Former Elliot Lake mayor Chris Patrie is on the hook for almost $90,000 in legal expenses incurred by the city's Integrity Commissioner in Patrie's conflict of interest prosecution.
Superior Court Justice Annalisa Rasaiah found that the Integrity Commissioner incurred substantial costs for travel to be cross-examined in person and that the commissioner should not be expected to pay the excessive legal fees required by the case and should be compensated for those costs in the amount of $89,144.
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's lawyer, Peter Berlingieri, argued that no costs should be awarded to the Integrity Commissioner and that the penalty imposed on Patrie should be enough punishment for his violations of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act while he was a councillor.
He was found guilty of violating the act from 2017 to 2019 by lobbying fellow councillors and city staff to build a $30-million planned sports hub next to a plaza owned by a corporation controlled by he and his wife.
Council was ordered to remove him from office as mayor and he was disqualified from holding public office for two years.
The Integrity Commissioner submitted that Patrie's conduct throughout the process of his hearing was obstructive, and unreasonable and caused Elliot Lake taxpayers considerable expense as a result.
Justice Rasaiah agreed, saying Patrie ostensibly forced new counsel to be retained in Toronto and that his insistence that cross-examination be conducted in person was excessive.
In his submissions to the court, Elliot Lake's Integrity Commissioner called the Patrie case "the most serious case of municipal conflict of interest brought before the courts of Ontario."
"The case involved interference with a municipality's multi-million-dollar land purchase by a financially interested councillor," the commissioner submitted. "The case sets the high-water mark for future investigations and what parties should expect for penalties when they contravene their ethical codes of office."
The Integrity Commissioner requested its costs of $161,931 be reimbursed but the courts decided to limit its awards of costs to a portion of those incurred by legal counsel and clerks and to expenses for travel to Sault Ste. Marie and Elliot Lake for cross-examinations. She said criminal and civil cases had found it acceptable to hear evidence from and cross-examine subjects by Zoom during that period of time.
Patrie has appealed the court's decision to remove him from office and ban him from holding office for two years and the courts have ordered Elliot Lake City Council to not replace him as mayor until the results of his appeal are made public.
A one-day hearing on his appeal will be scheduled for the week of April 11.