Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Legal Costs Are Inching Up

Posted by auroracitizen on July 26, 2009

On July 23, The Banner published an article which provided some historical perspective on legal costs this term versus prior terms. While we appreciate the work of Sean Pearce in preparing this summary, it would have been helpful if he had the opportunity to dig a little deeper.

While in may be true that costs for this year/term are lower than past years, it is equally important to know the purpose for those expenditures. There is a significant difference between Town expenditures and the legal costs for political issues that are causing the uproar by citizens.

For example, Mr Pearce states “A large portion of to 2000 total had to do with an Ontario Municipal Board battle over the Yonge Street South Secondary Plan”. That would clearly be a Town based expenditure.

However, this term we have seen funds spent trying to find dirt against former Mayor Jones (unsuccessfully it would appear since nothing was published), circumventing the by-election that was desired by an outspoken majority of residents that allowed Mayor Morris to appoint a Councillor who had previously indicated his support, and most recently to silence an outspoken Councillor who regularly disagrees in public with her.

None of those 3 has anything to do with the Town business, but are exclusively political/personal in nature.

Clearly the Council perspective (as it is for any Council) is to spin the numbers in a positive light. The role of the press and citizen watchdogs is to ask questions that seek to understand the facts behind the spin.

Mayor Morris states that she unequivocally refutes that she has spent over $200,000 on lawyers. Well total expenditures this term are indicated at $372.7K (2006-$38.5, 2007-$109.0, 2008-$139, 2009 YTD-86.2).

Not sure how these figures “clearly don’t support that”. Over $350,000 dollars have been spent by this Mayor and Council. It would appear the numbers do support the assertion!

An argument will be made — quite accurately — that all these expenditures are not driven by the politicians. But why are the real facts so hard to determine.

Every legal bill comes with a detailed breakdown. Yet when you review the items on agenda item 37 from the July 21 meeting this breakdown is hard to see.

For example, according to the written report there is no mention of expenditures for the matter involving Councillor Buck although we know that funds have been spent. There is a letter of legal opinion dated July 16 from Aird & Berlis. We guess that’s because the report is only until May 31.

Similarly, almost 50% of legal fees to-date from Virginia MacLean were not broken down. What types of issues were these? We know Councillor Buck has been a thorn in the Mayors side long before June 2009.

There was also another $2,400 spent on a Freedom of Information requests. One would suspect that was so Council did not have to provide the information requested. Hard to tell whether this was Town or political in nature from this report.

Overall the issue that keeps rearing its ugly head is openness and transparency. These were the key promises of this Mayor and probably the greatest broken promise thus far.

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4 Responses to “Legal Costs Are Inching Up”

  1. Anonymous said

    There are many ways to interpret spending to date on legal fees.The Town probably uses accrual accounting and the true monies spent reside in the balance sheet , written off monthly to smooth out their impact over the course of the year. That Mr Pearce attemted to decipher this is a recipe for misstatement of facts.

  2. Anonymous said

    For Morris to say that the outside legal bills total only $89,000. is a joke. There are ways to make anything look differently than the truth. Do you think that there is only one account where these expenditures can go?

    NOW is the time for an external audit of the town's financial statements!

  3. Anonymous said

    This whole council is a waste of taxpayers dollars. the added legal costs only add to this council's salaries. They should all donate their salaries to a worthwhile cause. Let's say Councillor Buck's defence.

  4. Anonymous said

    Talk about wasting tax payers money, how about watching the council meeting on Rogers where Taxman Wilson states that there is a lawyer and staff sitting in the audience waiting for a particular item to be discussed. And you can see the glimer of excitement that Wilson is itching to get to that particular item. That was about the 9:30 p.m. mark. If there was a lawyer on site to deal with a particular issue, why was he left sitting in the audience until that time while billing the town at what I understand to be $600.00 an hour while Phyllis gave her televised congratulations to Sher St. Kitts after also spending town resources on a reception before council convened. This is ludicrous, disrespectful to all of the other Aurora volunteers, let alone what she is trying to do to Councillor Buck, a witch hunt at best, and makes absolutely no sense to me.

    I am also appauled and outraged at the depth of the dispicable lengths that they have gone to this time to try and shut Councillor Buck down. If they have done nothing else they have shown through the posting of the letter and the use of the lawyer how badly they want her gone and god only knows how much further they will go. If they did not have the use of public funds you can be sure they would not be hiring a lawyer to fight this very personal and political fight.

    I am anxiously waiting to see how Councillor Buck responds to this latest bit of liable and slander that this mayor and her minions have so stupidly advertised. I say Councillor Buck should sue them each personally.

    This is clearly the only open and transparent decision that group of councillors has done and it totally goes against the very core of a democratic society that we claim to live in.

    P.S. Can anyone direct me to the blogs that the letter claims where Councillor Buck has disrespected staff or for that matter St. Kitts. Through my research I don't seem to be able to find anything!

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