Who’s fooling who?

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Fly on the Hudson Town Hall wall: Could the town have leaked contents of its Barreau beef against lawyer/activist Veronique Fischer to discredit her in the court of public opinion?

The Local Journal didn’t want to be accused of leaking the story of how the Town of Hudson is taking lawyer and Hudson resident Veronique Fischer to the Barreau du Québec, alleging ethical breaches.

So it ran a story about the town’s shock and dismay that somebody sent a photocopy of the town’s Barreau beef against Fischer to the Journal reporter’s home.

The Journal attempted to claim the high road by noting that it withheld Fischer’s name and the details of the town’s complaint against the tax activist. But it was fooling no one, certainly not in a small town where everybody and his mother’s dog has heard Fischer’s name bandied about in connection with a number of files, including the withdrawal of the $1.5M repaving bylaw and the recent near-death experience of the $555,000 we’re-not-sure-what-it’s-for loan bylaw.

In an exclusive interview with thousandlashes.ca, a fly on a Hudson town hall wall has alleged the photocopy was sent by the town. I’ve agreed to keep the fly’s identity confidential due to fear of reprisals.

“There were just the two of them,” she said.” “It was after hours and everyone else had gone home. I’m paraphrasing here because my memory isn’t perfect, but they’re agreeing it’s a shame there’s no legal way to make the town’s complaint to the Barreau public. Such a magnificent document, so damning. They figure they can discredit her in her community and cause her financial embarrassment. They jawbone for a while before they hit on the idea of an anonymous leak. Leave it to me, says one of them. You will need plausible deniability. Then they leave.”

If proven, Ms. Fly’s allegation would place the town in a serious breach of Barreau ethics. Because the legal profession is self-regulating, the Barreau receives complaints and builds the file before placing it before the syndic, the tribunal which will determine the veracity of the complaint and possible sanctions.

In itself, the town’s decision to take Fischer to the Barreau is logical and understandable. As I posted in my blog Lawyer vs. Lawyer (thousandlashes.ca, April 21/17), Hudson’s current administration makes no secret of its determination to silence what it considers nuisance critics:

…I sat down with the DG for a 45-minute chat about how the town proposes to silence persistent critics without being accused of stifling free speech.

Roy began by making it clear the town would seek the means to neutralize residents who make it their business to monitor the decisions and practices of municipal administrations and have the know-how to research documents and the means to take their findings to provincial authorities.

Fischer has been highly effective in her ability to pry embarrassing and potentially damaging information loose through the use of Access to Information requests – so effective, the town asked the commission responsible for policing AI requests to impose a freeze until after the Nov. 5 municipal elections.

The core of the town’s Barreau complaint against Fischer is whether she violated the Barreau’s guidelines by conflating her legal responsibilities with her activities as a citizen activist. I know other lawyers who have become enmeshed in similar disputes because of their roles in civic matters. The Barreau seems to decide these matters on a case-by-case basis.

It’s by making this case public – if it is indeed responsible for the leak – that the town has committed a breach of ethics that would leave it open to possible civil action. Moreover, if it can be proven a Barreau member played any part in the breach, he or she would also be liable to sanctions.

It’s possible Fischer or someone close to her leaked the document to discredit the town’s action of taking her to the Barreau, but I tend to dismiss that possibility. No lawyer wants to be taken before the Barreau. It represents time, incurs out-of-pocket expense and could result in sanctions. Leaking the complaint does nothing to halt the town’s action.

Could it be someone with access to the file who thought leaking the report would help Fischer’s cause? Again, I can’t see that. Barreau proceedings are closed. Public opinion plays no role.

…which brings me back to Ms. Fly’s allegation. If true, it wasn’t enough for the town to launch Barreau procedures against Fischer. They’re a confidential administrative process and the results are seldom made public. My hunch: the administration wanted this to be tried simultaneously in the court of public opinion to make a public example of their vexatious critic.

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3 thoughts on “Who’s fooling who?

  1. Jim,

    You struck a couple of interesting chords with me last night …

    You brought up the value of Neighbourhoods, their strengths and cohesion, belonging to a fabric willing to stand and support eachother through hard questions and positions with the Town, and I also noticed your interest lift in seeing the value of having a recognized representative of a municipal association ask the hard questions so that the less hard-skinned individuals may not feel singled out as trouble makers. I have tested this in the past where 3 of us switched questions at the Council meeting to see if we’d receive less resistance than the usual question asker. The effect was fascinating, as much in me as for the other people asking the others’ question. The mild confusion from Council was enough to unseat momentarily the typical resistance. It had stopped being personal. As the language and vocabulary of the other’s questions were not my own, the topic specific to their experience made it hard to read out word for word. I admit that I never got through the list of pointed and worthy questions, they made me too uncomfortable, an ‘irk’ I’ve been pondering on ever since. To this day, I still ask monthly or try to about Pine Lake’s progress. While I know it will lead nowhere, it has now become a simple point to make and it shows up, I hope/have not checked, on every month’s meeting minutes. Why does this matter? Because enough people have asked for something to happen, and the contempt that continues reminds me why I bother: it is the very least I can do for this person.

    The most likely explanation is often the simplest. I learned in the fall of 2015 of these daily mailings the UMQ dropped in their members email boxes. The Union des Municipalités du Québec is in essence spoon-feeding councils and management teams pre-digested soundbites for them to click on and absorb/inbibe daily. The content selection and bias of the ‘communiques’ issued regularly are conveniently dropped into any UMQ member’s inbox early morning. This in my view is the sharp outline of the shield we are up against, here and in most MRCs and municipalities across Quebec. I am not alone to have been thinking about this, just look up their board members and supporters.

    I had an interesting conversation with an environmental lawyer who practices mostly in municipal conservation and environmental cases. He brought this up to me a couple of weeks ago as he too had noted recent communiques where the position published by the UMQ for their members to follow was in definite defiance of the Federal Government’s policies. How are we to make any valued representation to our Town’s administration if this is the attitude and biased information they are fed and raised on daily?

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  2. All you need now is the segment thousandlashes.ca around the world to compete with YLJ around the world and you’d be all set. I even sent my picture in with me emerging from a sewer pipe holding a Hydro Wire in Rigaud. It was never published. I guess the image wasn’t worldly enough, though I must say… I find manholes more spacious as of late, perhaps my diet is taking effect.

    I digress, let me get to the issue at hand. So, you want me to believe you and the fly, ms. Fly as her marital status is secret, believe that the town leaked their own complaint to the media? HAHA .. HAHA HAHA. A wise man once said… if you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot on purpose.. shoot yourself in the head because it’s less painful and you won’t be around to see the repercussions.. We live in the day and age where IP addresses are easily traced, servers are located with ease, and when writing on a phone, generally the geo-locating is active and records where the message was sent from within 80 meters. I can see the GPS symbol active while I’m typing right now, so either this site wants to know my location, or an app in the background does. Either way, anyone with a more complex knowledge of computers could easily find out the owner of the IP address that sent the email, the server, and most likely the exact location within 80 meters in about 15 minutes. Sure it may come up the McDonald’s Wi-Fi on route 201.. but at least it would give a clearer idea.

    So No, I have no reason to believe the town would jeopardize it’s position by leaking the information. I do some how believe that they are trying to give Fisher as little amo as possible.

    Also, while you were on vacation the announcement was made that Hudson got the grant for the community center. Our own MP made that announcement. Now I’m scrolling down through our local community site and I have a post here saying.. Hudson doesn’t qualify for the grant… by Veronique Fisher.. Also another one, and I quote.. Hudson applied for the grant? The grant period has expired! (Followed by some cheap cut and paste job of some random date)

    Damn! I guess there’s no chance Hudson will… hey now… wait a dang minute.. something just don’t add up!

    I don’t need a Sherlock Holmes hat, a Sherlock Holmes pipe and a magnifying glass, or to have aced famous phrases like “By Joe, Watson!” To know that someone was wrong.

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    1. Kevin, you’re wasting your massive talent commenting on other peoples’ blogs and Facebook posts. Start your own. You make it sound so easy, pal.
      You’d find a way to climb up your own sphincter to justify that loan bylaw, wouldn’t you? Let’s hope you and the rest of the Loan for We Don’t Know What crowd have no need to perform that painful and difficult contortion.

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