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Nanaimo council’s allegations against mayor begin to fall apart — one week after unusual statement

Window to take action on two of three allegations had already expired by the time council issued media statement, while RCMP complaint compromised by media circus
Nanaimo city council will not take action on two of the three allegations it made against Mayor Bill McKay in an unusual public statement last week, News Nanaimo can reveal today.

That is because the window for acting on them had already expired by the time majority leader Bill Bestwick and councillor Jerry Hong issued the bombshell claims on Nov. 8.

Meanwhile, a senior RCMP source told News Nanaimo the city may have compromised its complaint on the third allegation by making a media announcement.

“It makes the complaint, which isn’t a criminal matter and originates from a political source, seem vexatious,” said the RCMP source, who cannot be named because he is not authorized to comment on the case.

Bill McKay
Mayor Bill McKay says public allegations are politically motivated attack on his good name

The developments cast doubt over the strength and veracity of the city’s case and raise questions about the council majority’s motives for making the allegations public.

Mr. McKay told reporters the allegations are false and politically motivated. He has accused the Bestwick-led majority of using innuendo, misstatements of fact and speculation to attack his good name.

The unusual media statement came at a time when Mr. Bestwick’s five-man majority and their hand-picked city manager Tracy Samra were under pressure over a slew of controversies, including the nationally publicized “bite me” outburst by majority member Gord Fuller (see video below).

The public also was in uproar over a council decision to cut staff and end gender specific guarding at the city’s holding cells. Ten directors of the Nanaimo Economic Development Corp. (NEDC) had resigned and the CEO John Hankins fired in a bitter boardroom battle with council.

Meanwhile, Ms. Samra herself was under scrutiny for accepting a gift of a ticket to a Liberal Party fundraiser she attended during a trip she charged to taxpayers.

Both Mr. Bestwick and Mr. Hong did not respond to questions sent to them via email on Thursday.

Council sat on gift reporting allegations for months

The two allegations that the city cannot act on relate to claims that the mayor should have reported receiving gifts while on trips to China and to Seattle, WA., in 2015.

The city had 45 days to start court proceedings to have the mayor disqualified from office after learning about the alleged unreported gift violations.

However, sources say councillors and Ms. Samra failed to act on the information for months.

While a decision to act against the mayor needed six votes to pass, no action was taken even though seven of eight councillors signed a non-confidence letter in March asking the mayor to resign.

Councillor Hong confirmed last week in an interview with CHEK news that the unreported gift allegations were known to council at the time of the March non-confidence letter.

bestwick and hong
Councillors Bill Bestwick and Jerry Hong failed to answer questions

Mr. McKay has said the city’s lawyer cleared his September 2015 trip to Seattle to visit Clipper Navigation to discuss adding Nanaimo to its service. He travelled as a guest on Clipper’s Victoria-Seattle ferry.

The city’s statement described this as “a free trip from Clipper to do business out of the country.”

In media interviews, Mr. McKay said all the gifts he received in China during the November 2015 trip related to his role as mayor and were “trinkets” valued at less than $250.

The city’s release also said the mayor failed to report receiving the gift of a “flight” to return home from China from the former volunteer chairman of the Nanaimo Economic Development Corp. Andre Sullivan.

However, both the mayor and Mr. Sullivan explained that the “gift” was not an air ticket but a flight change fee.

Both had tickets home on a longer flight via Hong Kong. But Mr. Sullivan, eager to get home to his wife and new baby, changed the tickets to a 4-hour shorter direct flight at a personal cost of $800 each.

Both men also said that the mayor told Mr. Sullivan to charge the flight change fee to his NEDC expenses. However, Mr. Sullivan says he didn’t because he was sensitive to taxpayers paying for his decision to take a shorter flight.

Meanwhile, the fact that the mayor did not report any gifts received does not appear to be unusual at the city.

“I can say with almost certainty that there have been no disclosure statements provided to the Corporate Officer (or other Staff) by Council, during this Council’s term, or the prior Council term for receipt of gifts,” Sheila Gurrie, the city’s freedom of information head, told News Nanaimo this week.

Council seeks $80K from McKay for helping staff member’s case

With the city unable to pursue the mayor’s disqualification on the gifts allegations, the Bestwick-led majority has ordered the city lawyers to focus on the third allegation.

The city alleges that Mr. McKay gave “confidential and privileged information” to former council administrative assistant Marilyn Smith to help her dismissal and human rights claims against the city and Ms. Samra.

The mayor denies any wrongdoing.

Last month, the city settled with Ms. Smith, a city employee for more than 40 years. She served six mayors and scores of councillors going back to the days of Frank Ney.

One source said Ms. Smith filed her claims after Ms. Samra cut her council support job to a half-day position and moved her to a union position.

The council majority has authorized the city’s lawyers to sue the mayor to recover part of the settlement paid to Ms. Smith.

The city is claiming about $80,000 from the mayor, according to two sources close to the case.

Mr. Bestwick and Mr. Hong did not respond to questions about when the the suit will be filed or how much the mayor will be asked to repay the city.

The city has also asked the RCMP to probe the alleged leak of sensitive information for possible violation of the provincial Offence Act.

Nanaimo RCMP referred the city’s complaint to Vancouver Island RCMP headquarters in Victoria, which is normal protocol to avoid conflicts between local officers and the council.

Island District media relations officer Corporal Tammy Douglas said the RCMP would first review the information and take measures “to ensure a level of independence as individuals outside of the Nanaimo RCMP will be engaged in this review.”

The allegations against the mayor are not criminal code violations. He most likely faces a fine if convicted. However, the RCMP must first determine if there is good enough reason to investigate the complaint.

Typically, the RCMP will not comment on complaints before they have been investigated and charges are recommended.

Cpl. Douglas said this was to “protect the integrity of what we do and the privacy of those involved.”

However, the city’s decision to put out a news release meant the RCMP was forced to confirm receiving the city’s complaint.

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  • Why can they all not get along? For well over a century, Canadians after voting and finding the results got behind their elected officials and showed support. Suddenly, due to influence of social media, we now hate those, that some of our citizens, did not vote for and never let up. Get it together council and accept the fact that there are 9 of you. You don’t have to agree with each other but get along.

    ” I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.” ~ from the book ” The Friends of Voltaire “

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