Noba Anderson, Strathcona Regional District lawsuit postponed due to backlog

The glass door entrance to the Strathcona Regional District board room.
The Strathcona Regional District Boardroom. Photo by Roy L Hales.
Roy Hales - CKTZ - Cortes IslandBC | 28-11-2020

By Roy L Hales

Noba Anderson vs the SRD was not heard last week. Though the lawsuit was scheduled for the assize week starting Nov. 23, the courts are dealing with such a heavy backlog of cases that it now seems possible the hearing will not take place until January, 2021.

Origins of the dispute

The origins of this suit go back to a legal petition (the ‘Disqualification petition’) that fourteen Cortes residents filed against Regional Director Anderson for an alleged conflict of interest in the manner that she carried out some of her duties. When the case reached court, the lawyers from both sides made a joint submission stating, “There is no basis for the declarations sought by the petitioners” and director Anderson “did not accept a gift contrary to section 105 of the Community Charter.”

The current lawsuit, Noba Anderson vs the SRD, arose because the Strathcona Regional District subsequently refused to pay Anderson’s legal costs.

Last month, the SRD’s lawyerJames H Goulden, filed a response.

“The Disqualification Petition is not a ‘claim, action or prosecution’ and was brought against Director Anderson in respect of the alleged receipt of gifts that were not in connection with the exercise of her powers or the intended exercise of her powers or, the performance, or intended performance of her duties or functions. The SRD is therefore not required to indemnify Director Anderson for the legal costs incurred," Goulden wrote.

The SRD Board also censured Anderson for showing confidential documents to her lawyer, while seeking his legal advice.

According to the SRD’s Code of Conduct Bylaw, “information discussed or disclosed at closed meeting or the board” or marked as confidential “must not be disclosed or released to anyone.”

Latest developments

The most recent development in this case is another SRD’s response, filed by Goulden on Nov 16.

Cortes Island Regional Director Noba Anderson demanded that she be given access to records of the closed board meetings in which the SRD made their decisions.

Goulden acknowledged that, after her lawyer was given access to confidential information, “Director Anderson has not been provided with copies of closed reports to the Board (“Closed Reports”) respecting matters that relate to Director Anderson and to which Director Anderson may be in a conflict of interest with the Board.”

"The SRD has no obligation to provide Director Anderson with copies of the Closed Reports relating to matters in respect of which Director Anderson may be in conflict with the SRD. Director Anderson has demonstrated that she will pass that information on to her personal legal counsel and the SRD does not agree that that is an acceptable use of its privileged and confidential information … The SRD’s solicitor-client privileged information belongs to the SRD and a single Board member has no authority to waive that privilege," he added.

Redacted copies of some written materials have been given to the court.

While meetings are recorded, staff explained this is to help prepare the minutes and the recordings for the meetings of Nov. 7, 2018, April 10, May. 8 and May. 22 no longer exist.

“The audio recordings of the Board’s meetings on July 24, 2019 and September 11, 2019; and the partial recording of the Board’s closed meeting on October 24, 2019, ought not to be produced … There are no exceptional circumstances to warrant production of the recordings. Director Anderson has not established that such evidence is relevant and necessary," Goulden argued.

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