By Kirk Starratt
No decision has been made on a motion to have an application for a judicial review before the Supreme Court to be dismissed.
The application relates to a code of conduct violation alleged against Kings County Coun. Pauline Raven. Lawyer Peter Muttart filed a notice of judicial review on behalf of Raven in October. The matter was first before Judge Michael Wood in Supreme Court in Kentville in November and it returned on Dec. 19.
The court addressed preliminary issues, including a motion for dismissal argued by lawyer Jonathan Cuming on behalf of the County of Kings.
Speaking on behalf of his client, Muttart said the verbatim transcript of the council proceedings in question is 240 pages. He said they’ve now been provided with another 500 pages of affidavit from the municipality’s lawyer.
“We don’t know what it is in the verbal transcript that the county is so concerned with that they need to explain it with another 500 pages,” Muttart said following the Dec. 19 court session.
Speaking on behalf of the municipality following court, Deputy Warden Brian Hirtle called the situation “unfortunate.” He said the municipality didn’t ask to go to court and the matter is really out of their hands. However, Hirtle said the proceedings on Dec. 19 would take the matter another step toward closure and to hopefully reaching a decision that everyone could live with.
Referencing a warning issued to Raven, Hirtle said he supports council’s decision of Oct. 15 to endorse the action. He said some control and rules are needed within chambers.
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“If councillors are not abiding by those rules, the chair needs the ability to issue a warning,” Hirtle said. “Our council upheld that decision and I’m very proud of that.”
Raven is looking to have the warning issued to her quashed by the Supreme Court. Following the November court date, Muttart was given time to amend the original notice of judicial review. The notice was amended to establish a time frame between Sept. 17 and Nov. 12. Cuming said the amendment was beyond the scope anticipated.
Muttart argued that the entire matter has been a continuum. He wants portions of a Sept. 17 council transcript when Brothers stepped down from the chair to debate entered forcontext. He also wants a piece of correspondence to county councillors from the warden dated Nov. 12 entered. This relates to another code of conduct allegation made against his client. It’s council’s decisions of Oct. 1 and 15 they want reviewed.
In arguing for dismissal, Cuming said he is at a loss to see what “legal interest” Raven would have lost as a result of the warning being issued. He understands the court can only review such a municipal matter if there is an allegation of bias and “there is none.”
Cuming said the municipality is concerned that, if the judicial review proceeds, a similar situation could arise at council in the future where a warning is issued by the chair, resulting in another application for judicial review. He described this as a “chilling effect.”
The municipality maintains that this issue isn’t about the code of conduct but a point of order. Raven had a number of opportunities to challenge the Warden’s decision on the point of order. However, Raven did not challenge the decision, an action afforded to her under Bylaw 64. Muttart argues that no point of order was ever called.
At the Oct. 1 council meeting, Brothers asked Raven to withdraw comments about “misrepresentation” and “manipulation” of information Raven made during debate over a regional governance study. Raven declined after Brothers ruled Raven couldn’t make another statement for the record in its place. Brothers then told the executive assistant to strike Raven’s comments from the record.
Raven excused herself from an in-camera discussion at the Oct. 15 committee of the whole session due to concern over a possible conflict of interest. Council endorsed a warning to Raven following the meeting and approved the motion later that day.
Muttart said council must conduct investigations into code of conduct allegations. However, the investigation was conducted at the committee level, during an in-camera session. He said this was “all wrong procedurally.”
He said “natural justice” wasn’t afforded to his client because Raven or her legal representative were not present for the investigative session. Muttart said that when Raven wasn’t “shut down” at council she was “shut out.”
The matter has been adjourned to Jan. 3 at 1:30 p.m. The court will hear arguments on whether or not to allow the affidavit as part of the record. Arguments will also continue on the municipality’s motion for dismissal. On Jan. 21, amotion for direction will resume. At this juncture, the judgecould set a hearing date for the judicial review.