A provincial court judge has delayed sentencing of the Regional District of North Okanagan in connection with a water contamination case due to his dislike of a portion of a next-day radio interview.
Judge Mayland McKimm told Crown lawyer Joel Gold and defence lawyer Rob Bruneau at the beginning of sentence proceedings Wednesday that he was adjourning the matter because he was “concerned greatly” over comments made to CBC-Radio by a person he believed to be the regional district board chairperson.
In September, McKimm found the regional disrict guilty of failing to provide potable water, allow contamination of drinking water, introduce foreign matter into a well and operate a well in a manner to cause adverse impact in connection with the contamination of the Antwerp Springs water source in January 2010.
The next day, while in his car, McKimm heard a report on the case on the CBC.
“The comments made by a person who I think is the board chair of the regional district strongly suggested the regional district had done all it could to protect the people from contamination,” said McKimm Wednesday. “That’s a rather astonishing comment because they could have just shut off the well or used the deep well.
“What made it troubling was it sounded like a public official making disparaging comments about the justice system.”
McKimm told the court he was “seeing red” over the comments he heard on the radio.
The board chairperson of the regional district is Patrick Nicol, who did talk to several media outlets, including The Morning Star, after the verdict was rendered.
On Thursday, Nicol responded to McKimm’s comments.
“The interviews I’ve done on behalf of the board, every one of them, has always respected the rule of law,” said Nicol. “We have demonstrated that as a board by taking this through the court system and understanding that he has the right to weigh all of that information and make his decision.
“There’s other processes that follow that when he makes that decision. In at least one or two of my comments, I praised him (McKimm) for the reasons given.”
McKimm has asked for a transcript of the radio broadcast.
Bruneau said he would seek clarification of the comments but stated his clients were not likely showing indifference to the judge’s ruling.
Both sides will meet Wednesday to fix a date for sentencing.