"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Sunday, 12 July 2009

First Chapter

I gave a lot of thought to presentation of my quest to obtain figures for legal expenditures during this term of office. Then I decided I'm not Agatha Christie , this is not Miss Marple's latest adventure and there is no crime of murder.

The question of how much money has been spent on lawyers during this term is still outstanding. People have been asking for weeks now. I called the solicitor on June 22nd and requested documentation of all bills paid for legal services in 2007/2008/2009.

He indicated he would provide it but asked would I mind if he spoke to Mr. Garbe about it. I said "No"

Why would I? It was not a secret request for information that I did not have a right to receive. I did indicate however, I would mind if I didn't... receive it that is.

A couple of days went by. I received a call indicating the information was going to be provided but would take a couple of days to put together.

"Was that acceptable?" I was asked. " It was". I responded.

Still more days passed. I called again and left a message .

In response, I received an e-mail from the solicitor informing me of the denial of my request.

A resolution was cited. Passed unanimously by council on June 25th

"That the Director of Finance and the Town Solicitor prepare a report to Council which indicates on an issue by issue basis,the totals of the actual year to date and of projected expenditures for the legal services line under the CAO's office"

One might imagine the resolution was coincidence coming as it did three days after my request for the record of expenditures for the past thirty months. But the substance bore no relevance to my request or anything else for that matter.

Nevertheless, it was the reason given by the Solicitor for a refusal to provide information which is a matter of public record.

Following that, an e-mail was received from Councillor Wilson ,who had moved the resolution seconded by Councillor MacEachern.

The Councillor states his opinion: "request by phone is not only excessive work I would imagine but should be an issue brought to council rather than this way especially since we have a motion currently underway by staff to provide information."

It goes on: "If the councillor wanted more I don't understand why it wasn't debated at the table at the time? Nevertheless I believe the staff response is more than appropriate until we meet again."

In summary:

1. I asked the town solicitor for information which is a matter of public record .

2. A conversation was held with Mr. Garbe, the Town's Chief Administrative Officer.

3. Three days later an Interim Operating Budget Forecast was provided to Council by the Town's Director of Finance.

4. A discussion launched by Councillor Wilson, enjoined by Councillor MacEachern, resulted in an amending resolution,directing the Treasurer to prepare a report on" totals of the actual year to date and of the projected expenditures for legal services line under the CAO's office."

5. From whence came the Solicitor's refusal to provide information that any resident of the town is entitled to access.

6. In a letter, signed by six members of Council, sent to me on the Mayor's stationary, a paragraph reads by way of an informal complaint:

"Our town staff is hardworking,committed and conscientious in carrying out their responsibilities and duties on behalf of the Town. Their efforts are supported and greatly appreciated by Council. Your publications and statements appear to have unjustifiably and unnecessarily disparaged and maligned Town staff and must cease without delay."

It is my understanding this letter was written for the group by a lawyer paid for out of town resources.

Now.... on this matter, you know everything I know. Form your own conclusion.

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