City of Nanaimo sued over unpaid bill for controversial Integrity Group work

By Dominic Abassi
January 20, 2018 - 2:40pm

The City of Nanaimo is being sued by a Vancouver firm over an unpaid bill for facilitation work.File Photo/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — A consulting firm is suing the City over an unpaid bill, evoking one of the most bitter disputes between Nanaimo's current Council.

Vancouver-based The Integrity Group filed a civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court earlier this month, claiming the City refused to pay more than $52,000 for work in 2015.

In May 2015, mayor Bill McKay hired Integrity to act as a facilitator to deal with issues between himself, members of council and then-city manager Ted Swabey.

The civil claim alleged McKay told Integrity's Heather MacKenzie he had the authority to hire the firm and the invoices would be paid. McKay previously told NanaimoNewsNOW he initiated the work with Integrity.

No total budget is referenced, but Integrity claimed McKay agreed to an hourly rate of $295.

The claim said MacKenzie then met with Council and the next day McKay told her to begin the process.

Invoices submitted in January 2016 remain unpaid, the claim said.

"Despite later confirmations from the Mayor that these invoices were acceptable...and should be paid, the Defendant has refused to pay."

Integrity is seeking more than $52,000 plus legal costs from the City.

None of the claims have been proven in court and the City has not filed a response.

Controversy swirled around the Integrity process since an email written by McKay to MacKenzie and Swabey was leaked and ended up on a citizen's windshield.

The contents, McKay's often harshly critical opinions of fellow councillors, were sent to the media and brought to the floor during a November 2016 council meeting.

Councillors threatened to sue the mayor over the email's contents, saying it validated their previous calls for his resignation.

The timing of the email and sincerity of the Integrity process were also called into question.

McKay's email was dated March 31, 2015, nearly two months before MacKenzie met with Council and was officially hired.

Coun. Bill Bestwick claimed it was proof McKay intended to pre-script the outcome of the facilitation process.

McKay denied that claim, saying he was asked for his honest opinion and desired outcomes because he was the one who reached out to Integrity.

The leak of the email is currently being investigated by the province's privacy watchdog.

In late 2016, city manager Tracy Samra said the expected cost of the work was $20,000 and the bill, more than double what was expected, remained unpaid.

"Once either Mayor McKay or Ms. MacKenzie provides the City with the information required to verify the services provided we will be in a position to make a decision about paying the invoices," stated Samra in an email.

 

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On Twitter: @domabassi

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