POUCE COUPE, B.C. – For the second time in a year, the Supreme Court of British Columbia has reversed Pouce Coupe council’s decision to remove the mayor for her portfolio positions.
On Tuesday, a judge ruled in favour of Lorraine Michetti regaining her positions on all committees and boards in the region, stating council’s decision on October 2021 lacked procedural fairness.
A revamped council voted to remove Michetti from portfolio positions after controversial social media comments she had made in February 2021 that made local and provincial headlines.
After newly-elected councillors Danielle Veach and Marcel Woodill were sworn in on October 6th, Councillors unanimously voted to go through the list of Michetti’s local and regional positions and replaced her with councillors.
Prior to the vote on the removal motion by Veach, the councillors discussed drafting a letter to each board informing them that the mayor had been replaced.
Justice Fitzpatrick’s ruling this week came after a hearing in December and agreed with Michetti, noting council’s decision was made to censure and sanction the mayor.
According to the ruling, Michetti believed Veach’s motion was essentially disciplinary and that she should have been given notice of misconduct and the opportunity to respond. She claims she was denied both.
She also argued that the removal motion breached the village’s procedure bylaw and a section of the community charter.
The village stated that it did not owe a duty of procedural fairness to Mayor Michetti in respect of the motion, and if they did, it was satisfied and that the resolutions were not unreasonable, the ruling read.
“To support its position that it owes no duty of fairness to Mayor Michetti, the village also argues that the Removal Motion was not a form of censure. In particular, the village argues that the record does not disclose any allegation of wrongdoing on the part of Mayor Michetti. The village describes the dispute as merely “political differences” between Council members,” stated the March 22nd ruling.
“I agree with Mayor Michetti that, in the overall circumstances, Ms. Veach’s Removal Motion, and the Council’s adoption of it, was brought to censure and sanction Mayor Michetti, essentially in the same manner as Council has sought to do in the February Resolutions. That context heightens the need for procedural fairness.”
The first time council voted to remove Michetti from committees and boards was in February 2021 — Michetti was not in attendance. The special council meeting came after Michetti’s social media comments that had many Peace region communities calling for her resignation.
Michetti filed a petition to the court on May 5th, and the village later announced on July 5th that the meeting was invalid following a court order.
Following the resignation of two councillors after the controversy, a by-election was held in August 2021.
Despite Michetti’s controversies, Fitzpatrick ruled that she is entitled to a fair process before the Council.
“The Council is entitled to regulate the conduct of its members, including by censure. Here, I find that the Council failed to act in accordance with the principles of natural justice and accord Mayor Michetti the appropriate measure of procedural fairness in respect of the Removal Motion, which tainted the later portfolio review and the ensuing appointments,” read Fitzpatrick’s ruling.
“Given that this result is sufficient to dispose of the matter, I decline to comment on the issue raised by the village as to whether reasons are required in terms of procedural fairness, and if so, what reasons are required. I also decline to address the issue of whether the Removal Motion and the Council’s ensuing decisions were reasonable for the same reason. I will similarly not address Mayor Michetti’s argument that the Council’s conduct was in violation of the Community Charter.”
Fitzpatrick said Michetti’s shock shows that Veach’s motion was not “out of the ordinary in terms of how the Council historically reviewed portfolio appointments.”
The village was also ordered to compensate Michetti for court costs.
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