A Nunavut judge has returned a long-serving Coral Harbour councillor to municipal office and he chided the hamlet for its heavy-handed approach in removing him.
The ousted councillor will also receive all allowances, payments and honoraria owed since his dismissal.
Daniel Pee was released from hamlet council on May 8, 2020 after he took it upon himself to investigate “a senior civil servant’s use of hamlet funds relating to the purchase of a vehicle.”
Hamlet council denounced Pee’s actions and accused him of “deliberately and knowingly breach(ing) the hamlet’s code of conduct.”
“Council considers that your breach of trust is so significant as to warrant your removal from office, effective May 8, 2020,” he was informed by letter.
Pee, who served on hamlet council for more than 12 years and was most recently re-elected in October 2019, subsequently filed an application with the Nunavut Court of Justice for a judicial review, deeming his removal “unlawful.”
The case fell to justice Christian Lyons, who took the hamlet to task for failing to give Pee an opportunity to respond to council’s concerns, or to “defend his position as a democratically elected official.”
“For over a decade, the residents of Coral Harbour had decided to exercise their franchise and place their trust in Mr. Pee to make sound governing decisions,” Lyons noted.
The judge determined that the decision to remove Pee from office was “not made utilizing a fair or open procedure.”
The hamlet’s failure to allow Pee to participate in the process was of a significance that “cannot be overstated,” Lyons found.
“The unilateral and ex-parte manner of Mr. Pee’s removal from council calls into question the legitimacy of the democratic institution of the Hamlet of Coral Harbour,” the judge wrote in his decision, which was released on Friday afternoon. “Mr. Pee was removed from a position entrusted to him by the voters of Coral Harbour. While there is no question council has the discretionary authority to sanction/and or discipline one of its members (in appropriate circumstances)… such licence cannot be conflated with unfettered power to revoke the will of the electorate.”
In addition, Lyons awarded $5,000 in costs for Pee’s judicial application.