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Lawyers retained in conflict of interest case

13/06/14 — The conflict of interest legal action against four town councillors awaits the next move by the defendants.

Fort Erie lawyer David Hurren said the case has been adjourned to a future date on three days’ notice pending cross examination on the affidavits.

This means the defence will have an opportunity to question and clarify the information in the sworn statements which form the basis of the legal action.

The defendants are Bob Steckley, John Hill, Paul Collard and Don Lubberts.

Ridgeway resident and former town councillor Tim Whitfield launched the action. He is also one of the affiants.

The other affiants are Mayor Doug Martin and councillors Stephen Passero and Rick Shular.

Presumably after the cross examination, they will file their statements of defence or give up and accept a judgment.

Steckley and Hill have retained Toronto lawyer Jack Seigel who has expertise in election and political law with the firm Blaney McMurtry.

Collard and Lubberts had formerly opted to defend themselves, said Hurren, but have since retained Eric Gillespie, also of Toronto.

Gillespie represented the Fort Erie Waterfront Preservation Association in its Ontario Municipal Board appeal against the Bay Beach condominium project.

The legal action alleges the four councillors violated conflict of interest law and other legislation when they directed Town staff to pay $50,000 to former Town solicitor Heather Salter to drop her claims against them personally as a result of her dismissal.

She was also paid 18 months’ salary plus benefits, pension contributions and fees associated with her job and profession.

If a judgment is made against them, the defendants will be removed from council and could be barred from holding municipal office for up to seven years.

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