The petition for the Supreme Court of B.C. to conduct a judicial review seeking to remove Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples from office has been dismissed.
Staples and her lawyers had asked the court to have the application dismissed, for a number of procedural reasons, and July 24 was set as the date for that hearing.
But Paul Hildebrand, a lawyer for Staples with the Vancouver-based law firm Lidstone & Company, was contacted in advance of the hearing date by a lawyer representing the petitioners.
Hildebrand said the petitioners’ agreed to consent to the dismissal of the petition, and a dismissal order will soon be filed.
The petition, signed by Duncan resident Mark Anderson and 10 other unnamed residents, was alleging there are reasonable grounds to believe that Staples is in a number of conflicts of interest over grant payments and directing grant money to organizations in which she is involved or has an interest.
Anderson said the reasons for terminating the petition are all about procedural issues and the bureaucratic obstacles put in the petitioners’ way, and not about the substance of the complaint.
He said that among the issues faced was that the court registry has COVID-19 rules and procedures in place, including the fact that registry staff will not deal with the public face-to-face, making the process more difficult than usual.
“The registry also told me I had to set up an online account with the BC Courts’ online system in order to get the documents I needed to serve on the other parties downloaded,” Anderson said.
“That proved surprisingly and unexpectedly difficult and took a few days to resolve.”
Anderson said he then had to deal with ServiceBC to get his identification documents verified in person before he could set up the account, but COVID-19 rules made that process difficult as well.
“Getting around these procedural obstacles took more than seven days, so I wound up exceeding the seven-day requirement for document service on the other parties,” he said.
“I consulted a lawyer after the fact and was advised that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome this issue at the BC Supreme Court hearing scheduled for July 24. The lawyer’s advice was to agree to drop the petition due to these procedural issues, so we did.”
Staples said the dismissal of the petition is a just outcome because there was never any merit to the allegations in the first place.
Staples said that under the city’s bylaws, she was entitled to have the legal costs of defending against the petition covered but, in this case, she was able to minimize the cost by having the proceedings dismissed at a relatively early stage.
“Nevertheless, it is unfortunate that valuable city resources need to be allocated to responding to misconceived legal actions,” she said.
“People can certainly be creative in their thinking, but this petition takes time away from the real issues we are all working so hard to address in our city and region. We are a small community supporting each other through the global pandemic, the ongoing opioid crisis and improving our sense of safety and well being as a community. On top of these priorities, there are another 100 conversations going on any time regarding city operations. We are committed to moving forward and working together.”