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Lantzville councillors sue former colleagues for libel

The mayor of Lantzville and two councillors have launched a libel suit against three former councillors. Issues cited in court documents date back nearly two years to bitter divisions on Lantzville council following the 2014 municipal election.
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The mayor of Lantzville and two councillors have launched a libel suit against three former councillors.

Issues cited in court documents date back nearly two years to bitter divisions on Lantzville council following the 2014 municipal election.

Acrimony escalated over the following six months, until four of council’s seven members resigned in spring 2015.

The three who remained — Mayor Colin Haime and councillors Denise Haime and John Coulson — filed a notice of civil claim in the Supreme Court of B.C. in Vancouver on March 24.

They are suing former councillors Jennifer Millbank, Graham Savage and Dave Scott for libel. A fourth former councillor, Rod Negrave, died last year.

The notice states that the four councillors who resigned alleged the remaining council members were acting inappropriately in their roles as elected public officials.

It states that those councillors carried out a public campaign to discredit them.

None of the claims has been proved in court.

Included in the claim are references to a memo from staff. Five municipal managers had signed a memo to council expressing concerns about public criticism of their work.

It also lists an email from Millbank containing matters raised by staff in what is called the March memorandum, a letter about happenings on council signed by the councillors who resigned, and comments made by Millbank in a radio interview and on Facebook.

Colin Haime, Denise Haime and Coulson are asking for an injunction barring the former councillors from publishing or broadcasting similar material. They are also seeking unspecified damages and costs.

Scott said Friday that he plans to defend the action.

“I do not believe that I have defamed anybody,” he said.

“I believe the allegations are false.”

Millbank called the claims groundless. “We’ll just have to deal with them through the court process,” she said.

Lantzville, located north of Nanaimo, is home to 3,800 residents.

After the four councillors quit, the province stepped in to allow the remaining three members of council — the mayor and two councillors — to meet and make decisions until byelections were held in August 2015.

Three senior staff members quit at the same time the councillors did: the chief administrative officer, the director of finance and a community planner.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com