SURREY â€” Coun. Tom Gill refused to elaborate about a defamation case Tuesday, saying municipal lawyers are still working on the file.
â€œThat doesnâ€™t necessarily mean anything other than the fact that weâ€™re just trying to figure out if thereâ€™s a resolution that we can come up with,â€ he said.
Gill is being sued by Surrey businessman Harjit Atwal over comments Gill made to the Surrey Leader about a violent 2010 incident involving a family member, prominent Surrey broadcaster Maninder Gill, who still faces criminal charges over that matter.
The defamation case filed by Atwal, who was shot in the thigh outside a wedding at Newtonâ€™s Guru Nanak temple, is set to go to trial before a B.C. Supreme Court judge in New Westminster this week, though no court date has been made public.
The issue became controversial when it was revealed the City of Surrey is covering Gillâ€™s legal expenses even though itâ€™s unclear whether he was acting on city businesses when he allegedly made the comments heâ€™s being sued for.
Thereâ€™s been no word of the exact amount Surrey taxpayers are on the hook for and when asked, Gill laughed, repeating the statement that he canâ€™t comment on the specifics of the case.
â€œI wish I could give you the whole details right now but Iâ€™m just not at liberty to discuss this file with you,â€ he said. â€œI might have some more comments for you in the future.â€
When asked to estimate when that future date might be he wouldnâ€™t speculate, adding, â€œIâ€™m not a fortune teller.â€
Gill did say nothing has been finalized or settled out of court.
A source who spoke to the Now on condition of anonymity said the amount is in the range of $50,000. Gill refused to confirm or deny this figure.
Surreyâ€™s bylaws state that municipal employees should have their legal costs covered if theyâ€™re facing a court action â€œin connection with the exercise or intended exercise of the personâ€™s powers or the performance or intended performance of the personâ€™s duties or functions.â€
In a comment made to the Now last week, Gill said he received a legal opinion from outside city hall â€œand that legal opinion was consistent with the direction that both I and staff took.â€
Surrey city solicitor Craig MacFarlane wrote in an email that the amount of legal fees paid thus far couldnâ€™t be released because it is also covered by solicitor-client privilege.
This isnâ€™t the first spat between Maninder and Atwal. At the time of the 2010 incident, the two were reportedly feuding over another defamation case.
Atwal had sued Radio India and a dozen staff members, including managing director Maninder, alleging defamation and libel over comments made on the air. In 2011, Radio India was found guilty.
With files from Amy Reid