District posts edited video

‘Defamatory’ comments by Coun. Corisa Bell censored

Maple Ridge Coun. Corisa Bell doesn't want to open letters because she fears she may be bound by confidentiality.

Maple Ridge Coun. Corisa Bell doesn't want to open letters because she fears she may be bound by confidentiality.

The video of the council meeting that’s caused such a ruckus at Maple Ridge municipal hall is back on the district’s website – minus the possibly contentious comments by Coun. Corisa Bell.

Maple Ridge staff posted an edited version of video of the June 17 committee of the whole meeting late last week. District lawyers say comments made in the public meeting could be defamatory.

Bell, though, still wants to know what she said during those budget discussions that could get either her or the district slapped with a lawsuit.

She asked for that in writing along with a written statement on whether her complaint against chief administrative officer Jim Rule would be considered under the district’s human resources policy.

On Friday, she received two envelopes marked “confidential.”

But she’s afraid to open them.

“There are a lot of questions that remain unanswered. They’re telling me I cannot take that information to my lawyer. I’m not opening them because there’s something in there that, if I see, I can’t share.”

That’s not the case, say the mayor and senior staff.

Manager of legislative services Ceri Marlo said Tuesday that Bell can show the letters to a lawyer, subject to it remaining confidential.

“No one has indicated to her that she cannot give that to her lawyer.”

Bell, though, isn’t covered by the human resources department, she added.

“It’s common knowledge that councillors are not employees.”

Instead, she noted that Mayor Ernie Daykin has offered third-party mediation to resolve “any misunderstanding” between Bell and Rule following a conversation that took place after a June 10 workshop meeting.

“If she opens them [the letters], she’s not putting herself at any risk,” Daykin said.

“From our understanding, if she has legal counsel, he can get a copy for his view.”

Her lawyer can also get a copy of the video under the same conditions, Daykin added.

Rule has said that he has private conversations about district matters with councillors, but doesn’t want to discuss those conversations.

“The mayor is aware of the issue and I have every confidence he will deal it appropriately,” Rule said previously.

Daykin explained that, because the letters came from a closed council meeting, the contents couldn’t be discussed publicly, unless council decides to release them.

Bell has seen the video at municipal hall, but has said she wants a copy so her own lawyer can review it.

Vancouver media and libel lawyer though David F. Sutherland said reporting of or broadcasting of public meetings is protected under the Libel and Slander Act.

Daykin said he called the district lawyer when discussing Bell’s complaint against Rule. Daykin then mentioned the committee meeting. The lawyer reviewed the video, then advised the district to remove it from the website. That was done, with the video reposted Friday, with the contentious section removed.

Providing a copy of the video to Bell would mean giving up control of it, Daykin added.

“We don’t air on the side of secrecy. We air on the side of openness. Were trying … to be as open and transparent as we can be, and if I can do anymore, I will.”

Daykin said the video wasn’t removed to threaten Bell, but simply to protect the district from a possible lawsuit. “It’s protecting the taxpayer.”

Bell has watched the video in municipal hall and can’t figure out what comments could be defamatory.