Litigation between St. Augustine and four ex-councilors could end in Superior Court
The dispute between four ex-councilors of Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures and the City may be transferred to the Superior Court. They are claiming some $ 56,000 in wages and damages for money they had to pay back, which they are not entitled to by law. They blame the general management of the time, which should have informed them of the irregularities committed.
Theplaintiffs in this case, former advisers Louis Potvin, France Hamel, Denis Côté and Lise Lortie, had a meeting on Monday with Judge Pierre Coderre of the Court of Quebec, Small Claims Division. They each claim close to the maximum amount allowed of $ 15,000 to the Ville de Saint-Augustin.
In 2016, a notice from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs confirmed that they had obtained sums that did not comply with the regulations on the remuneration of elected officials for their participation on certain committees. The new administration of Mayor Sylvain Juneau had then taken at the source the amounts paid in excess since August 2013 as allowed by law.
Before Judge Coderre, Mr. Potvin explained that the responsibility rested with the general management of the time, the registry and the treasurer, who failed to carry out the necessary verifications before applying the regulations on remuneration.
“We have to make our decisions in light of the legal opinions of senior management. If the council had been informed of the difficulty of enforcing the regulation, we would have acted accordingly. We are not lawyers, “he argued, on behalf of his three co-applicants.
But before hearing the argument, the magistrate had to render a decision on the jurisdiction of his court to judge the case. For legal reasons, he decided to refer the parties to the Superior Court. In the same breath, he advised them to examine together the alternative modes of settlement of a file even if a previous attempt at mediation had broken down.
At the exit of the court, the mayor of Saint-Augustin, Sylvain Juneau, recalled that he would have preferred to close the books quickly, while inviting the former advisers to withdraw their claim for reimbursement.
“They participated in the story we know. We could close the lid on the pot. The people have had enough of all this. We do not have a “cenne” to give to these people, “he says, referring to the fact that they were part of the former administration of Mayor Marcel Corriveau when the financial difficulties of the City have arisen.
“Nobody is supposed to ignore the law. They say, “The city did that”. But the city with a big “V” is seven people. They were the legislators. They should have asked questions. Do not we ask questions when we do not want to see, “he argues again.
For the rest, it remains unclear on the intentions of the City to make or not a claim for amounts paid beyond August 2013. For some advisers, these refunds could be claimed as far back as 2009, even 2006, supports he. The problem is that the city, as a prosecutor, will also have to pay the legal fees of the four former councilors since they were employed by the city. A cost-benefit analysis will be done before moving forward. “It’s not me who will decide if we go to the Superior Court. They are the ones. At that point, we will judge if we claim. ”
A political dossier
“We had considered this possibility, dropped former advisor Potvin following the decision of the judge. He strongly suggested going to alternative justice. We have always been open to mediation to the extent that the City is sincere, “he said.
An option that could be advantageous, considering that the former advisers will have to assume alone their legal fees, with the view that the City abandons the idea of claiming for the years prior to 2013.
For her part, the former adviser France Hamel, is disappointed with the proportion taken by this case. “This is an administrative record that could have been easily resolved, but Mr. Juneau chose to use it to wage a political war to resign. For ten months (until the November 2017 elections), there were insults, fonts at council meetings. The mayor continues in the same vein. We were in good faith, “she says.
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