By Chris Pickup
Caledonia resident Rob Duncan yesterday weathered another roadblock in his Conflict of Interest case against Haldimand mayor Ken Hewitt.
Duncan was in Cayuga Court where he faced a request for dismissal of his case. Hewitt’s lawyer, Terrence H Hill of Daniel & Partners, St. Catharines was not present, so his associate Brent Harasym argued the case.
Duncan’s charges against Hewitt revolve around issues related to the old Caledonia Mill where Hewitt failed to declare an indirect pecuniary conflict of interest in relation to his father Ron Hewitt, and proceeded to discuss and vote on the matters at council.
While some of the charges lie outside the allowable timeline for trial, they were included as evidence of a pattern of conflict voting on the same issue.
Tuesday, Senior Justice Harrison Arrell read, and immediately rejected, the Notice of Motion to dismiss all or part of Duncan’s affidavit on the grounds it contained elements that Mr. Hill had argued in his written notice were “scandalous”.
When the latter issue was raised, Justice Arrell interrupted Harasym by saying, “I don’t think that”.
The judge added he felt the affidavit was neither “frivolous” nor “vexatious”. He indicated there were three paragraphs in Duncan’s affidavit that might be “irrelevant”, but requested the parties present go outside and work out a deal.
After an approximately ten minute delay the parties returned to court with an agreement of settlement, signed by the parties and witnessed by a court by-stander.
Justice Arrell warned Duncan not to introduce any more evidence, and authorised a new timeline for the case to proceed, which was agreeable to both sides.
The matter of costs was deferred for the trial judge to decide.
The next court date has yet to be determined, but should occur sometime in May or June at the latest.
As a sidebar, Haldimand council in committee voted March 3 for the following:
That the legal costs associated with the application made by Robert Duncan be paid on behalf of Mayor Ken Hewitt, with the stipulation that all costs will be reimbursed in full to the municipality if the mayor is found in contravention of the legislation, except by way of inadvertence or error.
And that if the mayor is found not in contravention that all funds received from the county’s insurance policy for legal expenses be applied to the costs paid on behalf of the mayor.
County clerk Evelyn Eichenbaum noted “We can’t use the county solicitor. It’s up to the lawyer whether to go after costs and up to the judge whether they are warranted.” Hewitt declared a conflict of interest on the matter.