Fredericton City Council,
As you know, the lawsuit filed against Mayor Brad Woodside, Murray Jamer, and the City of Fredericton has been settled out of court. The Defendants agreed to pay the Plaintiffs a total of $14,350 in damages. There is an issue with this settlement that we feel must be brought to your attention.
According to Fredericton’s By-law A-3, section 3.03, “the conduct, control and settlement of any such claims shall be at the discretion of the Council.” We were alarmed to notice that the settlement cheques, which are dated November 14, 2013, were issued from a City of Fredericton bank account, even though City Council did not vote to pay this expense from City coffers. Mr. Woodside himself has acknowledged this fact, but suggested that it was appropriate for the City to pay the settlement because he didn’t think that his own actions were dishonest. For obvious reasons, it is not up to Mr. Woodside to make that determination. By going behind Council’s back and issuing these cheques without a vote authorizing him to do so, Mr. Woodside exceeded his authority and violated By-law A-3.
As indicated in the lawsuit’s Statement of Claim, we have always taken the position that Mr. Woodside and Mr. Jamer are “personally liable for their actions,” and should thus pay the costs of the lawsuit themselves. We do not think it fair to taxpayers for their money to be used to cover the legal expenses of officials who get sued as a result of dishonest conduct. The same sentiment is reflected in section 3.04 of By-law A-3, which indicates that the City will not pay the legal costs of officials who “contribute to a claim by reason of fraud or dishonesty” or who have been “grossly negligent,” among other provisions.
Given that the settlement is a direct result of Mr. Woodside and Mr. Jamer accusing members of the public of violating by-law provisions that do not exist, they certainly did contribute to the claim through dishonesty. They may try to claim that they were somehow unaware that the by-law provisions they had enforced were fictional. Given that Mr. Woodside repeatedly told the media both before and after the shelter was torn down that Fredericton needed to pass a new by-law to prohibit sit-in protests, it is clear that they did, in fact, know that there was no such by-law already in place. Below are three excerpts from interviews with Mr. Woodside that illustrate this:
“City, protesters nudge closer to deal.” Daily Gleaner, November 25, 2011. Page A.1.
The mayor said he’s disappointed the group won’t relinquish the public square, but he’s not ready to physically remove the group.
“This Occupy movement here and all across North America has caught a lot of people off-guard. What I mean by that is the ability to go in and physically remove people.
“We don’t have, at present, the legislation because we’ve never dealt with anything like this before. We have got to have the legal legs beneath us.”
The mayor said he’s meeting with legal and senior staff to put together legislation that will address Occupy movements or any other public protests where people encamp in public spaces.
“Occupy, mayor reach temporary truce.” Daily Gleaner, November 29, 2011. Page A.3.
“The negotiations continue, and we’re also putting into place through our legal
department things that we can use to deal with this in the future,” [Woodside] said.
“Occupy Fredericton dismantled,” CBC News, January 3, 2012. Radio interview.
Terry Seguin: Are you then thinking about legislation that would be put in place which would prevent this kind of protest from occurring again?
Brad Woodside: In any public space, crack, or crevice. Absolutely.
Given the above, it is clear that Mr. Woodside and Mr. Jamer were aware that the protesters were not breaking the law. And how could they not have known? They had a lawyer—the City Solicitor—to advise them. As for the legislation that Mr. Woodside said needed to be passed to prohibit sit-in protests in Phoenix Square, it was passed as By-law L-12 on April 23, 2012. This was more than three months after Mr. Woodside and Mr. Jamer had the protesters’ shelter destroyed.
Since Mr. Woodside has long since paid his and Mr. Jamer’s legal costs with City money, it is too late to vote on whether the City should pay. The issue to be decided now is whether the City of Fredericton’s by-laws are to be enforced or if the Mayor is allowed to subvert them. If the laws are to be enforced, Mr. Woodside and Mr. Jamer should be required to repay the funds that they wrongly appropriated from the City. Perhaps they will even do the right thing and volunteer to pay the City back without the need for a vote.
How Council deals with this matter will send a message to constituents as to what kind of city its Council promotes. Is Fredericton a city based on the rule of law, where public officials are held accountable for their actions, or is Fredericton a city in which old boys cover for the other old boys in their club? We, and many others, look forward to seeing this question answered.
Julian Renaud, Dana Hartt, and Alex Davenport