Pontiac councillors to vote on McCann legal fee recovery

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Allyson Beauregard

MUNICIPALITY OF PONTIAC – The controversy concerning disqualified former councillor Eddie McCann’s legal fees is making a re-appearance; on June 12, councillors will consider a resolution to pursue recovery of the money the municipality has paid for Mr. McCann’s legal fees.

Allyson Beauregard

MUNICIPALITY OF PONTIAC – The controversy concerning disqualified former councillor Eddie McCann’s legal fees is making a re-appearance; on June 12, councillors will consider a resolution to pursue recovery of the money the municipality has paid for Mr. McCann’s legal fees.
The municipality was required to pay McCann’s legal costs, as a councillor, for a year-long legal battle which saw McCann removed from council and disqualified from running in any election for four years, effective January, 2015. This ruling was made in May, 2016. McCann appealed the decision in October, 2016, but the original ruling was upheld.
According to Dominic Labrie, municipal Communications Officer, the municipality spent $25,560 in legal fees for themselves and $48,812 for McCann. 
Labrie said the councillors’ deliberations will use legal advice from Me Lafrenière, the municipality’s lawyer who represented them during the original proceedings against McCann. “Council must evaluate several issues,” said Labrie.  “Was Mr. McCann [eligible] to have his legal fees reimbursed?  Does council want to go to court, and pay  McCann’s legal fees again in order to be eventually
reimbursed? And what are the chances the municipality will be reimbursed, even if we win?”
Labrie would not reveal the resolution nor the details of the lawyer’s report, since neither has been made public; he said Mayor Joanne Labadie will table the report at the next meeting. The mayor has declined to comment.
 Taxpayers opposed
An anonymous letter sent to council members, signed “Concerned citizens”, stated that many taxpayers want the money recovered.  The authors claim there are many other uses for these funds within the municipality and any decision not to pursue reimbursement would not serve the municipality’s taxpayers.  The municipality would not comment on the letter.
History
Mr. McCann, who previously served as mayor until Roger Larose’s election in 2013, won a by-election for Ward 2 (Quyon) late in 2015.
Over a year after the 2013 election, McCann was notified by Elections Quebec that he had not accounted for all his campaign debts by the deadline, December 31, 2014. Elections Quebec ruled that he would therefore be ineligible to run for council for four years, effective January, 2015.
Mr McCann has said he spoke to Elections Quebec to sort out the matter, and that he had received permission to run in the 2015 by-election. Despite McCann’s win at the polls, Council voted in December, 2015, to ask the municipal lawyer to consult with Elections Quebec regarding the legality of McCann occupying the seat.
On May 11, 2016, the judge ruled that McCann could not hold the seat because
he had exceeded the legal contribution limit for election campaigns in 2013 by over-donating to his own campaign. In other words, the court ruled that Mr McCann could not use his own money to exceed the spending limit on a campaign.
Good money after bad?
In addition to the anonymous letter, others have suggested that since the money may not be recoverable, the municipal council should not spend more pursuing the ex-councillor. This question will likely come to a vote on June 12.