Hudson: Lawyers ‘r’ us

 

Now that former town manager Louise Villandré has pleaded guilty to embezzlement, can the town collect from its insurers?
Perhaps, her latest replacement Jean-Pierre Roy told the second sitting of last night’s double-barrelled council meeting — but we can’t know more because the town doesn’t want to tip its hand.
I had asked whether the town had insurance to cover losses due to managerial malfeasance. From Roy’s comments it would appear the town proposes to wait until after Villandré’s sentencing Feb. 22 to discuss the matter with its insurers.
Residents also learned the town is embroiled in some 30 lawsuits. Some are of the administrative variety (council approved a $95,000 payout to the province to cover its share of deductions that were never made from town employees’ paycheques) while others are like the $200,000 lawsuit initiated by a Pine Lake resident or the action instituted by the town’s former auditors for non-payment, or the flurry of claims and counterclaims involving Hudson’s last DG, Roy’s immediate predecessor Catherine Haulard.
One Cameron resident grilled the mayor and council on rumours it was thinking of bringing defamation suits against its Facebook detractors. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t hear a denial.

Highlights from last night’s Hudson 2016 budget meeting:

— Taxes go up 1.85 per cent, or $68 on the mythical average Hudson home worth just under $400,000. The owners will be billed $3,753 compared to last year’s $3,685. $550 represents their share of Hudson’s debt, now down to $28.9 million. Gone is the $25 eco tax, which brings the tax bill down to just $43, a 1.17 per cent hike.

Mayor Ed Prévost on Hudson’s long-term debt situation:
“We’re in relatively good shape…we could be in better shape.”

— Hudson’s notoriously uncollectible business tax has been rolled into a higher non-residential tax rate (74.73 cents per $100 compared to 69.73 cents on residential and agricultural properties.)

— The town has decided to turn Hudson’s business-tax deadbeats over to a collection agency.

— DG Roy and treasurer Serge Raymond have opted against expressing fixed costs (SQ policing, public transit, regional and metropolitan taxes) as a separate line item. So we don’t know how much more we’re being dinged for policing, public transit and regional government. We learned the MRC will cost us $61,000 more next year, mostly to cover the cost of the regional municipal court.

— We’ll see sizeable increases in administration ($2.25M, up from $2.05M last year), public works ($2.2M compared to $1.9M) and debt service ($1.2M to last year’s $963,000).

— Public security and Parks, Recreation and Culture will cost $100,000 less next year, prompting Hudson Music Festival impresario Blair MacKay to demand why the town has money for its third skatepark but none for culture. MacKay and the mayor have been going at this for months because of the town’s refusal to donate the old firehall to the artistic community.

— Council last night adopted a resolution to buy the town’s fleet of fire trucks back off lease, a $833,000 expense. Asked why the town was reversing a policy adopted three years ago to lease the fleet from the province, the DG said it would save $45,000 a year. What about maintenance costs? Curious citizens received no clear answer. We did learn Ladder 402, the only remnant of the town’s old fleet, needs $65,000 in repairs because the firm which rebuilt it didn’t supply the correct certification. (One would think this would be the best argument for a fleet leased from the government.)

— Roy presented Hudson’s new three-year capital expenditures program, to the confusion of many of those in the hall. (This is a Hudson first.) In vain did Roy try to explain that the $25.4M PTI is a wish list. Some items, like the $40G cost of excluding some of Hudson’s farmland from the CPTAQ’s iron fist, are likely, especially since landowners pay the town to get it done. Ditto the $1.45M for a new well even though Hudson is investing in the recertification of Well #265, supposedly good for 3,000 cubic metres a day. So why does Hudson need another well? Residents got no clear indication.

Other PTI items didn’t sit well, like the $5.825M for a new town hall. Hudson is already dropping 25 grand on merging offices and another 25 grand on an assistant to the assistant treasurer, so where, asked a Quarry Point resident, did this come from?

“It was on the books,” said Mayor Ed. “…Louise Villandré.”

This was the tone of the evening, the evocation of the ghosts of administrations past. How long will it take to exorcise them to the point that they can no longer provide excuses for a council midway through its term?

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13 thoughts on “Hudson: Lawyers ‘r’ us

  1. Welcome back Jim D. Lawyer up is in the air. Defamation suits , slander, ruined municipal employee reputations. Step right up to our flashing , bell ringing legal arcade. I was feeling a little left out until the last council meeting ( Dec.7/15) where I saw my name lit up in the monthly “Liste des Paiments” . There it was on page 6 : Dunton Rainville Avocats – ” Brian Grubert …..Injonction #74731 / Services Juridiques”
    Seems my case has been billed to Hudson taxpayers at $1698.18 . I’m guessing it has something to do with some hurt Town employee feelings over me pointing out ,publicly, a shortcoming in the performance of their duties. That’s all I know at this point because everybody’s shy about details. I haven’t as of yet been slapped with an injunction or served with a restraining order. I could do without having to cross that eventuality off my bucket list.

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  2. Lawyers will undertake and study any mandate the client wishes and bill accordingly.

    $1,800 and no visible action actually taken? That is surely not the wisest choice of use of public funds. If you haven’t heard and they’ve been billed it was likely that there was no actual case to be had or action that could succeed, of course after a number of hours of study.

    Common sense seems in very short supply in the past decades of government.

    What a waste of time, money and energy. Especially because most of our issues today were rooted in townspeople not saying anything.

    Ignorance can be fixed, stupidity is forever.

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    1. The deal for what is now public parking at the corner of Main and Selkirk was approved quietly during one of the Corker administrations but I was unable to obtain a record of the transaction. Site of one of Hudson’s several gas stations (was it the White Rose?) I question whether the town obtained an environmental assessment of the land before taking ownership. With the cadastral number and access to the registre immobilière, one could learn when and if the transfer took place

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      1. The lot number for that corner property is 1 833 138.

        On the Quebec website for contaminated sites (http://www.mddelcc.gouv.qc.ca/sol/terrains/terrains-contamines/resultats.asp), I do not see this one show up.

        That does not mean it is not contaminated, it just means that it was never declared as being so. The White Rose Gas Station must be before my time… I only remember the one that was opposite the Lake Motors car sales lot I believe near/where the Pharmacy now stands. That lot seems to have been decontaminated (2007) to meet current use requirement.

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  3. Look on the bright side, that is only approximately 2% of what was actually spent on legal fees last month…

    I keep meaning to ask about the 2 cheques in the December payouts, invoice numbers 273494 and 272075 both titled ”John Norris – Echange de terrains #74730/services juridiques”.

    I guess my query into the subject and circumstances surrounding these 2 legal invoices totalling $4619.40 and $2279.89 respectively will have to wait until January’s meeting.

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    1. That one is a puzzler , Chloe. Trail and I thought that might have something to do with the parking lot across from the SAQ at Selkirk and Main. A long time ago , maybe 30 yrs. back John Norris sold that lot to the Town for somewhere near 40K on condition he could buy it back for the same amount within a prescribed time period. He let the prescription lapse and may be legally trying to reclaim it. I’m afraid part of the excruciating experience of starting this site , JIm will be watching us go off on any whimsical tangent in the comment section.

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    2. More than likely Chloe, these invoices have to do with the Norris subdivision up on Mount Victoria, probably transferring land for green space in order to subdivide lots looking over the escarpment. Mind you I would think the developer would be paying the legal costs and not the town?

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  4. Oh , I forgot to laud Jim for his timely “ghosts of administrations past”. Wonderfully Dickensian. Who will play Ebeneezer Scrooge In Hudson’s Xmas carol?

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  5. This sharing of a possible explanation is much appreciated and certainly interesting. As informative really as a citizen’s question last night about road resurfacing in a local well-established development which ought to have been paid by the developer according to Hudson’s by-law, but wasn’t as there exists an old written agreement where this provision was reversed and at the town’s charge. How many other deals like this one still exist? Anyone keeping a record of such side-deal agreements? A better use of legal hourly consultation might be to ask the lawyers on retainer if a time limit could be set where a public announcement is made in the local paper and such outstanding deals deemed null and void after a certain date… Just throwing around a solution here, no idea if it is feasible, but it might be worth the ask.

    It is unfortunate that such a large part of the Town’s collective memory is locked away in the minds of people who do not sit on council or on the committees established by council. Similarly, precise and fair record keeping that is accessible to all is in my view an important pillar to any society which values and welcomes its citizens’ active participation.

    So thank you Brian, I will ask nonetheless in January for a description of those 2 expenditures just so the description can be certain and also to ask if there is a solution which is being sought so that such occurrences may be avoided in the future.

    I wonder why such these legal costs and measured are not explained to us automatically? We are told of the details of a 75$ wreath or Christmas lunch expenditures, why are we not told of matters such as this one?

    There seems to still be a lot of unevenness in the way to treat certain dossiers versus others. The most pleasant and benign topics/resolutions are read out with a smile and at great length with generous background information, in English, while others perhaps less comfortable are read out mechanically in French. And then there are the others agenda items, the deferred ones, the cancelled ones, no one knows why, and all the unspoken ones which show up eventually, by chance perhaps. Sometimes they show up in the list of monthly expenditures. Why? Probably because they cost under 10,000$

    Imagine if the limit went back to being 25000$!

    No digression intended from the topic at hand intended, sorry Jim.

    I have been thinking about your (Jim’s) choice of title for this blog and posting regarding the valiant efforts of a brave person whose punishment seems to greatly outweigh the fault cited, at least to the eyes of a Westerner. When confronted with such international conundrums, I too thank my lucky starts for living in Canada, a liberal democracy. This is probably why I am puzzled and then stymied when out of scale measures seem to be favoured to control a natural situation: people asking more pointed questions and voicing sincere frustrations when their questions and concerns, and those of their piers, are not answered with considerate care, with clarity in an effort at finding a solution acceptable to all parties, and this repeatedly.

    In my experience, transparency and concertation/inclusion of the public have generated creative, effective and well balanced solutions. Look at the success of the recent COP21 agreement moderation, M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and his colleagues were patient, transparent, sensitive and genuine in their colossal diplomatic task of gathering the united accord of some 185 countries and groups towards a precise and practical plan applicable by all to mitigate the non-reversible effects of climate change on all of our lives. Or, if that is too large a picture, closer to home, take a look at Denis Coderre, mayor of Montreal and president to the CMM, he still makes the odd strategic and mediatic error, but his predominantly open door policy enables him to bounces back with great agility and popularity. And then there’s J. Trudeau and his moving acceptance of the recommendations made in the truth and reconciliation commission report released this week presenting in detail the fate of masses of aboriginal children who were abducted from their families, sent to far away schools to be reprogrammed. Generations broken by the White man’s over-riding sense of entitlement and purpose, labelled today with great courage and leadership as a cultural genocide by members of the commission who spent years interviewing, recording and preparing careful recommendation for the federal government to implement and for the people to absorb and support in this restorative process… Powerful times.

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    1. There was a time back in the 1990’s when the developer was not responsible for paving new roads – he was however responsible for installing all infrastructure and building new roads up to but not including pavement. Council modified the bylaw later (not sure of the timing) to include paving.

      If memory serves me right – we elected to pave a portion of Mayfair to link the Hudson Valley Development with the Alstonvale development at a time when the school boards stopped the buses driving up/down the big hill into the Alstonvale development and Vaudreuil was threatening to close the top portion of Alstonvale Road onto highway 342.

      I didn’t quite understand the explanation that was given at Tuesday’s special meeting as to why the Town would be paving any more of Mayfair now.

      To the best of my knowledge there are no other agreements in place for the town to pave any new roads in any new development. The bylaw clearly states that it is the responsibility of the developer.
      Any acquired rights would have expired long ago.

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