Protecting your tax dollars

2016-11-28

Hampstead is home to many wealthy residents. Most are wonderful people who are kind, generous and serve our community, whether by financially supporting various worthy causes or by giving of their time to support these causes. I salute them and I am proud to be the Mayor of a town with so many great residents.

Regretfully, there are a very few individuals who believe they should get their way all the time and will sue the town if your elected council does not agree with them. In the past 11 years that I have been Mayor, we have never given in to these legal challenges and to date we have yet to lose a case. To be clear, I am not referring to residents who challenge a ticket in court. We do lose some of those cases but because the Montreal municipal court handles them, they do not cost Hampstead at all.

Allow me to share some of the more interesting lawsuits. In one, a resident came to council and argued that we should not put snow on lawns. I explained that the cost of trucking away all snow would be in excess of $3 million annually and would result in a large tax increase. He said, he didn’t care. I responded that many taxpayers would have difficulty with such a large tax increase and we would not do it. So he went to court and asked for an emergency injunction to prevent the town from blowing snow on his lawn. The judge said, “This has been going on for 15 years, what’s the emergency?” The resident is still asking for a permanent injunction but the case will probably not be heard for some time. Obviously, we expect a final court decision in our favor.

In another case, the town was doing work which caused some dust to blow on a resident’s freshly washed windows and allegedly also ruined a garden party that he was having. He is suing the town for the cost of cleaning the windows, about $500, plus $16,000 for suffering and punitive damages. Imagine the precedent if we agreed to pay whenever the town does any work that causes dust to blow on windows. We are fighting the case and expect the court to agree with us.

Yet another case involved a long time employee who had retired and taken his pension but kept working for the town on one year contracts until we could find a replacement. The contract allowed us to let this employee go with one month’s notice. However, when we did find a replacement, we offered to pay the employee until the end of the contract, four months. This was four times what we were obliged to pay but we appreciated the long service and wanted to be more than fair. All would have been fine except that the employee refused our offer and he sued us. At the end of the day he ended up with less than our original generous offer.

These cases and other similar ones have cost the town over $150,000 but we have no choice but to fight them because the alternative would be much worse. Once you give in to one outrageous claim, you encourage others. I am writing this message to let anyone considering suing the town, without a good reason, to know that we will contest the lawsuit vigorously.

If you have any comments or questions on this topic or anything related to Hampstead, please e-mail me at wsteinberg@hampstead.qc.ca or call me 7 days a week until midnight at my home office (514) 483-6954.


Sincerely,


Dr. Bill Steinberg
Mayor, Town of Hampstead