Matthew Stroh represented the plaintiff in Perelli v. The Corporation of the Town of Richmond Hill, 2017 ONSC 6062, who was successful on a motion for summary judgment declaring that The Corporation of the Town of Richmond Hill (“the Town”) By-Law 135-14 is illegal.
From December 1, 2010 to November 30, 2014, the plaintiff was employed as an elected municipal councillor for Ward 2 of the Town. Upon the completion of his term, the plaintiff was entitled to severance pay, but only received a deducted amount due to the Town By-Law 135-14 (“the By-Law”) that authorized said deduction. The deduction represents the amount charged in postage by the plaintiff to the Town’s corporate account in conducting a survey.
Justice Sutherland of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice found the By-Law to be invalid due to lack of statutory authority and void for bad faith. The By-Law was enacted without the plaintiff having notice or being able to render a response prior to it being put in force. Moreover, the By-Law was enacted to deduct severance pay owed to a specific person to obtain reimbursement of an expense. Due to the parallels in this case, the Court found that the following statement by Justice Edwards in Methuku v. Barrow was applicable:
There is no statutory authority from my review of the Municipal Act, even with its enhanced powers, that would allow a Municipality to seek restitution or reimbursement in a situation like the one before this court.
This case demonstrates that even though the threshold for quashing a by-law is high, when bad faith is established, the Court will not hesitate to act accordingly. Canada’s commitment to the Rule of Law is bolstered by cases of this kind that identify and respond appropriately to instances where a municipality acts “without the degree of fairness, openness, and impartiality required of a municipal government”. Citizens should be aware that by-laws are not beyond the scrutiny of the law, and legal recourse may be available when a municipality’s reach extends beyond the scope of its statutorily imbued authority.
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