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City of Chestermere sues fired members of council ahead of byelection

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The City of Chestermere has filed a lawsuit against its former mayor and three councillors, demanding $655,177.13 be paid back to the city for improper expenditures while on council between 2022 and 2023. 

Jeff Colvin, Mel Foat, Blaine Funk and Stephen Hanley are all named as defendants in the lawsuit, in which the city alleges they owe a total of $430,638.69 for unauthorized expenditures of city funds, while Colvin himself is asked to repay $223,860.26 in misuse of taxpayer dollars.

The lawsuit alleges taxpayers money was spent on retaining law firms, alcohol, surveillance devices at city hall and expenses for one councillor's spouse.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The statement of claim alleges "between 2022 and 2023, the defendants (or any of them) caused the city to expend public funds on numerous expenditures which were not properly authorized by the city, and which were not included in the city's operating budget."

It states that the defendants retained law firm Caron & Partners LLP for an injunction application against the minister of Municipal Affairs, "improperly" instructing one of the city's chief administrative officers at the time to pay the firm a total amount of $139,796.80.

The city alleges that the members of council named in the lawsuit improperly retained the law firm JSS Barristers to, in turn, hire a private investigator to undertake unauthorized investigations for their benefit.

"This included an investigation into the background of another member of council for the purpose of publicly discrediting him," the statement of claim reads.

In total, $35,747.11 worth of invoices was paid to the firm.

A third law firm was subsequently hired, MJM LLP, to assist with injunctions costing taxpayers $239,871.33.

The lawsuit says none of the legal expenses were properly approved by the city.

Colvin, Foat, Hanley and Funk were said to have purchased "mini cameras" and a "hidden device detector" for $223.45 to place inside city hall and "covertly surveil staff or others at the city's staff offices."

A $15,000 sweep of the facility on Nov 24, 2023, by Electronic Countermeasures Inc. took place, and at the time, according to former mayor Colvin, nothing was found.

Colvin's expenses

The former mayor is alleged to have spent more than $6,400 on booze on his city-issued credit card.

He also charged the city to move his personal piano inside city hall, costing $375.

Colvin is alleged to have hired a former Thorhild County councillor, who was removed by Municipal Affairs in 2017, for "consulting services" totalling more than $5,500 in December 2022.

The lawsuit also alleges he paid for a painting at the RCMP's Regimental Ball on Nov. 8, 2023, in the amount of $3,100.

It also alleges that in or about October and November 2023, Colvin caused the city to pay $4,207.40 for memberships for various individuals in the Chestermere Regional Community Association. 

Furthermore, it alleged that, in 2023, the owner of a waterslide park that was long defunct, was allegedly given property tax breaks by the four-member majority on council and funds to help clean up the site, not approved by the city, that includes:

  • $40,056.58 for outside contractors and equipment;
  • $9,000 to the Chestermere Fire Department to conduct a controlled burn;
  • $104,740.10 for equipment and labour from the city's department of community operations; and
  • $4,000 for a provincial environmental fine.

Colvin is alleged to have spent another $46,000 on a summer carnival in 2023.

Foat's wife travel expenses

Former councillor Mel Foat is alleged to have directed the city to approve a pair of noise-cancelling headphones for $229 for personal use, along with a reimbursement of $448 for his wife's travel expenses.

The city demands that all four pay the expenses back.

A statement from the City of Chestermere sent to CTV News said: "At this time, we will not be providing further comment."

The defendants have 20 days to file a statement of defense.

Legal council for the defendants said as the matter is before the courts they’re unable to comment at this time

A byelection for Colvin, Foat, Funk and Hanley's seats, along with two more on council, is taking place on June 24.

All four are seeking to be re-elected.

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