NANAIMO — The city of Nanaimo is moving ahead with legal action against its own mayor.
City council has released a statement accusing mayor Bill McKay of several acts of misconduct, including leaking confidential and privileged information to a former employee who had filed a constructive dismissal claim and human rights claim against the city and CAO. The release states council has directed staff to move ahead with litigation against the mayor under section 117(2) of the Community Charter. Staff, according to the statement, have also been directed to take the information to the RCMP for consideration under the Offence Act.
"I can't tell you how disappointed I am that politics in Nanaimo has gone down to this low of a level," said McKay. "This is purely an attack on someone who has a different opinion than some members of council. It's about a member who simply wants to go do his job and might have a differing opinion from other members and this is the result."
The statement reads: "We have had more than a year of discord due, in part to, the Mayor's inability to be honest with Council about the business of the City and matters important for the community. Council has warned the Mayor several times that his actions were jeopardizing the integrity of Council and placing the City at unnecessary risk for litigation."
Starting in March 2016 council directed staff to investigate financial disclosure reporting and several other areas related to the mayor, according to the statement. It alleges McKay was not transparent to council, staff or the community.
McKay says he has not been made aware of the items he allegedly shared with the former employee and is not prepared to comment on whether he thinks he may have done anything wrong.
"I would question why the employee left. We're talking about an employee that worked for the city for 43 years who filed a claim against the city. We need to examine further why that claim was filed in the first place. What you're seeing today is a distraction from the root problem...a dedicated and loyal employee filed a human rights and constructive termination suit against the city, that's the issue," he said.
The city has confirmed that claim was settled out of court.
The statement also alleges McKay entered into a non-disclosure agreement with Clipper Navigation Inc. to begin discussions to bring a foot ferry to Nanaimo, without council approval. It states this happened while the city had a lease with Island Ferry Services and McKay accepted a free trip in Sept. 2015 and failed to disclose it.
"We received an unsolicited visit from Clipper...I agreed to meet with them at their office in Seattle. I traveled by their boat, all of the other expenses were paid by the city of Nanaimo. Council knew I was going and I reported back to council on those very exploratory discussions."
McKay says he will provide documents when the proper time comes that show clearly council was aware of the trip. He says a non-disclosure agreement was just an ordinary part of doing business and he didn't consider the free ferry ride a gift. He says he's prepared to show legal advice from the city's solicitor that something like that would not be considered to be a gift.
"It was simply a matter of them doing their part to cover the cost of a meeting," said McKay.
The mayor says himself and another councillor have been targeted by members of council who disagree with their opinions. He says they appear to be willing to take out all the stops in order to embarrass and humiliate people. McKay says he has already engaged a lawyer and will have to pay for it out of his pocket because council has declined to provide a legal defense budget for him.
Also contained in the statement are accusations that McKay accepted gifts on his 2015 trip to China and did not declare them. It claims two local investors setup the meetings on the trip and one of those developers asked for a letter of intent for exclusive business with the city when McKay returned to Canada.
"When we went to China we received hospitality gifts that one would expect would be presented to a dignitary coming from another country. They did not have significant value and in my view were not of a level that would require reporting."
Council seems to be engaged in something that is completely unnecessary, McKay says.
"We've got a group on council that seem willing to stop at nothing to attack those that don't share their visions and their views. It's politics, pure and simple."
None of the allegations contained in the statement from council have been proven.