From The Gazette

Kirkland

Councillor’s legal fees will stay under wraps

Kirkland officials, when pressed for details about how much the city spent backing a councillor’s dismissed defamation case against a resident, announced any specific legal costs will be kept secret from the public.

During question period at last week’s council meeting, Philomena Netto of the Kirkland Citizens’ Association asked how much the city had spent on councillor André Allard’s legal fees for the defamation case he lost in court against blogger Sergei Brovkin over posts related to the contentious crossed-pipe repair issue.

City clerk Tim Seah explained that financial figures related to specific cases can be kept confidential by the city. Citing solicitor–client privilege, the city will not divulge any legal fees paid for court cases or for obtaining legal opinions. Later, he said the public can have access to the general allotment for legal costs the city usually sets aside in its annual budget.

This year, Netto had blasted council for paying Allard’s legal fees from city coffers.

The Brovkin case was closed in August after a judge rejected an appeal by Allard and Kirkland, thus upholding a March ruling to dismiss it.

“Certainly, elected officials must be respected personally and should not be vilified. But any attack should not give rise to litigation. It is only in cases of actual libel that proceedings may be instituted,” Justice Jean-Pierre Senécal concluded in his March ruling.

The city had launched the lawsuit last year after Brovkin refused to remove two posts from kirklandcitizen.com, which discussed Allard and pipe repair costs.

The city also launched legal action this year against two homeowners, who were battling with the city to pay for crossed connected sewer and drain water pipes, for not carrying out repairs after being notified early last year about the problem. Both cases were later dropped after the residents carried out the required repairs in late May, though they claim they absorbed legal fees totalling about $1,800 each.

The city had also cited legal opinions it received to back up council’s position regarding the cross-connected pipe issues.

Council adopted some amendments Monday revising its financial assistance policy. Residents have until the end of June to make claims for faulty pipe-related work but must sign a city waiver before the end of December to be eligible. The city is also willing to issue up to three reimbursement payments, so some work already completed can be billed by residents now while seasonal work to be carried out next spring can be filed later.

The city is now willing to pay a maximum of $5,000 for repair costs at most homes affected with the pipe problem, including any related landscaping work. After initially offering nothing for pipe repairs in early 2011, six months later council opted for a reimbursement policy of up to $1,800. But after acknowledging it had paid for crossed-pipe repairs at some homes decades ago, its new policy was announced in August.

The city has maintained the crossed pipes are the responsibility of homeowners and it is only offering funding because it’s an environmental issue. It has been established that the crossed-pipe problem, which led to raw sewage contaminating nearby waterways, dated back about 40 years at some homes.

Following inspections carried out this summer and last year, about 200 homes in Kirkland were found to have had crossed pipes.

2 comments

  1. This is yet another great example of lack of transparency in municipal politics isn’t it. If it is so embarrassing to answer the question of how public funds were used at that level of granularity, perhaps it wasn’t the right thing to do in the first place. Hmm, the right thing to do…??? Hopefully Kirkland city hall won’t have to take a year to figure out the answer to that question. At a time where Montreal Mayor Applebaum is attempting to restore the confidence of Montrealers, Kirkland should heed some of that wisdom and be more transparent with its citizens. After all, Mr. Lincoln expressed it best in his famous National Assembly speech, “rights are rights are rights”!

  2. By Frank Teuton

    All West Islanders should find it embarassing that they tolerate a city in their midst still letting raw sewage flow into Lac St Louis, part of the St Lawrence River. Why the downstream municipalities of Beaconsfield, Pointe-Claire, and Dorval haven’t dragged the sorry leadership of Kirkland into court over this is just another example of the old boys network and corrupt priorities. Where are provincial and federal environmental authorities? This is a national, provincial, and local disgrace.

    Frank Teuton

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