The City of Nanaimo has struck back against a lawsuit filed by the Integrity Group, arguing that the Vancouver-based facilitator never actually conducted any work for the municipality because it hadn’t been hired to do so.
The Integrity Group had filed a civil claim earlier this year seeking $52,574 in unpaid invoices from the city for services dealing with issues between city councillors, staff and the mayor. The consulting firm claimed that company founder Heather MacKenzie had a meeting with Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay on May 4, 2015, where they discussed and agreed on a proposal that allowed Integrity Group to bill the city at $295 an hour and that the fee would be applied retroactively. The facilitator also claimed that McKay told MacKenzie that the city would pay the bill.
The Integrity Group ended up sending the city two invoices for work it claims happened between Jan. 8, 2015 and Dec. 18, 2015.
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However, according to a response to civil claim filed in the Supreme Court of B.C. last week, the city says it never hired the Integrity Group to perform work during that time period. The city denies it entered into any sort of contract that permitted the Integrity Group to bill the city at $295 an hour.
The city describes MacKenzie as a “legally sophisticated” individual who was “well aware” that McKay had no authority to legally bind the city into a agreement with her company, according to the court documents, which also state that even if McKay had told her that he had authority to enter the city into a contract with her company, she should have known that she could “not reasonably rely on that statement.”
In July 2015, the News Bulletin reported that McKay had hired the Integrity Group in an effort to address internal issues that he believed was affecting council’s ability to do business.
City councillors eventually decided to put the contract with The Integrity Group on hold in January 2016, after concerns were raised about the costs and whether any progress had been made in resolving issues between councillors and staff.
However by March of 2016, the Bulletin reported that the city had still not paid the Integrity Group and that no contract had ever actually been signed between the municipality and the facilitators.
Victor Mema, the city’s director of finance at the time, told the News Bulletin that even though no contract was signed, it didn’t matter because the city engaged the Integrity Group and agreed through actions.
The city has hired Victoria-based lawyer Robert Macquisten of Stewart McDannold Stuart, a firm that specializes in legal services for local governments.