Former SAO calls for inquiry after Norman Wells drops fraud case
A former senior administrator accused for years of significant fraud while running Norman Wells says a public inquiry should take place now that the case has been dropped.
The Town of Norman Wells said on Wednesday it would “concede” the case against Catherine Mallon, whom the town had accused of fraud worth more than a million dollars.
In a statement on Facebook, the town said legal action was “no longer prudent” after an accounting firm said a supposed forensic audit central to the town’s case was in fact nothing of the sort.
Mallon, who said she had maintained her innocence throughout, called on Premier Caroline Cochrane to establish a public inquiry “to get to the bottom of this shocking waste of public resources, and to avoid this kind of tragedy happening to anyone else.”
Mallon told Cabin Radio she also intends to “commence legal proceedings for malicious prosecution against the town and those responsible for maintaining this frivolous action against me, and to seek damages against those responsible.”
Her co-defendant, former Norman Wells mayor Nathan Watson, said on Wednesday he would prefer for the matter to go to trial, saying the town had “yet to produced a shred of evidence” against either person.
Councillor Dave Wever, a supporter of the lawsuit, said the town still had “quite a bit of evidence” regarding its claim of fraud but could not continue spending the municipality’s money.
The Town of Norman Wells began legal action against Mallon and Watson in 2019, holding a public meeting with support from the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs to announce allegations of fraud that a senior territorial official said were “shocking.”
By email, Mallon said the town’s announcement this week that it would consent to her application to dismiss the lawsuit “is proof that the miscarriage of justice has continued for nearly four years.”
She said the town had delayed prosecuting the action against her, forcing her to bring the application to dismiss, and she had “spent the last year setting out evidence from me and a number of people who were brave enough to stand up for the truth.”
Mallon said cross-examinations of two town witnesses by her legal counsel two weeks ago had made it “entirely clear not only that the town had no case against me, but never did.”
“Further, it is clear that the town was told about the significant and blatant flaws in its case repeatedly, but did nothing about it,” she alleged, urging residents to review court documents as they become available. (Transcripts of the cross-examinations in question are not yet public.)
Mallon characterized the claim against her as “malicious from the start” and said it had cost the town “untold amounts of public funds in wasted legal fees.” The town has not specified its legal costs associated with the case, but said its overall legal spending for the year would be published in its annual report.
On Facebook, the town had stated: “This is a time for conciliation. We have chosen to take the moral high ground.”
Mallon said she believed the town was in fact dropping the case “because it finally had no choice but to admit that there never was any basis to sue me and it is desperate to save face.”
“I only hope that the citizens of Norman Wells demand answers from the town about this monumental failure in governance, the unspeakable damage that this has done to many people including me and Nathan Watson, and the shameful legacy of the last four years,” she wrote.