A Ballina Shire councillor failed in a bid for council itself to seek outstanding legal costs from an anti-fluoride activist and ‘make him bankrupt’.
The region’s water authority Rous Water, supported by council, recently won a court case in which environmentalist Al Oshlack challenged the proposed installation of dosing plants to add fluoride to Ballina and other local government areas in the region.
The NSW Court of Appeal awarded court costs of around $300,000 to Rous Water in June and Ballina Council is seeking reimbursement from Rous Water for its legal costs.
Cr Sue Meehan, who sits on the board of Rous Water, told councillors last Thursday that it appeared the professional costs of the case could ‘be met through the interest payment on the money that has been given to us from the NSW Health Department for the fluoride dosing plants’.
Cr Paul Worth had asked Cr Meehan to confirm council would not be out of pocket for any legal expenses from the case.
Cr Worth said ‘let’s get the money out of the guy and send him bankrupt.’
But councillors instead backed a move by Cr Meehan for council to write to Rous Water seeking reimbursement of the monies originally paid by council from the interest generated on the fluoridation project’s capital grant.
In April 2010, just before Rous councillors voted on fluoridation, Rous Water general manager Kyme Lavelle controversially tabled legal advice warning that councillors would be personally liable for fines until fluoridation was approved.
The vote as a result dramatically swung from against fluoridation, to supporting it.
In the case this year, the NSW Court of Appeal found that legal advice was wrong, but it didn’t invalidate the vote by Rous councillors.
Council general manager Mr Paul Hickey said last week that Rous Water was running the case and he expected legal advice on the costs issue soon.
Mr Hickey confirmed that council paid nothing for the appeal but had paid $176,200 for the first court case over the issue of fluoridation.