Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Aurora Coalition Disputes Legal Expenses Town Supplied to The Banner

Posted by auroracitizen on October 14, 2009

Thanks to contributor Richard Johnson for this post. It was also sent to The Auroran.

The most recent ad run by the Aurora Coalition in the October 13th issue of the Auroran raises a number of interesting questions given the town’s legal expenses outlined.

A July 22nd story in The Banner, entitled “Town’s legal costs inching up, but far from record” noted the following:

“The tab for outside legal help up to May 31 is pegged at just more than $86,200 and is estimated to come in below $180,000 by the end of the year, according to a report presented to councillors Tuesday. So far, it marks the highest expenditure on outside legal advice for this term of council, having spent more than $139,000 in 2008, $109,000 in 2007 and just $38,500 in 2006.  But those figures pale in comparison to the $430,000 spent in 2005 and the $659,000 doled out in 2000.”

It has since come to light through information obtained by a freedom of information request filed by the Aurora Coalition that the figures quoted by the town to the Banner in July were apparently $14,000 too low in 2007 and $356,654 too low in 2008. We can also conclude that the 2009 legal fees may well go up by an additional $50,000 above what has been quoted year to date in the numbers provided to the Aurora Coalition so we are actually looking at a total cost for legal expenses of approximately $800,000 over a two and a half year period.

It also turns out that the 2008 charges of just under $500,000 are only eclipsed by one other year (i.e. the year 2000) as noted in the Banner’s story, so these legal expenses are in fact closer to setting a record than what was suggested this past July. Putting aside how the town could misquote such basic financial numbers for expenses incurred on 2007 & 2008, one has to look at what the legal expenses incurred for outside council were spent on.

By way of example, the Town of Markham spent approximately $750,000 on legal costs over a two or three year period in order to ensure that the Province, Hydro One and the OPA followed the Planning Act by exploring all possible alternatives before power supply infrastructure was imposed on Markham and Aurora. Those fees potentially saved home owners in York Region tens of millions of dollars in potential negative real estate valuation impacts, not to mention saving the Province’s tens of millions of dollars. Markham’s efforts contributed to indentifying a better financial, technical and environmental power supply solution than what was initially imposed by Hydro One, who had not explored all possible alternatives. Markham’s legal expenses were well spent in my view, even if Aurora eventually worked against the viable alternatives proposed in the end which may well result in new transmission facilities being installed in Markham and or Aurora (but that’s yet another sad story for another day).

From my perspective, justifiable legal expenses incurred through the conducting the town’s legitimate business should be contrasted by politically motivated and groundless legal expenses, however given the secretive nature of so much of what our current Aurora Council does behind closed doors these days, and given the apparent spin that so much information emanating from the Mayor’s office appears to subjected to, we will not likely be able to ever know what expenses may have in fact been frivolous or politically motivated. It should also be noted that by the time the Mayor and her supporters have defended themselves against additional litigation that may be undertaken by Councilor Buck and the recently fired Integrity Commissioner that the Mayor has gone to great lengths to discredit, the total legal charges incurred as a direct result of this council could well be far higher before this term is all over.

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37 Responses to “Aurora Coalition Disputes Legal Expenses Town Supplied to The Banner”

  1. Anonymous said

    I have often wondered if the mayor suffers from borderline personality disorder. Any wagers?

  2. Who does she think she is kidding said

    Of course Morris reads every bit of media in the town, including this blog. It is her micro-managing nature to know everything being said and written about her. Witness the town staff exits to try to squash any dissent.
    Time and time again she has made reference to something in The Auroran, and quickly added that she “can’t respond” to rumours etc. But she sure tries, lecturing at great length during council meetings.
    It is just lately when it seems that her hounds have been called off, and that she made that ridiculous comment about not reading Ron’s “newsletter” (her reference). There seems to be a concerted effort on her part to ignore any questions of her actions. God forbid anyone should try to hold her accountable. Deflection is her trademark. Head in the clouds is another.
    Birds of a Feather nailed it. Morris thinks that by saying it is, it shall be so for others. The fact is that The Auroran has more Aurora news and letters to the editor than the so-called Aurora Banner.
    Read it and weep, Phyllis. The only thing you’ve accomplished this term is rancour and ridicule in this town.

  3. Birds of a Feather said

    The mayor claims to not read the Auroran and Stephen Harper says he doesn’t watch Canadian news. (Politician=Liar)

    Canadian Press article:

    OTTAWA – Say it ain’t so, prime minister.

    Even Stephen Harper’s own cabinet seems to be having trouble accepting that the man with the famously frosty relationship to the national news media doesn’t consume Canadian news.

    “I tend to watch American news,” Harper said this week during a question-and-answer session at a Canadian Chamber of Commerce convention in Toronto.

    “I don’t like to watch Canadian news and hear what Allan (Gregg) and everybody else is saying about me. My hobby is to watch politics elsewhere.”

    Gregg, a pollster and CBC pundit, was in the audience.

    Industry Minister Tony Clement was aghast Thursday when asked about Harper’s news viewing habits.

    “I’m sure he does” watch Canadian news, Clement said outside the House of Commons.

    Told of Harper’s assertion, Clement was frankly skeptical.

    “We’re news junkies, all of us are. Come on. You know what we’re all about.”

    Peter Kent, the junior foreign minister and a former Global TV newscaster, said Harper “absolutely” watches Canadian news, but backed off when pressed.

    “Well, I’ve never sat with him but I assume that he …”

    Jason Kenney, Harper’s politically astute citizenship and immigration minister, had a nimble response at the ready when asked about Harper’s news-viewing habits.

    “I think the prime minister is too busy to sit there being vainglorious and watching himself on TV,” said Kenney.

    But Liberal Bob Rae said he found Harper’s claim “quite shocking.”

    “We all have an obligation to know what’s going on and to know what other people are reporting and what’s taking place,” said Rae.

    He confessed to being a news junkie himself since his days as Ontario’s beleaguered NDP premier during the recession in the early 1990s.

    “I’m afraid I watched it always and I also read the newspapers,” said Rae, adding he still does.

    “Look at the colour of my hair,” he said of his bone-white mop.

    “Of course I still read it.”

    A spokesman in the Prime Minister’s Office said Harper may prefer American news, but he likes hockey “on Canadian networks” and also enjoys family time watching Dragon’s Den, a CBC production, and CTV’s Corner Gas – a comedy on which he made a cameo appearance in 2006.

  4. Council Cop said

    To: Interested Observer said, October 19, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Also search stories from York Region.com (The Banner) as well as past issues of the Auroran. As a general rule there has not been a lot of detailed investigative journalism but there has been enough to get a sense of what has transpired over the years.

    The best possible source of information is to actually watch the council meetings on Roger’s Cable. Once you know who is who you can see what is actually happening behind the smoke and mirrors. All is not as it first appears, more often than not.

  5. Interested Observer said

    To Broderick….

    I appreciate the summary of events that I should research. I admit not having sufficient knowledge and as such have not presented an opinion on events to date. I’ll form that over time as I take yours and everyone else’s comments into consideration. I will also review the council minutes and previous council meetings on Rogers and will then be able to formulate an opinion and get get a better sense of the both sides of the equation.

    Also I apologize for mispelling desperate but “desparate” might be a great new word that combines desperate – without hope with disparate – divergent or unlike into desparate: divergent without hope. 😉

  6. Richard Johnson said

    Dick Illingworth once said that our current Mayor and Council was worst he had ever witnessed in forty years !

    I recall thinking at the time that statement may be a touch extreme, but I guess we all have to decide for ourselves based on the mounting evidence as we see it.

  7. Broderick Epps said

    Interested Observer wrote “Being an interested observer, I have no reason or sufficient information to demonize or evangelize Morris but having such a polarized view as you presented seems a little desperate.” in response to my posting.
    Since you lack sufficient information, lets give you areas for research.
    1) Marc Neeb
    2) Off-site staff orientation fiasco and subsequent hypocracy as a Regional Councillor.
    3) Staff Turnover. Might I suggest talking to ex-or current employees. Or talk to vendors and others doing business with the Town. They all can’t be ‘a little desparate’
    4) Dysfunction of the last oouncil headed by Tinm Jones. Why did Nigel Kean PUBLICALLY apologize to Tim Jones. Had something to do with Kean admitting his error in blaming council dysfunction on Tim Jones. I wonder who he blamed.
    5) Back to staff turnover, why did former councillor Chris Sorley suggest staff get their resumes ready upon the election of Ms. Morris. What was his problem? Desparate too?
    6) What so called Environmentalist shows up to Environmental Advisory Committee Meetings in a Ford Expedition?
    Perhaps when you do more research you can tab me with labels such as desparate or highly polarized. Otherwise you truly are an interested observer with no original or researched thoughts!

  8. Not Surprised said

    Bravo Councillor Buck, for your apology, I can only say how lucky we are that at least someone can admit to saying or responding to something incorrectly. Let us all take a lesson to this.

  9. evelyn.buck@rogers.com said

    To Interested Observer

    My apology for picking up your meaning incorrectly.

    I am just so proud to be a resident of Aurora. Her politics have always been lively, real and humorous.

    As long as people like yourself maintain interest,I have no doubt we will find our way out of this blip in our history and get back to the sound and sensible values that made it a great place to live and raise a family and enjoy an occasional chuckle at our own expense.

  10. Not Surprised said

    Did anyone else notice that there is not an amount attributed to Aird Berlis that would even come close to the cost of the 23 page report Mr. Mascarin investigated and composed for Mormac and the minions? A report I might add that did not prove the allegations that these people have made against a fellow councillor.

    The Mayor has once again stated that legal costs were incurred to protect Town Staff. Well we have yet to see or hear any proof that there was ever anything to protect town staff from. Just more spin.

    The picture in the Banner, of our elected officials and their best friend, in promotion of the Thriller dance at the Farmers Market just verifies the statement that a picture speaks a thousand words this photo op speaks volumns.

  11. Anonymous said

    Why would the mayor write a column for a newspaper like the Auroran that she says she never reads and her husband calls sh_t?
    On top of that why would anyone want to read a column by a mayor who would only use it for her self promoting?
    I hope that Mr Wallace will say no to her when the election heats up. This mayor has all the promoting she needs just by her loyal group of council followers and of course the lady in black at the back of the room.Wilson,Granger,Gallo,MacEachren and Gaerter all fall over each other telling everyone who will listen how great their mayor is. It really is a sad state of affairs at the town palace.

  12. Richard Johnson said

    In 1969 the precursor of the Auroran was The Aurora Banner whose publisher, Bob Buchanan apparently had doubts that Mayor Illingworth could write something every week. Mr. Buchanan’s concerns were proven to be unfounded for the next forty years.

    One can only imagine what Mr. Illingworth would have to say these days.

  13. Richard Johnson said

    Apparently the tradition of past Mayors updating the good people of Aurora through the Auroran goes back to 1969 when Dick Illingworth was Mayor.

    While Mayor Jones never missed a week, I have confirmed that Mayor Morris contributed approximately four columns with the last one being printed in around last March. We can only assume that the Mayor somehow came to the conclusion that no further updates were warranted.

  14. Positive 2010 said

    To interested observer
    Our Mayor has used the word ” Hate ” to describe how she feels about certain citizens .
    Is that what you want for Positive .
    This is not a word you want to teach our youth about because they struggle enough with it .

  15. Interested Observer said

    Thanks for the response Ms. Buck. I did not state or intend to state that “politics are the same at all levels”? My comment was more lamenting that the political way at all levels seems to be if “they” are for it then I’m against it regardless of the value or impact.

  16. evelyn.buck@rogers.com said

    Interested Observer comments ‘politics are the same at all levels’.

    No, they are not,

    Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition has a role to play at the higher levels. It is to oppose.
    To find the weaknesses in government decisions. To point them out and battle for improvements.

    At the municipal level, every resident has a right to participate. Council decisions are subject to scrutiny and commentary. Blogs. comments to posts and letters to the editor are all signs democracy is alive and well.

    Aurora is different to other municipalities. Dysfunctional may not be the proper description.

    Yes, spin is rampant. Because it’s the only defence.

    Many people are throwing themselves passionately into the debate. Some put money where their mouths are and pay for ads and Freedom of Information Requests.

    Good on them

    Yes, it’s a shame such things are necessary.The waste of resources is scandalous. Much harm has been done. But we elected this council so we are as much responsible as they are.

    But isn’t it great that people are exercising their rights and privileges and initiative to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again?

    Who knows where all this dynamic energy will take us. But by Jove it’s great to see. And it sure can’t hurt.

    We are slaves to nobody.

    Aurora has always been different. It’s not just a historic core, it has a heart and soul and enormous spirit.

    Is that not positive enough and something to celebrate ?

  17. Council Cop said

    To Something Fishy in Aurora, October 16, 2009 at 8:39 am

    I totally forgot about the Mayor’s weekly update that we were to get through the Auroran ! My apologies for the confusion.

    On the Mayor’s bio she only mentions the Banner as follows:

    “Former Era-Banner Newspaper Columnist
    Weekly columnist for the local award winning* Era- Banner in the Aurora Tuesday edition.”

    *There was no specific mention as to how many of the paper’s awards Phyllis was personally responsible for.

  18. Interested Observer said

    To all, I appreciate the feedback and I’ve not sufficient knowledge at this point to comment on positive or negative initiatives but will do more due dilligence.

    Broderick,

    So Morris is the devil incarnate, or actually the devil would be a congenial chap next to the Mayor. Is that correct? Based on your statements it’s probably a good thing for all that you’re not the Mayor. It seems things are a little personal for you and anyone that may not view things your way. Being an interested observer, I have no reason or sufficient information to demonize or evangelize Morris but having such a polarized view as you presented seems a little desperate.

    It seems to me that if an artist wants everything to be black they paint it all with black paint but it means only the few that appreciate that colour will enjoy the painting.

  19. Something Fishy in Aurora said

    If you check the link in my post her first article in the Auroran was Jan 27,09.

    Here is a snippit 🙂

    “Welcome to a new column that’s going to be “All About
    Aurora”
    As mayor, I’m always happy to think about; walk about
    and talk about “Aurora”.
    Which is why I’m pleased to have been offered a guest
    column to “write about” Aurora .
    I’d like to wish everyone a very happy and healthy 2009
    and to thank Editor Ron Wallace for this opportunity to
    communicate directly with “The Auroran” readers.”

  20. Council Cop said

    Something Fishy in Aurora said
    October 15, 2009 at 5:36 pm
    “If she doesn’t read it why did she write for it?”

    Answer: I think the Mayor wrote for the Banner and not the Auroran.

    We also know why the Mayor does not read the Auroran; she does not take well to being questioned. Which makes one speculate that she may also be cutting back on the Banner, the Star and the Globe.

  21. Broderick Epps said

    In my last post should have said Chris Sorley not Mike. My apologies. BTW Chris correctly warned staff to get their resumes ready once Ms. Morris was elected. How right he was.

  22. White Knight said

    I am outraged by the mayor’s outrage that legal fees would be published in the paper by the anonymous coalition. I attended the council meeting a few weeks ago when the Integrity Commissioner’s report was discussed. I remember Al Wilson stating that many citizens are asking questions including how much has been spent on legal fees by this council. He said that Aurora citizens should have answers to their questions. The mayor then stated quite clearly that she would answer citizens’ questions. I guess she answers only selective questions – the ones that suit her.
    Well I have waited and waited for her to answer that particular question and let us all know how much has been spent on legal fees. She still hasn’t. The Aurora Coalition has. How dare she make her condescending, derogatory comments and criticize them for taking the bull by the horns and providing the answers that the town’s citizens have been clamouring for when SHE AND HER MAJORITY WON’T!

  23. Broderick Epps said

    To Interested Observer, I have been a contributor to this site who has continued to portray Mayor Morris in a very negative light. I come by this opinion after many years of following the career of Ms. Morris.I watched as Councillor Morris harrassed and belittled staff who wouldn’t slant reports to her point of view. I personally know several who have left in disgust. I watched an esteemed colleague reponding to Ms Morris (as Columnist and Cable Talk Show Host) have part of their report paraphrased and taken 180 degrees out of context to suit some delusional agenda. Repeated attempts at contacting and messaging went unanswered just the behaviour one would would expect from a weasel low life. As Mayor I sat in the audience as Ms Morris’s hired legal expert advised all in attendance that a vote for a by-election would require a 2/3 majority. Of course this was all done to save residents from a costly by election. You believe this and then you must believe in the Easter Bunny because if the ninth place finisher in the last election was someone like Bill Hogg or Mike Sorley, there would have been a by-election lickity split!Several weeks later the 2/3 rule was waived to allow an non -resident of Aurora to lodge a complaint against a sitting councillor. We won’t even get into the potential conflict of interest issues this non resident continues to flaunt.
    Yes Interested Observer you may classify my comments as negative and not helpful, but I beg to differ. Ms Morris was able to school us last election with bullshit baffles brains, I personally will not let her get away with it this time.

  24. Something Fishy in Aurora said

    If she doesn’t read it why did she write for it?

    http://www.auroran.com/?page=pdf_download&id=6549

  25. Just Give Us ALL the Apples and/or ALL the Oranges said

    Isn’t this Chris Alexander’s former job?:

    http://www.workopolis.com/EN/job/11067196

    Do we know if he jumped or was pushed?

  26. Blogosphere Bulletin said

    From a neighbour to the north:

    http://darrylwolkpolitics.blogspot.com/2009/10/mystery-ads-show-up-in-aurora.html

  27. Anonymous said

    When I look at this council and try to be positive on something that they have accomplished I find it hard. There was lots of promises of a good council that works together for Aurora yet there have been more staff, senior and middle, leave during this council. Why? There have been more law suits than ever including one between councillors and the mayor. Why?
    There are more empty town owned buildings than ever. Why?
    Aurora did win the Prince of Wales award but most of the credit should go to the previous council and not this one.
    I am not looking to crap on this council but please, please tell me what have they done that has been outstanding or even good.

  28. Council Cop said

    To “Interested Observer” 10:07

    You are correct; there are two sides to every story and you should feel free to comment on all of council’s good work, but I hope that you are not faulting those of us that are trying to counter the spin and hold our Council accountable to standards that the Mayor herself set during the last election.

    You are 100% correct to say that there are two sides to every story and that what Aurora needs is visionary leadership, but at the same time I hope that you agree that does not make Council’s clearly questionable behavior any more justifiable.

  29. Countdown to Nov 2010 said

    To Interested Observer – while I agree with your comments, you haven’t provided any details of “positive initiatives” that the Mayor and this council have achieved. Believe me, I look for every spark of positive, but the negative looms so large that it takes quite a bit of digging.
    Welcome to the discussion. I look forward to more posts from you.

  30. Council Cop said

    The October 14th Banner story entitled “Higher legal fees surface” notes that the Town of Aurora misquoted the 2008 legal fees this past July 22nd by $330,000.

    A number of questions spring to mind from this latest revelation stemming from information obtained through a Freedom of Information request, but the following quotes from York University political science professor Robert MacDermid seem to hit the nail on the head:

    “Whenever a municipality hires a lawyer, it doesn’t take all that long for the fees to mount.

    “One can speculate that (these figures) are not unusual,” Mr. MacDermid said. “It all depends on what it’s for. Going to the OMB is very costly and, really, any time you’re employing a lawyer, you’re probably going to see higher costs.”

    Even so, not every legal expense is directly controlled at the council table, Mr. MacDermid said. For example, when a developer opts to appeal a council decision to the OMB, there’s little choice for the municipality but to defend it.

    Similarly, it’s not uncommon for municipalities to have a general solicitor on staff and hire experts when required, Mr. MacDermid said.

    However, it’s unfortunate some costs in Aurora have accrued due to personal differences, he said.

    “I think it’s regrettable when a council cannot get along and solve its differences without going the legal route,” Mr. MacDermid said. “At that point, I think that they’ve forgotten who it is that they’re really there to represent.”

    For a better picture of what has transpired in this case, compare the following two stories:

    Town’s legal costs inching up, but far from record LINK: http://www.yorkregion.com/article/94652

    Higher legal fees surface LINK: http://www.yorkregion.com/article/97912

  31. Interested Observer said

    Our world is definitely short of visionary leaders and I don’t see many comments from visionary leaders on these webpages. All I’m finding is repeated attempts to discredit individuals on the other team. Is there no positive initiatives or work that has been completed by council this term? Not according to the individuals commenting and controlling these pages. It’s important for the citizens of Aurora that council is taken to task for not representing the best interests of the tax payers of the town and they are provided a voice on these pages and ultimately in future elections, but the fact that I’ve found minimal expression of support for anything that has been undertaken by GOS is telling and causes me to say hmmmm….

    It’s the political way unfortunately and we see it at all levels. Rarely will we hear a Liberal vocally supporting a PC initiative in Parliment or a PC endorsing a Liberal initiative in Queens Park. We expect them to come out and hold the other accountable for their failings but mixed in with the eHealth and other fiascos are many positive initiatives. Visionary leadership would include being able to acknowledge accomplishments no matter what side of the council floor you sit on as well as challenging elected representatives and demanding accountabilities. Something we rarely see here or elsewhere.

  32. Positive 2010 . said

    The reason I have not come forward is because the Mayor sues people because she knows they cannot defend themselves financially .
    Big fish eats little fish .
    She has a real mean streak and the silent majority know it .

  33. Countdown to Nov 2010 said

    But there are plenty of anonymous letters on the Town’s website. Ah, yes, the difference is they are apparently from residents who love the mayor. Or are they? I’m adjusting my tinfoil hat for the day.

  34. someone who loves this town more than politics said

    From Rogers broadcast 1:02:50 – “and frankly I don’t read it”

    ha, sure, and then she goes on to say “we don’t respond to anonymous comments”

    another ha, yeah and sure you don’t leave any anonymous comments here.

    Perhaps we should follow your advise:

    “I’d ask you just to ignore anonymous comments, they really don’t have much merit in this community”

  35. someone who loves this town more than politics said

    Wait, the mayor actually said that she doesn’t read the local paper?

    Even if she didn’t what purpose would she have to say such a thing?

    Shouldn’t the mayor be making all attempts to be informed and in touch with her electorate?

    The Banner serves a much wider region than just Aurora.
    The Auroran is our only local paper.

    To say she doesn’t read it implies that she is either disconnected with her town, or holds a political bias against the paper.

    Either way this has to be yet another huge political misstep on her behalf.

    Hasn’t this mayor learned from recent events that ignoring Aurorans won’t make them go away. In fact it has the opposite effect.

    The silent majority remains silent no more.

  36. Anonymous for a reason said

    Mayor Morris said at last night’s council meeting that she doesn’t read the Auroran. Yeah, right. Like she doesn’t read this blog either.

  37. Anonymous said

    For copies of the previous ads from the Aurora Coalition you can search for the issue of the Auroran for any given date and then select the corresponding page number provide below:

    First Ad:, page 12, August 25th: http://www.auroran.com/

    Ad #2, September 15th, page 13: http://www.auroran.com/

    Ad #3, September 29th, page 17: http://www.auroran.com/

    Ad #4, October 13th, page 12: http://www.auroran.com/?page=current_edition

    You can also find mostly glowing letters that have been sent to the Mayor at the following LINK to the town’s website: http://www.town.aurora.on.ca/aurora/index.aspx?ArticleID=1418&lang=en-CA

    Feel free to post your own letter to the Mayor on the town’s website !

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