A letter to Tay Valley Councillors (cost of legal bills to withhold documents)June 18, 2020
Dear TVT councillors,
Yesterday I wrote to you about the fact that your long-suffering taxpayers have been saddled with $41,000 in legal bills for two Integrity Commissioner reports.
Today I am writing to let you know that in the course of the past two years your clerk, Amanda Mabo has spent over $66,000 on legal bills in an effort to block my wife and me from gaining access to township records we had requested to see (via a series “MFIPPA requests” filed back in 2018).
Two types of legal service are responsible for these costs.
The First Type of Legal Service: $51,000 for assistance in Withholding Records.
The township has been billed $51,256.77 by your lawyers for services associated primarily with preparing legal briefs for presentation to the province’s Information and Privacy Commissioner. In each such brief, the lawyers argue that Ms. Mabo has the authority to withhold one or another of the Township records that I have asked to see. (Please see Attachments ‘A’ and ‘B,’ which contain the responses to a new set of MFIPPA requests I filed earlier this year, asking how much it had cost to block the MFIPPA requests made two years earlier).
I have attached a copy of one of the briefs prepared by your lawyers, to show you just what it is, that you are paying for. (Please see Attachment ‘C’.) This particular brief, all by itself, cost you $26,600. There are also a number of other briefs for lesser amounts.
The Second Type of Legal Service: $15,000 for a slide show and a letter to shore up Ms. Mabo’s contention that she should administer MFIPPA on behalf of Tay Valley Township.
On January 22, 2019, I made a presentation to Council (linked HERE), in which I argued that Ms Mabo ought not to be administering MFIPPA on behalf of the Township. My primary reason was that her approach was proving to be very expensive. But I also pointed out that in administering MFIPPA, she is in a conflict of interest, which can be resolved only if she recuses herself from the task. (The problem of conflict of interest is as real today, btw, as it was eighteen months ago.)
Ms. Mabo took offence at what I had said and (as you will no doubt recall), she convinced Council to allow a law firm to make a PowerPoint presentation outlining how MFIPPA works. Additionally, the same firm was hired to comb through my January 22 presentation looking for anything at all that could be characterized as libelous or defamatory. The lawyer found nothing, but nonetheless sent me as aggressive a letter as the circumstances permitted. This is attached below. (Please see Attachment ‘D’).
Unfortunately, lawyers do not work for free. Earlier this year, I filed an MFIPPA request to find out just how much these services had cost. The letter I received in May, in response to this inquiry, is attached (Please see Attachment ‘E’). It confirms that the relevant law firm, Emond Harden LLP, billed the Township just under $15,000.
The cost of the legal bills generated by Ms. Mabo’s handling of a single citizen’s MFIPPA requests has therefore cost the Township $66,000 ($51,000 + $15,000).
I do not know whether what I’m telling you is news. Perhaps Ms Mabo has already informed you that she has run up all these legal bills, and kept you apprised of the running totals. Perhaps you approved these expenditures in advance. If this is the case, then I apologize for taking your time.
But if this is new information to you, I’d be grateful if you would ask Ms. Mabo what has motivated her to spend so much money in this manner, when the opportunity of avoiding all this expense could have been achieved by taking the course of action I suggested in my January 22 presentation, and allowing Council itself to review the records to which I had requested access in 2018. I would be grateful if you could ask her these questions in an open session, rather than in one of Tay Valley’s numerous closed-door meetings (which forces you into silence as to what you were told). Tay Valley taxpayers (whose money is being spent to pay these bills) deserve, as much as anyone, to hear her explanation.
Thank you for your attention. As is my practice when dealing with Tay Valley Township, I will post this letter on my website.
Posted in: Blog