$218,201.08

frais juridiques ville

The document I’ve posted here was generated by the Town of Hudson. It appears to be a spreadsheet of legal expenses incurred up until January 31, 2016, a total of $218,201.08 for approximately 18 months.

According to this, the town’s legal expenses fall into four main categories:

– grievance mediation and/or litigation with residents, former employees and subcontractors (Pine Lakers, ex-DG Catherine Haulard, former treasurer Sylvain Bernard, former technical services director Trail Grubert, former labor-relations advisor Judy Sheehan, former town auditors Bourassa Boyer);

– legal advice on governance and policy issues (Montreal Metropolitan Community, Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC, etc.);

– representation at numerous criminal and civil proceedings (Louise Villandré’s trial on criminal charges, complaints from or regarding citizens, Quebec Municipal Commission hearings into alleged irregularies committed by elected officials);

– actions threatened and/or initiated as the result of alleged libels, defamations and assorted insults.

The first two categories are unavoidable in any municipality, but to this extent? According to this spreadsheet, proceedings against Haulard alone account for  $100,000. An ethical lawyer will advise the client to consider the cost of litigation versus the cost of reaching a settlement. Judges usually advise mediation in civil actions because they have a front-row seat on unreasonable plaintiffs, fee-grubbing lawyers, obstructionist defendents and jammed dockets. The worst-case hypothesis is a plaintiff with bottomless pockets. In Hudson’s case, one gets the impression this administration is prepared to push everything to the limit in the knowledge Hudson’s taxpayers will always pay the bill.

It’s the third and fourth categories that should concern us. In April 2015, District 1 councillor Rob Spencer filed a complaint with the municipal affairs ministry in regards to certain actions taken by a member of this administration. Municipal affairs, after analyzing the complaint, referred it to the Quebec Municipal Commission (CMQ). A hearing is imminent. Spencer says he’ll comment once the allegations are public.

In July, Spencer made a complaint to Quebec’s lobbying commissioner, the body which ensures people lobbying on behalf of business interests are duly registered. Again, details have not been made public and Spencer is declining comment.

Spencer continues to sit on council but has made it clear he will not take part in closed-door meetings with the mayor unless the proceedings are recorded. He confirms he has received three lawsuit threats, the latest  Nov. 24. Spencer’s name doesn’t appear on this spreadsheet, but if you look closely you’ll see some information has been whited out. This suggests to me the administration doesn’t want taxpayers to know the true cost of the town’s defence in the CMQ hearings.

You’ll also find a short list of names of residents whose crime appears to have been to question this administration’s actions in social media. None of those named complain of having received a lawyer’s letter or other communication so I presume the putative plaintiffs are banking on libel chill to silence dissent. Is this what passes for public discussion in Hudson? More to the point, the use of libel threats to silence dissent is on soft legal ground in Quebec as the result of the case of a Grenville dump owner’s efforts to silence opposition.

I have expressed concern this administration has juggled the 2016 budget to create a contingency fund that would allow them to write endless cheques to lawyers for whatever ill-advised legal adventure they decide to launch. Believe me when I say the people will be watching closely.

 

 

 

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12 thoughts on “$218,201.08

  1. I’m absolutely disappointed that an elected council has come to this, that we’re funding possible legal action to intimidate citizens and councilors against criticism.

    We should expect much better.

    At the same time, I’m proud that a challenge exists and for once a councilor who sees some things that he thinks need further clarification has lodged complaints to gain that clarification. That’s simply following protocol, but in an environment of intimidation such action, regardless of the eventual decision, takes some personal courage to initiate.

    Doing the right thing is not always the easy thing, especially in a small town.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It has become increasingly difficult to take the high road when it comes to our Town’s state of affairs. More and more we seem to be becoming like some war torn country where no one knows which side is right. It is so simple for all these behaviours of doubt and suspicion to become the new normal. I spoke to Mr. Keith Heller this morning and he feels these doings may well lead to no one ever wanting to run for municipal office here. Maybe. Litigation and transparency have victims. Julia S. is a victim of our need to know everything before due process. Should have never been out there. In the last 2 years I have seen my own brother’s name conspicuously along side Louise Villandre’s in the monthly litigation payments on the list of payments document at council meetings. To a casual observer it looked suspiciously like they were some sort of Bonnie and Clyde of municipal corruption. My brother was forced to pay five figure legal fees to finally wrest his contractual retirement package from the Town . It took 6 months only to have them pay the entire amount. That’s why his name is on the litigation list. This adm. spent taxpayer money to force legal delays on payment of a former employee and in the end paid the whole amount before a mediated settlement was even required. I firmly believe this Mayor and council were misled on a lot of issues but also willfully refused to listen to anyone with any background knowledge including Rob Spencer. Now anyone who knows me will agree I don’t motor often on the high road but I’m willing to forget the past if our Mayor and Council will tend to business other than litigation.

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    1. I totally agree with you Peter, doing the right thing is not always easy but I can vouch for Robert Spencer’s honesty and integrity. It was not the first time either as he and the other 4 councillors including myself asked the hard questions in 2013. Everyone knows the outcome of opening was turned out to be a real can of worms. By being vigilant there’s less chance of this ever happening again. That is why it is crucial today to ask for clarification when you think something is not quite right. It is your duty to protect the people who have elected you and just because someone has been in the job forever doesn’t make them right all the time. Council members should never be afraid of “rocking the boat” to express an opinion. That’s one reason I don’t like “team” in municipal politics.

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  2. Good heavens that is a large sum of money !

    Why does this court to court action keep-on-rolling ?

    Sad.

    Doesn’t anyone sit down and talk it through anymore?

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  3. 218’200$… and counting…

    In simple mathematical logic, looking at numbers for numbers’ sake, I wonder how many new tax payers’ doors it would take to pay back this particular expense over one political mandate period?

    One might apply this type of over-simplified accounting to a whole slew of recent management spending.

    We are told we have no choice and that we must develop or we’ll go bankrupt.

    But would we?
    Where is that comparaison chart?

    And if we are indeed so close to bankrupcy, why are we spending so frivolously on matters which arrest development instead of consolidating our assets, land and knowledge, to generate a trusted strategy towards promoting and showcasing our Town’s assets which are delicate, becoming rare and valuable to many.

    In my opinion, Hudson should not be translated into a Disneyland-like vision/destination for the wealthier to come play and live.

    Such simple math might be applied to the latest spending spree where up to $35’000 is alloted to publicizing the Mission Statement, a publicity stunt no doubt which will surely come boosted with glossy plans, sexy colour perspectives, a fancy dance and a pony show and hopefully a clearer picture of what is an eco trolley. We might finally see what they see, but does it have to cost up to someone’s one-year salary?

    Are we broke or aren’t we?

    Please use our municipal tax money respectfully.

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    1. Chloé, I agree with you but I certainly don’t mind events and the arts to attract destination shoppers; however to me that should be just one little part of the strategic vision. I would rather the town spend money to attract buyers to come and live here instead of coming in for the day. There are so many homes on the market not selling. To get buyers to choose to buy in Hudson should be the goal and you’re only going to do that by focusing services on the people who actually live here.

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  4. Responding to Brian’s High Road comments:

    After years of drawing irate fire from some locals because I was the guy who said and wrote that there were problems in perfect little Hudson, I’m just naturally suspicious of legal challenges to criticism. Smoke screens, especially expensive ones are temporary and sooner or later we’ll probably see that they hide nothing except perhaps some egos and thin skin.

    I have always defended that the current administration should be respected because they knowingly took on a nasty dirty situation that would not be easy to resolve. I think a bunch of good people may have been presumed either complicit or were tarnished by the thought that they should have known. That logic should tarnish all citizens equally, not just those working for the town under criminal top management.

    Trail Grubert deserved better, in my opinion, he was an engaged and competent employee of Hudson and also a resident and taxpayer. We then did a further disservice by not recognizing the proper monies due on dismissal and we should have provided them immediately and without legal challenge.

    The rapidly revolving door at the top levels of administration may have been inevitable, and I won’t second guess how we might have handled things better to generate lower legal costs. There’s no mileage in delaying inevitable payouts, nor is there mileage in dragging settlements or avoiding arbitration. Our systems usually favour the employee unless there’s some criminal activity.

    In the end, every administration will be judged by what it accomplishes and how productive it is with our tax dollars. I’m hoping we start seeing positive changes in the last half of this administration, and that the legal costs stop rising faster than our paving budgets.

    There are many positives to this administration, including actually having a comprehensive strategic plan to judge them by. They’ve set those bars pretty high, especially on development, so lets hope we can come together as a community to help them get there.

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  5. I filed an access to information request in regards to the whited out names on the latest toilet paper roll of lawsuits. Everyone passed the buck on who was responsible for doing this. Well, however many days later my access to information request was denied because the the right to people’s privacy trumps their right to sue the town. However, what any lawyer will tell you is that law suits, dockets, court rolls, access to evidence is all publically available. The supreme Court even telecasts their court proceedings! Dockets in the judicial district of Montreal are all online now. If a case interests you, simply call the court and they’ll send you the evidence. You may have a court clerk who will eventually hate you if you call too much, but the documents are available from the valleyfield court that the town whited out. And I have every intention of finding out every case the town of Hudson is listed as a defendant in.

    Dunton Rainville isnt going to tell the town anything. This is a serious cash flow for their lawyers. Someone is getting very rich, and it is not me.

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