A previous version of this story said a personal defamation lawsuit was brought forward by Gord Hennigar. In fact, the lawsuit was brought forward by then-city manager Patrick Draper against Hennigar. Draper filed a defamation lawsuit against Hennigar, John Doe and ABC Corporation Ltd. in regards to allegedly defamatory remarks published on the now-defunct St. Albert Third Floor News blog. Hennigar named Mayor Nolan Crouse as a third party defendant. The Gazette apologizes for the error.
Mayor Nolan Crouse says his detractors are on a “trophy hunt” following a Court of Queen’s Bench hearing Wednesday in Edmonton to remove him from office.
“They are grandstanding. They want to get a trophy during the election campaign,” Crouse said, adding that the application is an attempt to become the “saviour of moral high ground.”
The case is being brought forward by St. Albert resident Steve Stone, who was represented by lawyer and former MP Brent Rathgeber. The case involves three circumstances where Stone alleges that the mayor participated in matters in council that could monetarily benefit him.
Stone said he brought forward the lawsuit because he believes “he has a very keen sense of community responsibility.”
“Over the last six years I have seen a lot of things happening on council that I believe are very wrong,” Stone said.
Crouse’s lawyers refuted the notion that the mayor had a pecuniary interest and that the allegations are without merit. They also stated the application is an abuse of process.
Councillor Cam MacKay was at the courthouse during the proceeding, but he did not enter the courtroom. MacKay told the Gazette he was there in an official capacity as the deputy mayor.
In a follow-up interview, MacKay said he wanted to be there in case the judge made a ruling and he would have to act quickly as the deputy mayor.
“If there was a judgment that day I would have had to do a whole bunch of stuff in the evening and [the next]morning. So I just made sure that I’m going to get copied whenever a judgment comes out – you have to be ready to act.”
MacKay said he didn’t enter the courtroom because he “didn’t want to be involved in the particulars of the case.”
Wednesday evening MacKay emailed the Gazette, members of city council, the city manager and local blogger Don Sinclair explaining his action. According to section 9.2 of the city’s procedure bylaw, “The deputy mayor shall chair council meetings when the mayor is absent or unable to act as mayor and shall have all the powers and responsibilities of the mayor under this bylaw during the absence or incapacity of the mayor.”
Chris Belke, chief legislative officer at the City of St. Albert, told the Gazette he did not see a reason for Councillor MacKay to be there in an official capacity and said that the bylaw that MacKay cited did not require him to attend court.
The first set of complaints in the case stem from Oct. 27, 2014 and May 25, 2015 when motions were brought to council to hire an independent auditor to examine the mayors expense reports after it was alleged that he was double billing the City of St. Albert and the Capital Region Board.
The second incident is from Nov 16, 2015 when a motion was brought forward concerning a personal defamation lawsuit brought forward by Gord Hennigar against then-city manager Patrick Draper in which Crouse was named as a third party.
The third incident involves a second witness, Craig Skarupa, and the alleged leaking from underground sump pumps on an adjacent property. He expressed his concerns to council over the disposal of hydrocarbon waste from an alleged commercial garage at 80 Salisbury Ave. Skarupa lives adjacent to the property.
Council moved in camera to vote on the property matter and Crouse voted against the motion to order a Phase 2 environmental assessment of the property.
Skarupa appeared before council on Sept 19, 2016 asking the mayor to resign for failing to disclose a pecuniary interest. Crouse has a private company with his family, Crouse Developments Inc. that owns a rental property approximately 70 meters from 80 Salisbury Ave.
Rathgeber argued that Crouse should have recused himself from voting on these issues in council because he could have potentially been monetarily impacted by the outcome.
Crouse’s lawyers also questioned the motivation for the involvement of Stone and Skarupa in the application as well as the involvement of Cameron D. MacKay.
“Further to this, the city council transcripts which were attached to both Stone’s and Skarupa’s supplemental affidavits were ordered and paid for by Cameron D. MacKay, the father of Cam MacKay, an active city councillor that just announced his candidacy for Mayor of St. Albert.”
An invoice, provided as part of Steve Stone’s undertaking, shows that Cameron D. MacKay ordered the transcripts.
A new mayor will be chosen on Oct. 16 in the municipal election. Crouse has announced he is not running again. Councillors Cam MacKay and Cathy Heron are both vying for the position.