s also unclear how the federal or provincial Crown counsels would have had any insight into the case since the RCMP did not forward any report to them, according to a BC Prosecution Service media statement.
Toll of political vendetta
The authorities washing their hands of the case without so much as a report buttresses the mayor’s insistence all along that the allegations were false and politically motivated to damage his reputation.
Mr. McKay is on vacation until Nov. 6 and unavailable to comment, but sources close to him described the allegations as being part of an ongoing political vendetta that has taken a steep financial and personal toll on him. One source said the mayor’s legal costs related to the matter so far are $10,000, which the city has refused to pay.
Meanwhile, whether the city will proceed with a related civil suit against the mayor is in the hands of city council, Ms. Samra said. Sources previously said the city might seek up to $80,000 in damages from the mayor.
But the mayor still hasn’t been served with the court papers, which expire on Dec. 28. Mr. McKay previously told media that he suspects his political foes want to wait to the last minute so that he is embroiled in the lawsuit during the election year.
The RCMP’s dismissal of the complaint also raises questions about whether the Bestwick-led majority have used public resources to pursue a politically motivated campaign to discredit the mayor and hurt his chances for re-election.
It’s well known that Mr. McKay and Mr. Bestwick had a falling out when both men wanted to be mayor in the 2014 election. Mr. Bestwick was forced to exit from the mayoralty race when he learned that his former council ally was running.
Since then, the two men have been bitter foes. Early in the current council term, Mr. Bestwick successfully forged resentment towards the mayor over the Colliery Dams into a five-man majority, which then summarily appointed Ms. Samra in November 2015 despite the mayor’s protests.
This week, Ms. Samra said she did not know how much the RCMP Island Division headquarters in Victoria might bill the city for the jettisoned investigation. She also would not disclose the costs thus far of the city’s civil suit against the mayor.
And while a year ago, Mr. Bestwick was on television talking about the allegations against the mayor, this week he did not respond to requests for comment.
The same went for councillor Jerry Hong, who in an interview with CHEK News last November, used the word “corruption” in reference to the mayor. He did not respond to a message asking if he would now apologize for the remark.
As usual, councillor Gord Fuller did not respond to a request for comment while councillor Bill Yoachim said he would review the issue and respond later. He never did.
Emails with Jim Kipp (unedited)
Only councillor Jim Kipp wanted to talk. In an unusual email exchange that veered off track at times, Mr. Kipp seemed undaunted and unrepentant. The full, unedited exchange, starting with the original request for comment, follows:
Oct 27, 2017 – 07:00 AM
From: Dominic Jones
In light of Special Prosecutor Jette and the RCMP determining that there was insufficient evidence to forward charge recommendations to Crown Counsel on the city’s complaint about alleged Offence Act violations by the mayor, will the city still be pursuing its related civil suit against the mayor?
What is the status of the city’s civil suit against the mayor?
What is the estimated cost to city taxpayers so far for the civil suit and RCMP complaint?
Who initiated the decision to file the complaint and civil suit?
Is there any other litigation or other legal action underway or under consideration against any member of council? If so, what are the particulars?
On Oct 27, 2017 – 8:55 AM
From: Jim Kipp
Thank you for you inquiry. Attached is a clip statement taken from an email delivered by a former cao, mr Berry to then councillor Pattje and council. Both are highly subscribed to you blog and should have clarified this for your benefit. And it highlights one of my long time and ongoing concerns of municipal Corporation operations and accountability. It’s a bit cryptic but the “our” is staff;
As for the questions related to “investigations”. As a long serving councillor I have never been contacted by any Jette or RCMPolice or Crown regarding any of the files. Which I find a little odd as a person of long service, background and special interest.
As for the initiation of the files, simply it was the mayors actions. Actions that I had only witnessed a few times in my decades of involvement. They caused concerns of duty, of diligence and prudence. Questions of Liability, accountability and ethics arose from the lack of council knowledge of the actions of the mayor. There is no doubt that Legal opinion and due process are costly as the mayors integrity group file shows all to well.
You are aware that HR is confidential so it is not appropriate for myself to comment. I’m sure your sources on council inner workings will assist your effort. Thanks again for your patience and understanding during these very politically vile times of nasty commentary across the globe.
Oct 27, 2017 – 10:41 AM
From: Dominic Jones
Hello Councillor Kipp,
Thanks for your response.
If the RCMP had contacted you, what information would you have been able to provide that would have been pertinent? Why wasn’t your information included with the city’s complaint, or was it?
Can you put a dollar estimate on “costly” as it relates to the civil suit and RCMP complaint in this instance?
Your last paragraph indicates that there are additional actions against council members but they relate to matters involving staff so you cannot comment. Please correct me if that is not what you meant.
Oct 27, 2017 – 11:30 AM
From: Jim Kipp
Sorry, your correct, you misinterpreted my responses. Not privy to investigation and no insinuation or indications as my message states.
Oct 27, 2017 – 1:45 PM
From: Jim Kipp (Unsolicited)
Mrs Samra has done more to make the corporate body of the city, accountable, transparent, responsible, responsive and extends effort to meet or exceed the legal frame work of municipal regulation, bylaws and process. Very accountable as local government management goes and more than her three predecessors.
Thx and get out to enjoy this beautiful weather, have a great weekend.
Oct 27, 2017 – 2:07 PM
From: Dominic Jones
When I cut through the clutter, there is still the fact that an 11-month RCMP investigation with help of one of the most experienced criminal lawyers in the Province found nothing to support the city’s complaint.
And now those who voted to use public resources for what some see as a personal vendetta have nothing to say. Is that the new definition of accountability?
Oct 27, 2017– 2:32 PM
From: Jim Kipp
The facts remain that your mayor McKay did some thing that took the investigators 11 months to review, digest and come to a conclusion. 11 months of the finest investigators, well maybe not finest, and the buffoonery started before he was elected.
For myself you are the clutter that defends the action of reckless and unfounded behaviours by attacks on the messenger, not what is exposed. in the case of your clatter of the poor mayor, Mrs Samra is the messenger.
Oct 27, 2017 – 2:49 PM
From: Dominic Jones
Thanks for your time today.
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