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Patrie appeals $89K court costs decision

Elliot Lake still without a mayor as Chris Patrie appeals conflict of interest ruling
Former Elliot Lake mayor and councillor Chris Patrie.

Chris Patrie is appealing a judge’s decision that he pay almost $90,000 in court costs to the City of Elliot Lake's Integrity Commissioner.

In a decision released last month, Superior Court Justice Annalisa Rasaiah awarded partial costs to the Integrity Commissioner citing the unusual complexity of the case. She said the city, as represented by the commissioner, should not have to pay all the substantial costs incurred for the legal fees required by the case and travel to be cross-examined in person, both of which she considered unusually excessive.

In her decision, Rasaiah said Patrie ostensibly forced new counsel to be retained in Toronto and that his insistence that cross-examination be conducted in person was excessive. The Integrity Commissioner's office worked more than 425 hours on the case with contributions by senior and junior counsels and by various clerks. 

Patrie asks, in his appeal to the divisional court, that Rasaiah's judgment on the award of court costs be set aside, the Integrity Commissioner's application for costs be dismissed or that the penalty imposed on Patrie be a reprimand rather than an order for Patrie to pay nearly $89,144 in costs incurred by the commissioner.

Among other points, Patrie claims the Integrity Commissioner was unlawfully appointed retroactively and therefore exceeded his jurisdiction by bringing forward any case against Patrie; that the judge failed to consider that the City of Elliot Lake is so small that all possible recreation hub locations are proximate to each other so it didn't matter that Patrie lobbied to locate it; and, that the judge's findings of a conflict of interest were tainted by bias against Patrie.

In her Jan. 9 decision to find Patrie guilty of violating the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act Rasaiah noted that Jason Naccarato, CEO of Northstar Consulting, who was retained to provide asset valuation to the Integrity Commissioner, said a trading post and commercial plaza owned by a corporation — the shares of which were owned by Patrie and his wife - was located within 200 metres of the location Patrie favoured for a proposed a $30-million planned recreation hub.

The other two possible locations for the proposed hub were within 1.5 km of the plaza.

The ruling concluded that Patrie made inappropriate attempts to persuade fellow councillors to vote against the city purchasing the property of the former Algo Mall site for the recreation hub and tried to influence city staff to recommend to council that the hub be located near the plaza.

Rasaiah concluded that Patrie had a pecuniary interest in locating the sports hub within the 200-metre zone of convenience of the plaza.

She also said Patrie's "interests are different in kind from those in the area and the whole of the community," and that she could not conclude that his "actions were committed through inadvertence or through an error in judgment made in good faith."

She ordered him removed from office and disqualified from holding public office for two years.

On Feb. 13, in response to a request from Patrie, another judge ordered the city not to take any steps to fill the vacancy in the head of the council until such time as the appeal of Chris Patrie is heard and determined by the Divisional Court. 

The appeal hearing on Rasaiah's Jan. 9 decision is due to proceed sometime between April 11 and 14.

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Carol Martin

About the Author: Carol Martin

Carol has over 20-years experience in journalism, was raised in Sault Ste. Marie, and has also lived and worked in Constance Lake First Nation, Sudbury, and Kingston before returning to her hometown to join the SooToday team in 2004.
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