Opinion: Public needs to see this in open court

By Mike Williscraft

All I can say about the defence filed in the Town of Grimsby et al $18 million civil suit vs Bentley, Detenbeck and Panetta is, I just hope this gets to open court.

By the time you get to this page, you will have undoubtedly read the front page offering regarding the civil claim.

To restate the core of the issue facing any litigation on this matter, at no time does logic enter the world of what is accepted and valid in a court of law.

Yes, on occasion there is overlap, but law takes on a very particular, often peculiar angle on things where items which seem intensely logical in the real world, simply have no standing in court.

That is the main reason much of the 14-page defence document – which will be posted on our website along with the initial civil suit document – focuses on what I call the Conrad Black defence.

As you will recall, Lord Black (is he is still a Lord again?) used a “all transactions were approved by the board of directors” style defence in the U.S when he had legal issues regarding his spending habits. It worked like a charm. He got off on the vast majority of criminal charges but was convicted of obstruction of justice for actions he took during the investigation.

The biodigester case is a civil case and in Canada, so a whole legal world away from Lord Black’s matter.

The only common theme is the defence document filed states and restates at many points that council, Town officials had full knowledge and open access to information at all times during the project’s rollout approving and often requesting certain measures be taken.

The absolute nut of the case is, does that hold water in court?

In the council chambers and from personal discussion, I can site countless instances where not only was information not forthcoming, but was withheld under direct questions offered by both Ald. Dave Kadwell and Ald. Joanne Johnston.

No doubt, Kadwell was the more stubborn of the two, repeatedly weighing into the treacherous waters of questioning anything biodigester in the public realm.

Former Mayor Bob Bentley clearly never liked that. On occasion, he would take a question or two, but regularly would cut off Kadwell or Johnston. The other members of council very rarely EVER asked a question.

Undoubtedly, the “best” – looking at the exchange in a totally warped manner – interaction when it comes to access to information came last year, when it was mentioned at council that there had been a hydro AGM.

Kadwell, being on council and council being the shareholder of the hydro companies, popped up his head like a gopher coming out of his home to see if the coast was clear. He asked for particulars on the meeting followed by a “why was neither I nor council informed?”, he queried.

He was informed that the then-CAO Derik Brandt was chosen to represent the interests of the Town at the AGM. In following up, I found no motion had ever been approved naming Brandt as a representative. In a conversation with Brandt about the decision, he said an email just showed up telling him to be at the AGM.

So, your logical brain would say that is a crystal clear example of total control of not only whatever information was to be reviewed, but even access to it was being exercised.

In court, formal proceedings may simply not care.

Heck, I recall talking with Ald. Carolyn Mullins several years ago when she stated at council she had not been given financial information she had requested several times. She attended that fall’s AGM and no financials turned up on the agenda for her review. Over the following few months I checked in regularly as she kept saying the financials were coming soon. During my follow ups, they never did.

And on and on and on and on like a broken record until you just want to barf!

Sorry for the visual image, but that is how this whole affair has just played out. It has been a weird, sordid pride game from the outset. I believe there was an initial nut of an idea that had potential, but a weak business plan went seriously awry and a ton of good money was blown after bad. In the end, it cost the Town a $9 million asset in its fibre optics company because nobody had the guts to cry, UNCLE and shut the thing down.

I just want to see it get to open court so the public can see how their positions are defended. The law may determine they are in the clear, but there is more than enough reason to let it play out.

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