Councillor wants taxpayers to cover his legal fees

From L to R: Counc. Hollie Blanchette, Counc. Owen Torgerson, Mayor Jeannette Townsend, Counc. Peter Reimer and Counc. Sandy Salt.
From L to R: Counc. Hollie Blanchette, Counc. Owen Torgerson, Mayor Jeannette Townsend, Counc. Peter Reimer and Counc. Sandy Salt.

By: Korie Marshall

A member of Valemount Council has requested reimbursement for legal fees, and is suggesting each councillor be afforded an annual budget for legal opinions.

In his letter on the June 9th agenda, Councillor Peter Reimer says Council was unable to continue a closed meeting on April 14th, 2015, dealing with the issue of the sewer backup claims resulting from the Dogwood lift station failure in August and September 2014. He says his decision to remain in the meeting was challenged because the Village’s legal counsel, Don Lidstone, gave a legal opinion that Reimer’s involvement as “owner” of Underwriters Insurance Brokers, through which a number of the claimant’s had purchased their insurance, placed him in conflict of interest.

Reimer says the opinion by Lidstone was based on incorrect information given by the Village’s CAO Anne Yanciw, and that there was no attempt made to determine if there was a need for legal advice.

“I was forced therefore in order to protect my rights in this matter and to seek other legal advice,” (sic) says Reimer in the letter. He has not yet responded to questions from the Goat to clarify what rights in the matter he was protecting.

Reimer says he sought his own legal advice from Jeff Frame with Forward Law in Kamloops, who concluded that Reimer did not have a conflict of interest. His letter to Council does not attempt to explain how the different opinions were arrived at, but says the other Councillors have seen the opinion from Frame.

Reimer’s letter says there is a lack of clear policy on who should pay for legal advice, and that the responsibility of deciding whether a councillor is in conflict of interest rests with the councillor themselves, no one else.

Reimer has requested reimbursement for $1,682.94 in legal fees, and suggests that each councillor should be afforded an annual budget for legal opinions. “These should only occur infrequently if we follow the charter and the spirit of the court decisions already established in certain matters,” said Reimer in the letter.

The request was on the agenda for Valemount Council’s June 9th meeting.

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