The New Brunswick Court of Appeal has upheld a lower court ruling that the Town of Sackville acted reasonably when it dismissed lawyer Louis Béliveau from his volunteer position on its municipal Heritage Board in January 2016.
In its written judgment released today, the Court of Appeal also upheld the $11,447.46 in court costs and photocopying fees that the lower court judge ordered Béliveau to pay and added another $2,500 in costs against him for the appeal.
The case stemmed from the intense controversy surrounding the demolition of the Sackville United Church in September 2015.
Béliveau filed documents showing that in the months after Lafford Reality applied for a permit to demolish the church in August 2014, the Heritage Board wrestled with the issue before finally issuing the permit in March 2015.
Along the way, some Heritage Board members resigned while others, including Béliveau himself, clashed with town staff and accused the town of “blatant interference” in the board’s deliberations.
That prompted town council to hire Moncton lawyer Kathleen Lordon to investigate.
Her confidential report, issued privately to the town in September 2015, accused Béliveau of misconduct for testifying at an appeals tribunal on behalf of the community group trying to save the church after the Heritage Board had issued the demolition permit.
In its unanimous decision, written by Madame Justice Kathleen Quigg, the Court of Appeal ruled that lower court judge, George Rideout, applied proper judicial standards in upholding Béliveau’s dismissal from the Heritage Board:
The Town of Sackville decided there was misconduct on Mr. Belliveau’s part. The judge agreed and found the Town’s actions, removing Mr. Béliveau from the Board, were reasonable.
Having regard to the application judge’s comprehensive reasons and his determination that the removal of Mr. Béliveau from the Heritage Commission was reasonable, I can find no justification to interfere. In fact, I am in substantial agreement with the essential features of the carefully considered reasons of the application judge.
Madame Justice Quigg also rejected Béliveau’s arguments that the lower court judge should not have imposed $9,000 in court costs against him:
At first glance, the costs awarded against Mr. Béliveau may appear to be on the high side but, considering this is a discretionary order made by the judge, we ought not interfere…The award was within the realm of the judicial exercise of his discretion.
Justice Quigg also dismissed Béliveau’s appeal against the $2,447.46 in disbursement fees, mainly to cover the town’s photocopying costs, that he has been ordered to pay. She ruled that the fees issue falls within the jurisdiction of the Court of Queen’s Bench in Moncton.
However, last October, when Béliveau attempted to appeal the disbursement fees in the lower court, a judge ruled he should take the matter up with the Court of Appeal.
To read my report on the Court of Appeal hearing in March, click here.