The City of Pitt Meadows will be updating a bylaw that protects municipal staff and councillors from lawsuits.
Although the Local Government Act contains protection against personal liability, the city’s solicitors have recommended replacing an existing bylaw with one that adds another layer of protection against legal action from angry residents or political rivals.
“The original bylaw is from 1999 and has some old language in it,” said Pitt Meadows director of finance Dean Rear.
“This is updating it.”
The new bylaw will require anyone suing the city to prove “gross negligence,” which means showing the defendant not only misrepresented something, but did so dishonestly or maliciously.
The proposed bylaw would, in turn, protect the city from having to defend staff or councillors, both former and current, who have been found guilty of dishonest, gross negligence, malicious or wilful misconduct.
Mayor Deb Walters said it’s important to have a bylaw that protects city staff and council members.
People won’t volunteer or work for the city if there is a chance that they are going to get sued, she added.
“As well, if someone goes out deliberately and is dishonest or is malicious, I don’t think we should be protecting them.”
In a letter, city solicitors Murdy and McAllister noted the bylaw may also reduce unwarranted or frivolous claims by citizens who are hostile to inspections, bylaw enforcement or people who represent the municipality.
“Staff and officials may carry out their functions with more confidence,” the law firm noted.
The proposed indemnification bylaw was discussed Tuesday at a committee meeting, but won’t go to a final vote until council returns from summer break.
Several Metro Vancouver cities, including Richmond and North Vancouver, have similar bylaws in place, but most haven’t been updated for years.
Jordan Bateman, with the Canadian Taxpayers Association, said indemnification bylaws are good for taxpayers.
“You want to make sure you are protecting staff or the people who are doing the work on your behalf, but you also want to have a clause that allows you to recoup the money if someone has gone rogue or done something illegal,” he said.
“It is actually a pretty wise precaution.”
Pitt Meadows mountain bike park – redux
All the kids wanted the city to do was dump a few piles of dirt near the BMX track so they could perfect their mountain bike skills.
Council set aside $20,000 for the project and applied in 2007 to the Agricultural Land Commission to build the humps and jumps.
The provincial body denied the city request.
Five years later, the city has decided it will make one last attempt to get approval for the bike park, to be located on city-owned land, near the BMX track, at 129 Avenue and Barnes Road.
“Sadly, the kids who wanted the project have probably grown up,” said David Boag, director of parks and facilities.
But Boag believes there were lots of others who would appreciate a place to ride their mountain bikes.
The city will be reapplying to the ALC for non-farm use permit.