By Roy L Hales
Cortes Island’s silliest lawsuit is finally over. Lawyers for the plaintiffs and defendant submitted a joint statement to the court. Judge R.A. Skolrood agreed: there is no factual basis for the legal petition that 14 Cortes residents filed against Regional Director Noba Anderson last January and no conflict of interest.
The Judges Ruling
Justice Skolrood ruled:
- “There is no basis for the declarations sought by the petitioners;
- “The Respondent [ie Director Anderson] did not accept a gift contrary to section 105 of the Community Charter
- “Pursuant to s. 111(6) of the Community Charter the Respondent is qualified to hold office;
- “The petitioners shall pay to the Respondent costs in the lump sum of $4,850 and
- “The petition is dismissed.”
Strathcona Regional District
Item #3 was for the benefit of the Strathcona Regional District. To quote the Campbell River Mirror, the SRD has been treating Cortes Island as ‘Electoral Area non grata’ this year. No Advisory Planning Commission has been appointed. All but one Grant-in-Aid has been denied. The two referenda, for funding first responder service and the island’s two community halls, has been delayed.
We will see what happens at the Strathcona Regional District’s next board meeting – on Wednesday, June 12, 2019.
In their petition to the Supreme Court of British Columbia, the plaintiff’s lawyer argued that “Anderson took money from her constituents for personal gain and a number of those same constituents received gifts and grants in return.”
This was alleged to have occurred after Bernie Anderson’s cabin burned down in January 2018. A GoFundMe campaign was launched to help pay for new accommodations. As Bernie’s daughter and legal guardian, Director Anderson decided to add a bedroom for him to her home.
Telephone Conversation with Noba
“I continually maintained that these accusations were baseless and it was a relief today to have the BC Supreme court agree to that there was indeed no conflict of interest. There had never been an inappropriate receipt of gifts,” said Anderson, in a telephone conversation later that night.
No Factual Basis For The Allegations
The plaintiff’s lawyer, Harry A Wenngatz, now admits there is no factual basis for the lawsuit. He told the court that his clients had been “put up to” making their allegations, but would not disclose the identity of the real instigator of this suit.
Noba’s lawyer, Matthew Voell, argued that his client’s personal benefit is so remote that it is virtually identical to that of every other Cortes resident. Cortes Island’s volunteer organizations enrich our communal experience.
Delving deeper, Voell broke the plaintiff’s arguments into three categories:
- Those pertaining to events prior to the fire, which are impossible to claim as having arose because of it.
- Grants in Aid from April 2018, which the Plaintiffs argued Anderson should not have voted on. Voell pointed out that this argument would only apply if she cast the deciding vote, which she did not. Anderson was actually on maternity leave at the time. She was not present when the vote occured.
- Anderson did return in time to vote for two Grants in Aid on October 10, 2018. The SRD Board approved grants of $1,500 to the Friends of Cortes Island and $3,500 to the Cortes Island Business and Tourism Association (CIBATA). Director Anderson did not cast the deciding vote but, at the time of their filing, the petitioners believed that Directors of these organizations had contributed to the GoFundMe campaign. As Wenngatz concedes, this belief has turned out to be false. Ryan Harvey has never been one of FOCI’s directors and Martha Abelson left CIBATA in 2017.
Wenngatz did not wish to comment other than to say everything important had been said in court and if I wanted more I should speak with Anderson’s lawyer.
Now That Its Over …
That evening, Director Anderson wrote on the Cortes tideline: “I know that for some of you, no court ruling could convince you of my innocence. All evidence aside, some hold a belief that I am corrupt or out to help my rich friends take over the Island. I can’t do anything about this misapprehension. I am truly doing my very best to serve our collective wellbeing. Time is so precious that my attention needs to turn to the light.”
On the phone she said, “Now that it is over I’m turning my attention to a much bigger , more integrated connected picture on Cortes. We, in the really critical times coming, are really going to need each other and so I do not seek retribution. I hope that we can cultivate our spaces with community dialogue, that we can share our perspectives with each other, listen to each other and strengthen our local forms of government as our regional ones do not always hold our best interest at heart at a time that matters.”
“We need to reset some social norms around how we interact with each other and I want us to turn to each other and not the judicial system as a line of first defence in these kinds of community matters., That is not the way that serves us, our pocket books, our time or our hearts.”
A Model For Going Forward
In the podcast above she also talks about the recent hall tax consultation:
“This community just continues to blow me away. I expected more uproar and discontent on both sides. People who are not supporting the hall tax sharing their discontent with the system. People who on support of it sharing their discontent about the glacial speed of the Regional District’s process … That’s not what happened. People came out en masse with positivity and kindness and gratitude. It blew my socks off. If that’s how we can be as a community going forward we are doing very well … ”
Top image: Regional Director Noba Anderson – Roy L Hales photo