04/05/2013 05:57 EDT | Updated 06/05/2013 05:12 EDT

Winnipeg mayor wins conflict-of-interest case

A Manitoba judge ruled in favour of Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz Friday afternoon in a conflict-of-interest case brought forward by a local restaurateur.

Justice Brenda Keyser ruled conflict-of-interest legislation does not apply to a 2010 Christmas party Katz threw for city councillors at Hu's Asian Bistro. Katz, who owned the restaurant at the time, paid the $3,000 tab with taxpayers' money.

City restaurateur Joe Chan filed the conflict complaint against Katz last year. Keyser also ruled Friday Chan would have to pay $10,000 for Katz's legal costs.

In her ruling Keyser said Katz's conduct amounted to "bad political and ethical behaviour," but she believed triggering a costly election was not in the public's best interest.

Court documents filed during a hearing earlier this week said Katz was unaware of how the restaurant bill was paid after he submitted the invoice to his office.

David Matas, a lawyer representing Chan, argued at the hearing that “the notion that [Katz] does not know what's going on in his own office is not a plausible position.”

However, Katz's lawyer Robert Tapper argued the mayor was, at worst, guilty of using poor political judgment.

Mayor not surprised

Katz, who did not appear during the court case, told reporters the verdict was "not a matter of a surprise. The judge has basically made it very clear there was no conflict and ordered the individual to pay $10,000 in costs."

“To me, that’s the end of that.”

However, Coun. Paula Havixbeck said while she respected the decision, the matter may not be over: Voters will judge Katz in the next election.

“You know, the mayor’s business is his business — it is just that. And I think we at city hall have to be more transparent and more trustworthy in general in how we are doing things,” Havixbeck said.

Lots of support

Asked whether he was worried the suit could affect his re-election chances, Katz said he had received an overwhelming amount of support from Winnipeg citizens during the court proceedings.

“One thing that came out of this was I was absolutely amazed at the number of emails, texts and phone calls that I got from the public on the topic,” Katz said, adding they were positive.

Katz said he didn’t have any comment on the judge’s order that Chan pay $10,000 in court costs, other than that he was told it was a “very significant amount.”

“It’s now history. We just move forward,” Katz said, adding he would focus on his work at city hall.

“The reality is, let’s just keep on doing what we’re doing,” the mayor said.

Chan said he was disappointed with the verdict, and is considering an appeal.

“I totally disagree with the judge, and I am going to talk with my lawyer,” he said. “Right now, I don’t know what I am going to do yet, but I can tell you I am not happy.”