I keep hearing complaints about Hudson Council’s Transparency, and many of those complaints are on legal issues.
Because issues are before the courts or there are threatened actions, Council is simply not able to share specific information on most of our legal issues. It is unfortunate but apparently quite common to municipalities that we’ve got such expensive legal problems and most of them originate from only a couple of places.
I think Council is supplying what they can fairly well and you can go and look for details of what they have shared but I’ll save you some trouble.
Look at: http://www.hudson.quebec/en/services/general-management/ and you’ll find the links below.
Here’s a link to the current Hudson legal files: http://www.hudson.quebec/wp-content/uploads/2016-03-15-Court-cases.pdf. In terms of number of cases it is apparently quite normal, and a number of the actions are simple disagreements that happen in normal municipal business and issues related to employees which must be kept confidential.
It’s not current, and the legal system grinds slowly and expensively so some of these legal files have been active for a long time but here’s a link to last fiscal year’s contracts between $2,000-25,000: http://www.hudson.quebec/wp-content/uploads/Liste-des-contrats-de-2-000-et-total-plus-de-25-000-du-2014-11-01-to-2015-10-31.pdf and you can find our legal bills under Dunton Rainville.
Since this is basically all the information that can be made public, look at and cross reference these two files and you can perhaps gain a sense of which cases are costing what and in some cases who is driving them. Feel free to inappropriately ask any of those involved for a better perspective, but if they’re well advised they probably won’t be any more forthcoming than Council.
At monthly council meetings there is a list of all accounts payable to be approved and it is specific and detailed. I haven’t found those listings on the web, but I’d like to see them placed on the website. The last two months alone we consumed over $100K of legal expenses that the Town almost entirely simply can’t avoid, so our legal costs are rising rapidly for now.
One significant grouping of our two biggest ongoing legal bills is the collection of files related to the various issues with our former Director General Catherine Haulard. The issues are confidential until resolved; Council simply can’t speak on this matter or be more transparent. I presume that if there were an offer of reasonable settlement that Council would pursue that, so I must presume that our leaders and lawyers believe that we’re spending legal dollars to defend ourselves properly against what our leaders and our lawyers believe to be unreasonable demands. We’ll only be able to judge the effectiveness of that when the end of these actions comes by going to court or settling.
The other big legal cost is preparing facts and a legal defense for a complaint of 15 pages containing 151 specific allegations of ethical and other issues against Mayor Prevost and others that Councillor Robert Spencer filed with MAMOT. I understand that MAMOT took no actions themselves but referred these allegations to the CMQ which I understand is the Quebec Court that deals with such municipal issues.
I will always defend any Councillor’s right to object to or raise such things and especially to seek the judgement of a higher level of the law where he or she feels confident in the allegations. This huge pile of allegations has cost a lot of legal dollars and consumed a huge amount of time and energy from the mayor and others. How we as citizens might wish to judge this action and react can only be determined once the CMQ has rendered some decision. Until then we wait and we spend and must simply accept that the Town Council can’t say anything, but must prepare an answer with our lawyers.
Until such a ruling finally comes, I will also always presume the innocence of those who stood up and were elected to serve us. The points of allegation made have apparently become “public” by virtue of a lifting of the publication ban originally in place. The Montreal Gazette and La Presse had challenged the ban, and it appears that Hudson originally challenged it probably to keep the names of citizens mentioned out of the public eye.
At the March Council meeting Mayor Prevost said basically that he wouldn’t further object if the file became public and that he felt he had nothing to fear and would be vindicated. Apparently the publication ban has since been lifted, so I presume the Montreal Gazette knows what the specific 151 allegations are and so far hasn’t deemed them important enough to publish in any detail.
I’ll leave my original as is, but I need to correct one thing, the Montreal Gazette did in fact publish a summary of the Spencer allegations. Thanks to one of our blog readers: http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/off-island-gazette/hudson-mayor-ethics-complaint-details-now-public
It is not the Town’s place to publish this full list of allegations. But, the Town must prepare to defend itself properly at great expense. The DG suggested at last council that one maybe could ask the CMQ for a copy, personally I have no interest in discussing details of allegations and will wait for an eventual binding legal judgment to decide which side of this bothers me more. That said, this case and these costs will and must simply grind on slowly at an incredibly high cost in dollars, time and morale and the eventual wrong side will deserve some anger.
Until each of these issues are resolved, we’re committed by the actions launched by others to spending money and energy on them that would be better spent elsewhere improving our Town.
I believe that on these legal issues the Mayor and Council have been as transparent as legally and reasonably possible. What more do you think they should do while we must wait for the legal system?