Council votes 6-1 to release legal fees on pier

Council voted 6-1 yesterday to disclose the total amount of legal fees spent on the pier. (Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison was the lone “no” vote).

Pier is complete; litigation continues; legal fees released Jan. 30

Pier is complete; litigation continues; legal fees released Jan. 30

The amount will be publicly released at a press conference at City Hall, Thurs. Jan. 30, 10 am, Rm 247. The City Manager, Jeff Fielding, will release the number, provide an update where things stand and next steps in the litigation process, and answer questions. The release comes months after a Freedom of Information Request was filed by the Burlington Post for the number.

My Take: I fully support the release of the total number of legal fees, as I have never believed doing so compromised our legal position. That said, I believe releasing this informatin is council’s role as part of our accountability to the public, not the city manager’s role. But I’m pleased the information will be now be released, and there will be much more information to come once this matter is resolved, hopefully this year.

Below is the text of my statement at the Special Council Meeting held Tuesday to allow council to vote on releasing the fees.

Statement from Ward 2 Councillor, Marianne Meed Ward

Jan. 28, 2014

Regarding release of the pier legal fees:

  • I want to thank mayor and city manager for honouring to my request for a special council meeting to vote on this matter.
  • This vote is important for two reasons:
  • 1- It  follows our own process;  only council, though a public vote, has the authority to release confidential information. We can’t download that responsibility to the city manager.
  • 2-More important it is about accountability – we are elected representative of the people and as such we are directly accountable to the public for the decisions we make, including release of the pier legal fees and any other pier related information. We have a duty to the public we serve to have that discussion and vote in public, so the public know where their representatives stand.  We can’t assign that public responsibility to the city manager.
  • I fully support the release of the legal fees; I have never believed releasing the total amount would compromise our legal position, and recent decisions from the Information and Privacy Commissioner in similar cases have also made that case, and have ordered the release of this information. We have been aware of those decisions for several years, because those decisions were on the public record.
  • I want to commend the Post for filing the FOI and keeping our feet to the fire on this. That is true public service journalism. It shouldn’t have taken that request for us to the do the right thing, but here we are and I thank the Post for pursuing this in the public interest.
  • The bigger issue here is the total cost to the taxpayer of the pier including the legal fees.
  •  The public deserves to know all the costs and options that were considered to complete the project, including multiple offers from the contractor to complete the pier. That story has yet to be told, but it will be.
  • Residents will make their own judgments about whether we have been good stewards of the money and decisions you entrust to us.
  • We have an opportunity to learn from this experience in the life of our city, and use those learnings to make the best decisions for residents in the future.