Four West Nipissing councillors say they can no longer attend regular meetings until they are granted access to legal counsel, after being blocked from entering a closed session discussion with the municipality’s lawyer once again.
Councillors Chris Fisher, Rolly Larabie, Leo Malette and Dan Roveda sent out a release on Friday, April 8 stating that they will be boycotting regular and special council meetings until Mayor Joanne Savage and Councillors Yvon Duhaime, Denis Sénécal and Lise Sénécal stop blocking their efforts to enter closed session to receive advice regarding a legal notice that the latter four members sent to the municipality.
“We understand these delays are not productive, however, our rights to legal counsel have been taken away,” reads the release. “Until our legal position is clear, we will not be attending regular or special Council meetings yet will continue with the Budget process until it is finalized. Please bear with us.”
On Feb. 25, the legal firm Caza Saikaley, representing the mayor and three councillors, emailed a letter to the other four threatening a defamation lawsuit if comments related to an ongoing closed session HR file are “repeated or distributed outside of council.”
“Our instructions are to bring any and all civil actions as are necessary against all authors of defamatory comments to bring an end to the spread of false and malicious statements, and to obtain compensation for damages suffered as a result of that defamation,” read the letter from Caza.
At both a special meeting on March 22 and the regular council meeting on April 5, the complainants argued that the letter doesn’t impact the municipality and that it’s a message that they “will no longer be intimidated.” But as the other four councillors and staff have both noted, the municipality could have liability in the matter.
“The letter itself, although addressed to the municipality, was sent to Council members via email. The people named in it were wide-ranging and not well defined, senior members of staff and Chris Fisher, Roland Larabie, Leo Malette and Dan Roveda, at the least,” read their release. “One could also infer that there were accusations made against legal counsel for the municipality. The accusations and threats made in this letter are equally bizarre and unfounded. The letter concerns an ongoing file (one that is also being blocked) that we have nothing to do with; the letter concerns the potential sharing of information from that file. To be honest, as Councillors, we don’t know what to make of it.”