Volunteers are still fundraising for the nearly $300,000 legal bill Mayor Naheed Nenshi incurred while battling a $6-million defamation lawsuit, the mayor confirmed Tuesday.
It’s been nearly a year since the city solicitor said last May that Nenshi would raise money to pay back the city for a $299,728.59 invoice he incurred while fighting a defamation lawsuit filed by home builder Cal Wenzel in 2013.
“People are out in the community fundraising and I’ll have an update,” Nenshi told reporters Tuesday when asked about the status of the tab, echoing what he said in a year-end interview with Postmedia in December.
“It’s challenging for me because the ethics adviser has suggested I can’t be involved in it and I’d really like to just know what’s going on, but I understand the work is still going on,” Nenshi said Tuesday.
The two-year spat between Wenzel and Nenshi didn’t go to trial and instead ended when Nenshi and the founder of Shane Homes issued a joint statement in late 2015. The statement saw Nenshi apologize and retract comments he made on a radio show during the 2013 municipal election campaign, which characterized Wenzel as a fictional mob boss.
“Your worship, the reason I’m looking at you is kind of thinking about that little outstanding debt thing that you have going on,” Chabot said in council chambers.
Chabot wondered if the proposed “council policy on fundraising to benefit a third party” that elected officials were discussing at Tuesday’s meeting would affect Nenshi’s fundraising efforts.
Nenshi told reporters after the meeting that raising money for the legal bill isn’t covered under the proposed new policy.
“That particular thing would not be covered by this because this is about events,” Nenshi said.
“Also, when council, without me, passed the indemnification policy, they basically said, look, if you have a frivolous lawsuit against you, the city will pay the legal fees. But, if you think that’s a bad use of public funds, as I do, then you, notwithstanding all the other rules around raising money, you can raise money to reimburse the city for those fees. I insisted on that being put in.”
As for the proposed fundraising policy elected officials discussed Tuesday, committee members pointed out loopholes in the framework drafted to cover situations where members of council participate in fundraisers to help charities, community associations and non-profits.
The committee eventually decided to refer the new rules for further discussion at their next meeting.