July 31, 2013 - 5:00 AM
AJAX HIRES CALLED 'SELLOUTS' BY COUNCILLOR
KAMLOOPS - Lawyer John O'Fee is calling the words of a local city councillor 'childish' after being labelled a 'sellout' for providing legal services to KGHM International, operators of the proposed Ajax mine.
Coun. Donovan Cavers tweeted this last week: "Lacasse, Koopmans, O'Fee #sellouts." This after Kamloops Daily News editor Robert Koopmans and O'Fee joined former Kamloops chief of police Yves Lacasse in working with KGHM International.
O'Fee saw the comment as unjustified.
"How am I a sellout for doing something legal and honest for somebody for a fair pay?" O'Fee asked. "I'm just a lawyer making a living and supporting my family."
Kamloops born and raised, O'Fee has been a lawyer in the area for about 25 years and has a lengthy history of roles within the community. He was city councillor for 11 years, on the school board for eight years and president of the TRU Foundation. He left behind his seat as councillor along with his law practice to take on the CEO position with the Tk'emlups Indian Band in 2011, but left the band in mid-June.
When asked whether he left the band to work with KGHM, he called the claim 'completely false' and 'unrelated,' however he would not disclose why he left.
"That was my decision," he said. "I'm not going to discuss the details of it."
Now he says he is working as an independent lawyer in private practice with multiple clients, currently contracted out with KGHM. He said the KGHM contract is his primary one at this time and expects it to last about four to six months. He is helping the company with his experience in contract law, transactional work and dealing with real estate.
He adds that his services to KGHM are nothing different from what he's been doing for 25 years.
"I've acted for hundreds of companies in my career," he said. "It's not my place to judge them as their lawyer.... It shouldn't be a popularity contest."
He added that most people are intelligent enough to draw distinction between an individual and a project they may or may not support.
And as for whether he himself supports the mine, he is awaiting more information.
"I support the process," he said. "I don't determine whether the mine goes ahead or not."
However councillor Donovan Cavers stands by his statement, adding that timing was the main reason for his comment.
"I think it's fair to say that the three of them would have had something valuable to contribute had they been hired two years ago," Cavers said. "They're basically being hired at the 11th hour."
As a councillor of less than two years, Cavers said he himself would not take a job with the company.
"A lot would have to change," he said.
He believes the men were motivated by self-interests.
"On the other side of the argument, there's people in Aberdeen who's largest assets, their homes, could be in jeopardy (if the project is approved)," Cavers said.
Cavers believes the multiple high-profile hires by the company behind the mine raises some 'suspicion.'
"I would have preferred that they not sell their credibility and their faces to this company and let the company build up its own credibility," he said.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013