After five years of fighting, the Strathcona Regional District is on the hook for a former director’s legal fees, the BC Court of Appeal has ruled.
In 2018, friends organized a fundraiser to rebuild a burned cabin on Cortes Island director Noba Anderson’s property. Some Island residents were upset and alleged a conflict of interest, filing a petition in the Supreme Court to disqualify her from holding office.
It went nowhere, but when Anderson asked the regional district to cover her legal fees, the board refused, arguing she should not have provided confidential board information to her lawyer for her defence.
Last week Justice Gail Dickson ruled Anderson did nothing wrong, and that the district must cover her legal fees.
“Confiding in a lawyer does not involve public disclosure of any kind. A lawyer is duty-bound by solicitor-client privilege to maintain confidentiality,” Dickson said in her reasons for judgment.
The judge found the regional district was acting reasonably when it moved to censure Anderson after learning she had given confidential information to her lawyer. However, Dickson said the district’s interpretation of the Community Charter, which guides all municipal governments in BC, was incorrect. The section of the Charter in question (117) says elected officials must keep certain records confidential. However, Dickson said, those rules do not trump solicitor-client privilege.
Dickson ruled the regional district must cover Anderson’s legal costs for defending herself from the 2018 petition. Those costs have not been made public.
Anderson did not run in last year’s municipal election.