MacKenzie lawsuit cost Pemberton over $17,000 

The Village of Pemberton spent over $17,000 on a legal settlement with mayoral candidate David MacKenzie, according to a letter obtained by Pique Newsmagazine .

The settlement, reached on July 16, 2007, came after a complaint filed in January 2007 by MacKenzie to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal against both the village and fire chief Russell Mack. The complaint alleged he had been passed over for a promotion because of his sexual orientation and that Mack subjected MacKenzie to homophobic jokes while serving as a volunteer firefighter.

The village spent $12,480.44 on legal fees and provided $5,000 to MacKenzie as part of the settlement, money that included his legal fees.

That means Pemberton taxpayers footed both MacKenzie’s and the village’s legal fees.

When asked how much he thought the complaint would cost taxpayers, MacKenzie said he had no idea. He also said it was the village’s prerogative to get a lawyer to begin with.

“There’s a tribunal process and it’s all in how individuals wish to deal with it,” he said.

The VOP sent the letter to Pique in response to a Freedom of Information request filed Sept. 9. The request asked for “Records relating to the settlement reached with David MacKenzie over the complaint he filed against the Village of Pemberton with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.”

Reached on his cell phone while driving to Hope, Councillor Mark Blundell said the settlement sounded “a little light” to him. He said members of council and staff had to attend sensitivity training after the complaint and he’s not sure the costs of that training were included.

“I have not seen the actual value but I don’t know that all things have been added in,” he said. “I’m not too sure those costs have been provided to you.”

Village administrator Lori Pilon said the figures cited in the letter only included legal fees. She also said MacKenzie’s money was purely for reimbursements of “reasonable expenses.”

“In our settlement agreement, it set out that we would reimburse reasonable expenses and so receipts were provided that were reasonable,” she said, adding MacKenzie’s legal fees were “certainly included.”

The VOP released the numbers only after they were approved for release in an in-camera meeting.

Some records related to the settlement included in-camera discussions and legal opinions. The village can refuse to disclose them under Section 12(3)(b) and Section 14 of B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA).

Section 12(3)(b) of the Act states that the head of a “local public body” must not disclose information that reveals deliberations of a meeting without the public. Section 14, meanwhile, states that the head of a public body must refuse to disclose information subject to solicitor-client privilege.

MacKenzie has been a village councillor since 2005, after being elected as a member of the Valley Vision: Leadership in Action group, which included Mayor Jordan Sturdy and Councillor Jennie Helmer.

MacKenzie is also the chairman of Tourism Pemberton and president of the Pemberton Regional Airport Authority. He serves on the executive of the Pemberton Rotary Club and is an appointed director of the Pemberton Chamber of Commerce.

Outside politics, he is the general manager of the Pemberton Valley Lodge and area director for Atlific Hotels, which also owns the Whistler Village Inn and Suites and the Executive Suites Garibaldi Springs Golf Resort in Squamish.

MacKenzie announced his intention to run for mayor on Aug. 11.

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