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Nanaimo, B.C. has launched a lawsuit against its own mayor, Bill McKay, alleging he shared confidential information with a former staff member who was preparing to sue the municipality.

City of Nanaimo

A city on Vancouver Island has launched a lawsuit against its own mayor, alleging he shared confidential information with a former staff member who was preparing to sue the municipality.

A document filed in B.C. Supreme Court says Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay breached his duties by providing Marilyn Smith with a private e-mail from the city's chief administrative officer that outlined concerns related to the woman's employment history. Ms. Smith was an administrative assistant to the mayor and council.

The lawsuit accuses the mayor of obstructing city staff and not acting in the best interests of the municipality.

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"The mayor's improper disclosure of confidential information to Ms. Smith was not inadvertent," alleges the notice of civil claim filed on Dec. 28. "Ms. Smith used the confidential information to support her claim against the city."

The mayor, who was elected in November, 2014, wasn't immediately available for comment.

None of the allegations have been proved in court and no statement of defence has been filed.

The legal action follows a protracted squabble between Mr. McKay and council members that became public last November when councillors asked the RCMP to investigate the mayor for allegedly breaching his financial disclosure obligations.

An RCMP spokeswoman said Wednesday that officers outside the Mountie's Nanaimo detachment opened a file on Mr. McKay after council members passed a motion alleging that the mayor failed to properly declare gifts he had received and entered into a non-disclosure agreement without council's knowledge or approval.

Multiple media reports at the time cited the mayor as saying he had done nothing wrong and that council's actions were based on speculation and innuendo intended to discredit and humiliate him.

"I wish to make my position clear that the allegations of wrongdoing are false," Mr. McKay said in a statement. "It is nothing more than petty politics and does not serve our community in any positive way."

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A November statement from council members accused Mr. McKay of failing to report to council that he had accepted a free trip from Clipper Navigation, a company interested in launching a fast-ferry service between Nanaimo and Vancouver.

The statement alleges Mr. McKay did not disclose gifts he received while on an official trip to China in 2015, including a return plane ticket from the chair of the Nanaimo Economic Development Corp.

A separate legal action filed on Dec. 22, 2016, by 10 Nanaimo residents petitions the B.C. Supreme Court to disqualify the mayor from holding office because of alleged conflicts of interest.

"The desired result is to maintain public confidence by promoting transparency and ensuring that elected local government bodies are free from impropriety," the document reads.

A statement of defence has not been filed in reply to the petition.

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