Court documents allege mayor helped former employee sue city of Nanaimo

By Dominic Abassi
January 3, 2017 - 6:07pm

NANAIMO — The city of Nanaimo is pressing ahead with promised legal action against Mayor Bill McKay, alleging he helped a former employee file a claim against the city.

The city's law firm, Valkyrie Law Group, filed a notice of civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court on Dec. 28 against the mayor. The claim asks the court to declare the mayor breached his duty to the city, acted against the best interests of the corporation and interfered with municipal employees. It also asks for judgement to recover the city's losses, including a settlement paid to the former employee and legal fees.

According to court documents, administrative assistant Marilyn Smith, who had been with the city for more than 40 years, went on medical leave in April 2016 after "receiving new direction regarding her duties."

John Van Horne, the city's director of human resources, says Smith then filed a constructive dismissal and human rights claim against the city. Van Horne says that case was settled out of court in the late fall.

The city's claim states the mayor engaged in "several communications" with Smith, despite repeated requests by the chief administrative officer that council not communicate with Smith due to the pending litigation.

Those alleged communications, the court filing states, resulted in the mayor assisting Smith in bringing a claim against the city, provided her with confidential information that was used to support a claim against the city and caused or contributed to loss and damage incurred by the city.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

McKay says he has not been served with the claim yet and only found out about it via social media. He tells NanaimoNewsNOW that he looks forward to defending himself vigorously in court, although he has not been made aware of the specific allegations against him.

When it came to light that he was being accused of supplying information to Smith, McKay says he removed himself from any further council discussions from that point on, specifically so he couldn't be blamed for sharing anything.

The filing of the claim against McKay follows-through on a statement released by council in early November. In that statement, council announced it had directed staff to begin litigation against the mayor over the settlement with Smith.

When that statement was released, McKay said his questions surrounded why a long-time employee left on such poor terms. 

"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 in an early November interview.

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