MEDIA STATEMENT: B.C. Supreme Court Rules in City’s Favour – Upholding Censure of Cllr. Dupont
April 21, 2021
The B.C. Supreme Court has upheld the City of Port Coquitlam’s decision to censure Cllr. Laura Dupont for breaching the Community Charter last year.
On May 26, 2020, Port Coquitlam City Council formally censured Cllr. Dupont for disclosing confidential City information that could have had financial consequences for the City on three occasions, in breach of section 117 of the Community Charter (Duty to Respect Confidentiality). Sanctions were imposed for a period of one year, including removing Dupont as the City’s representative on external committees and from the Acting Mayor rotation.
Dupont sought a judicial review of Council’s decision to censure and sanction her. The hearing took place on Jan. 15, 2021. In a decision released today, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Francesca Marzari dismissed Dupont’s petition and ruled in the City’s favour.
Justice Marzari ultimately concluded that the City’s decision to censure and sanction Cllr. Dupont was within its jurisdiction and its authority to control its own processes. She stated: “Council’s decision in this regard is reviewed on a reasonableness standard, both with respect to the interpretation of the duty of confidentiality provisions in the Community Charter, and their application to Councillor Dupont’s actions. Applying this standard, I have found that the Resolution was intelligible and coherent and that it was reasonable in the circumstances before Council.”
Justice Marzari agreed that the confidential information disclosed by Cllr. Dupont was not simply about a single tree, but was sensitive information that could reasonably have undermined the City’s bargaining position in its negotiations with a developer.
Justice Marzari also took note of the evidence before her that was potentially relevant to Council’s decision to censure Cllr. Dupont and impose sanctions, which included the following:
- The fact that Cllr. Dupont denied sharing the confidential information when asked if she had done so before the investigation started;
- Cllr. Dupont’s attempts to deflect blame for this breach onto the City’s consultant by suggesting that the City should begin its investigation into breaches of confidentiality with him; and
- Her failure to take full responsibility for these breaches.
Justice Marzari also dismissed the procedural fairness arguments that Councillor Dupont raised for the first time at the hearing of her petition, stating: “…the foundation for the procedural fairness issues raised by Councillor Dupont is weak on the record before me. These issues were not raised in a timely manner at the hearing before Council, and, most significantly, these grounds are not adequately pled in the petition materials. These issues are not properly before the Court.”
In response to the decision, Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West and Councillors Steve Darling, Nancy McCurrach, Darrell Penner, Glenn Pollock and Dean Washington released the following statement on April 21, 2021:
“City Council welcomes the judge’s ruling in favour of the City, confirming that we acted reasonably and correctly in how we dealt with repeated violations of the Community Charter in 2020.
We take breaches of confidential information very seriously, and this decision sends a clear message that we as Council members are expected to honour our oaths and duties as elected representatives.
With this clear judgement, our hope is that Cllr. Dupont will take responsibility for her actions and refocus her energies on the positive work we are doing for our residents.
Council continues to be fully focused on making Port Coquitlam an even better place to live, and on supporting our community through these challenging times.”
A copy of the judge’s ruling can be found here.
Council’s vote on the motion of censure had followed a report by an independent third-party investigation, and was approved unanimously by the remaining members of Council.
Section 117 of the Community Charter requires a Council member to swear an oath to keep confidential all records and information considered in an in-camera (closed) meeting. As required by law, Council must vote on whether or not items discussed in-camera are released to the public. Individual Council members do not have the authority to decide which in-camera items are made public.
The Motion of Censure is posted on the City’s website at portcoquitlam.ca/media
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City of Port Coquitlam
Tel 604.927.5335 Cel 604.218.0533