CRD, former director settle

The Cariboo Regional District and a former director have settled and discontinued a defamation lawsuit.

The Cariboo Regional District and a former director have settled and discontinued a defamation lawsuit.

A joint statement released Wednesday afternoon by CRD board chair Al Richmond and former Area F director Duncan Barnett announced the settlement and discontinuance of the lawsuit by Barnett against the CRD and three individuals.

The events in question occurred in 2008 and involved Barnett and certain other directors and officers of the district.

“Having carefully read and considered the April 2009 B.C. Supreme Court decision of Mr. Justice McKinnon and with the benefit of hindsight, I, on behalf of the CRD, its directors and officers, wish to extend an apology to Mr. Barnett,” Richmond said in the joint statement.

“We accept the decision of the court and acknowledge that the process which resulted in the resolution of October 2008, and its reaffirmation in December, 2009 gave rise to a situation which may have caused persons to think that director Barnett must have committed grievous offences, an inference which was never intended.”

In the statement, Barnett said: “I accept the board’s apology and am pleased that we have now all decided to put this matter behind us. I want to acknowledge that I have learned from this experience: I have also resolved to tread more carefully in the future and apologize to the directors and staff members who believed they had cause to think I was unfairly outspoken, critical, or too demanding.”

Barnett’s lawyer, Roger McConchie, wouldn’t provide further details on the settlement.

“Everything that the parties have agreed should be publicly expressed, is contained in this joint statement,” McConchie says. “I am not in a position to add or subject, vary or modify anything.”

McConchie filed the lawsuit, Barnett versus the CRD, in early 2010 for defamation. The lawsuit was set for trial on May 2, which was adjourned in the context of the settlement.

Richmond also wouldn’t provide further details on the settlement, but noted the taxpayer won’t be on the hook for legal costs, except for the CRD’s insurance deductible.

“The taxpayer is on the hook for nothing,” Richmond says. “Legal costs were covered by insurance, other than our deductible.”

Richmond said he couldn’t recall what the deductible amount was.

“The statement is what both parties agreed to,” Richmond says. “These are the words that the mediator came up with and that is what we have done.”

In March 2010, Barnett stepped down as Area F director and filed a statement of claim in B.C. Supreme Court alleging libel and slander against the CRD.

At that time, he said the CRD and “those individuals involved” in an October 2008 resolution forbidding him to contact or communicate with CRD staff members on a person-to-person basis had yet to offer a meaningful apology.

A B.C. Supreme Court ruling in April 2009 set aside the restrictions.

His statement of claim named CRD chief administrative officer Janis Bell, former CRD board chair Jon Wolbers, former Area C director Ronda Wilkins, the CRD, and two unidentified individuals as defendants.

Williams Lake Tribune