The longstanding concerns of some ratepayers as well as some members of Council regarding the billing practices of the Brudenell Lyndoch and Raglan (BLR) Integrity Commissioner, as well as their lawyers, were confirmed in a decision released by Justice Robyn Ryan Bell of the Divisional Court on January 4, 2022. The judge criticized both the Wishart Law firm and the Integrity Commissioner (Peggy Young-Lovelace of E4m), specifically:
- As against E4m, for charges that the judge classified as “excessive;” and,
- As against Wishart Law, for seeking costs in representing BLR when the Township was not a party to the court motion.
Justice Ryan Bell of the Divisional Court said in her ruling “Having regard to the factors set out in r. 57.01(1), I agree with Ms. Budarick that the costs claimed by the Integrity Commissioner are excessive. In particular, the motion was not complex. The total time incurred by counsel for the Integrity Commissioner – 41.5 hours for senior and junior counsel – is excessive for a straightforward motion involving no evidentiary record.”
The judge also considered the claim by Tim Harmar of the Wishart Law firm for payment of fees relating to the same motion. Referring to the contents of Harmar’s “dockets,” she said, “The dockets … make plain that these are costs which were incurred by the Township. The Township is not a party to the appeal and was not a party to the motion.” She therefore refused to allow the sum of $3,588.03 claimed by Wisharts to be recovered.
The costs ruling followed Justice Ryan Bell’s decision dated December 6, 2021 rejecting Councillor Budarick’s request to remain on BLR Council pending the hearing of her appeal against the earlier decision of Justice James ordering that she be removed from her seat on Council.
The Integrity Commissioner had requested payment of $14,515.98 but the judge reduced this to $5,100. It remains to be seen whether or not the ratepayers of BLR Township have been presented with a bill from E4m for the higher amount and, if so, whether it will be disputed. Readers may recall from previous reports in The Current that questions have been raised about the billing practices of the two firms, as well as about ISN, the private investigators retained by E4m. Those included:
- A 2019 report into Councillor Iris Kauffeldt cost BLR $4,460 despite the fact that Young-Lovelace acknowledged that the matter was outside of her jurisdiction claimed 36 hours of work.
- A 2020 report into Councillor John Rutledge took over a year to complete and cost BLR $5,162.35, this despite the fact that the Integrity Commissioner’s investigator conducted no interviews on the matter.
- In June 2021, the BLR released a number of E4m/Wishart Law invoices totalling $73,000 for their services for Code of Conduct investigations and Occupational Health and Safety Investigations
- Previously in response to criticism, Young-Lovelace stated in a letter to BLR Council on January 20 2020 that “It has not been our practice to provide specific time detail of activities carried out.”
The Current wrote to BLR in June 2021 seeking comments about possible examples of over-charging and other anomalies in the invoices, but did not receive a substantive response.
Councillor to ask for Third Party Investigation of IC billing
Councillor Trevor Lidtkie has indicated that he will be putting forward a motion at the next meeting of BLR Council asking that Council appoint an independent third party to conduct a review of past billing submitted by Wishart, E4m and ISN. Lidtkie, who attributes his current problems with Integrity Commissioner investigations to his previous questioning of their bills, told The Current “I am happy that the court got to see what I have been seeing from the get-go. This company is in the billing business not the integrity business.” Lidtkie went on to say “I think we need someone we can trust to come in and determine if other charges are excessive as well?”
The Current will continue to seek comment on these matters from BLR staff and Council.
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