Councillor court battle leaves Fort McMurray taxpayers with $100K bill

In a failed attempt to kick-out a Fort McMurray councillor involved in a conflict-of-interest, taxpayers are on the hook for over $100,000.

Investigation determined Balsom violated Alberta's Municipal Government Act while voting on the 2018 budget

An investigation found Coun. Krista Balsom was in a conflict of interest when it came to two budget votes. (Kirsta Balsom/ Facebook)

Fort McMurray taxpayers are on the hook for more than $100,000 in a failed attempt to kick-out a municipal councillor involved in a conflict of interest. 

This week the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo released numbers that showed it spent $104,523.64 after a whistleblower complained Coun. Krista Balsom had committed a conflict of interest.

An investigation determined Balsom violated Alberta's Municipal Government Act while voting on the 2018 budget allocations to community groups.

In June, Wood Buffalo council voted to ask the courts to decide whether Balsom should be removed as a councillor.

In January, the Court of Queen's Bench determined the offence was not serious enough to merit disqualification.

Balsom's lawyers argued the conflict was not willful and she was initially advised by the municipality's legal team that no rules were broken.

More expense to the taxpayer?

In a news release Tuesday,the municipality said it spent $19,932.66 on the investigation and $84,590.98 on litigation. These figures, the release said, exclude GST.

An external counsel was hired to apply to the Court of Queen's Bench to determine whether Balsom should be disqualified.

"We are committed to responsible government and ensuring we are open in our communication to the public," said Annette Antoniak, Wood Buffalo's chief administrative officer. "So we are sharing the costs incurred by the municipality as a result of this process."

The municipality would not say Wednesday if there were any other costs related to the conflict of interest and if Balsom is eligible for reimbursement of legal fees after the courts sided with her.

CBC News asked the municipality if Balsom has requested the repayment of her legal fees and the municipality declined to comment.

"Respecting the results of the court case and given that this is an ongoing legal matter we have no further update or comment at this time," Adam Hardiman, RMWB spokesperson said.

Balsom has not yet responded to a request for comment from CBC News. 

Connect with David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca