POWASSAN – There is confusion surrounding an alleged lawsuit against Coun. Nancy Barner.
The issue of a possible lawsuit was brought to the forefront after council’s emails in regard to the former Church of God property owned by Arnold Keown were obtained through a Freedom of Information request.
In an email chain between Barner and Powassan resident Norm Poulin dated Aug. 8, Barner tells Poulin she plans to “direct her energies to fighting Mr. Keown in court.”
Later that day Poulin responds, “Sorry your (sic) getting sued. I will gladly ask council to pay for a lawyer for you…”
Hours later Barner responded saying, “Council has agreed that I receive legal representation.”
Barner has been vocal in her opposition to the rezoning of Keown’s property to allow for an eight-unit multi-residential rental complex, which went before the Ontario Municipal Board in July. Throughout the process, Keown has said Baner and Coun. Dave Britton should have declared a conflict of interest on the application.
When asked about the lawsuit Barner said she wasn’t at liberty to discuss it because it is “private information.”
Barner said she hadn’t revealed any specific details to Poulin, who could not be reached by telephone and failed to respond to an email prior to press time.
Barner said the person to contact for more information on the lawsuit would be Keown. But he says he knows nothing about it.
“I have never talked to a lawyer about suing her,” Keown said.
When asked if he ever sent a letter to Barner suggesting he was considering launching a lawsuit against her, he said he did not.
“I don’t communicate privately to anybody. I only use open letters to council, which they all receive. When you look through all of those emails, you don’t see any from Arnold Keown,” he said.
The emails that were handed over by council through the Freedom of Information request don’t include mention of a lawsuit by any other council member.
However, in an email chain that began Aug. 3, 2012, deputy clerk Kim Bester-Melanson sent an email to all members of council, as well as the clerk treasurer, with the message, “Arnold was just in and asked that I scan and email the attached letter to all of you.”
Next in the chain is a response from Barner to Coun. Dave Britton which states, “I hope you are not responding to this garbage. Let him bring this on and waste his money. You and I have done nothing wrong… You have zero conflict.”
In a copy of Keown’s letter dated Aug. 3, Keown requests Barner and Britton declare a conflict of interest on his file prior to Aug. 8. Otherwise he would file a formal grievance with the Superior Court of Justice.
In the letter, Keown states a judge from the Superior Court of Justice “can interpret a grievance from a citizen and then rule on that grievance, including consequences.”
Nowhere in the letter is there mention of a civil lawsuit against Barner or Britton.
When asked specifically if the lawsuit Barner mentioned in her email to Poulin four days later was in relation to a conflict of interest accusation from Keown, Barner said, “He can’t sue me for conflict of interest. I live in Trout Creek nowhere near his property. I have no conflict.”
When asked about the lawsuit and council’s commitment to covering Barner’s legal costs, Mayor Peter McIsaac said “At this time I am aware of no law suit, therefore no costs are being covered by the Municipality of Powassan,… No special consideration has been given to any member of council regarding any personal legal fees.”
Deputy Mayor Todd White was in agreement.
“We can’t use municipal funds to hire a lawyer for a council member,” said White. “Municipal lawyers don’t represent council. If we get sued, we’re on our own.”
Despite the inconsistency within members of council, Barner insists council told her she would be covered, but didn’t disclose the nature of the lawsuit she claims is impending.
Attempts to reach Poulin were unsuccessful.