THE QUOTE THAT HAD THE JUDGE SEEING RED
VERNON - The chairman of the Regional District of North Okanagan insists there was passion and respect in his voice—not indifference—when he commented on a judge’s ruling against the local government last month.
Provincial court judge Mayland McKimm adjourned sentence proceedings Wednesday because of “troublesome” remarks made by a regional district official the day after judgement was given.
In September, McKimm found the district guilty of operating a well in a manner to cause adverse impacts, introducing foreign matter into a well, allowing contamination of drinking water and failing to provide potable water in connection to a 2010 incident at Antwerp Springs which prompted a Do Not Drink advisory for over three thousand customers.
McKimm said he was surprised by the official’s response to the verdict, which he heard on a radio broadcast and believes was made by the chairman of the board. Before sentencing the regional district, McKimm wants to see a full transcript of the interview.
“What made it troubling was it sounded like a public official making disparaging comments about the justice system,” McKimm said.
In a CBC interview which aired Sept. 26, board chair Patrick Nicol commented on the ruling and maintained that the district did all it could to protect the public from contamination. A transcript of the full interview was not available from the CBC, but a Kelowna host believed it was this quote from Nicol that concerned the judge:
“Well very simply that we believed after consulting with many, many staff directly involved that we were not guilty. The democracy in the justice system is not well served if people who are not guilty plead guilty.”
A full transcript of the interview can be obtained from Cision Canada, the sole record keepers, for a fee of around $80.
Nicol says he meant no disrespect toward the judge or the justice system in any of the numerous interviews he gave following the judgement.
“My main themes have always been of respect for the court and the board has unanimously presented the belief that we had a strong position, and I reflected that. I have great passion for our defence,” Nicol says.
Throughout the trial, Nicol stood behind the regional district and its staff 100 per cent. Belief that the district had done its due-diligence was why the board decided to fight the charges in the first place.
“When you comment about a case after it’s over and you use the same arguments you used prior to it, I don’t think that’s untoward,” Nicol says.
McKimm said the comments he heard suggested a “contemptuous attitude toward the findings of the court” but Nicol says he’s only ever applauded the justice system.
“I have praised the judge for his reasons given... it was a highly technical case,” Nicol says. “One thing I really appreciate is the judge has every right to feel as he feels. How one interprets one part of many discussions would be up to him. I wish him well in his deliberations.”
A new sentencing date will be scheduled next Wednesday.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.