Council initiates legal action against unidentified individuals based on findings of judicial inquiry
Following a closed-door meeting, the board voted 7-2 to hire a law firm to “make accountability come true”
The Town of Collingwood hired a legal team to pursue the prosecution of those involved in the sale of Collus shares in 2012 and the decision to use the proceeds of the sale for a sole supplier of two textile membrane structures.
The decision comes more than eight months after the final report of Collingwood’s judicial inquiry which investigated both cases and resulted in a 900 report from the investigating commissioner, Judge Frank Marrocco.
In a meeting tonight (July 19), the board voted in favor of hiring Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG) after hearing the cabinet in a closed meeting on June 24 about any legal action to be taken in response to the findings of the judicial investigation report. .
The official motion approved tonight stated that BLG would be tasked with preparing documents to meet the city’s goal of various party accountability based on Judge Frank Marrocco’s findings.
“With Judge Marrocco’s report, we got a detailed conclusion about what happened, when it happened and how it happened,” said Mayor Brian Saunderson, the only council member to speak publicly about tonight’s vote. “What we didn’t get was really direct accountability on the part of those involved.”
Justice Marrocco presided over the Collingwood judicial inquiry from 2018 to 2020 and concluded the inquiry with a 900-page report containing over 300 recommendations for changes in municipal and provincial policies and practices regarding the roles and responsibilities of council and personnel, municipal procurement and general procedures. .
The inquiry was called to investigate the 2012 sale of shares in 50 percent of the city’s electric utility (Collus) to Powerstream and subsequent decisions that led the city to source two structures. textile membrane – one for Centennial Aquatic Center and one for the park’s Central Arena.
Among Marrocco’s findings, he observed decisions taken outside of public council meetings, flaws in disclosure of conflicts of interest, and transactions open to undue influence that have undermined the city’s reputation.
âSeveral long-time residents and well-known public figures were at the center of the events examined by the investigation,â Marrocco said in his report. “In particular, Mayor Sandra Cooper, her brother Paul Bonwick, friend of Mr Bonwick and former (former) deputy partner to Mayor Rick Lloyd, and friend of Mr Bonwick, Ed Houghton, who was simultaneously executive director of the city’s engineering and public works department, the president and chief executive officer of Collus Power, the president and chief executive officer of the city’s water company, and for one year from April 2012 , the city’s interim administrative director.
The Board voted 7-2 in favor of hiring BLG on a non-standard (non-competitive) contract to prepare for future legal actions, but did not name any of the people it is considering to include in potential lawsuits.
âThis board turned to BLG to provide us with feedback on how we can effectively hold people accountable,â Saunderson said. âThe steps we are taking tonight are to continue this responsibility to those who have benefited from it and have acted contrary to the interests of this municipality. ”
Saunderson said the investigation was not just looking at the city’s past, but future costs as well.
“The past continues to haunt us, continues to cost our taxpayers dearly every year, and will continue to cost us every year until we take action to address it by creating new facilities,” Saunderson said.
Councilors Deb Doherty and Tina Comi voted against BLG’s motion to hire. Both have publicly stated in previous meetings that they no longer want to spend the city’s money on the investigation. They did not discuss the matter at the July 19 meeting.
âThe quest for accountability is not taken lightly,â Saunderson said. “It is the one that this council, after long discussions, decided to pursue within the limits of the costs that we can afford.”
According to information compiled on June 30, 2021 and published on the city’s website, the town of Collingwood spent more than $ 8.2 million on the Collingwood forensic investigation. More than half of the total ($ 4.67 million) was for legal fees.
In May, the board approved a limit of $ 15,000 for BLG to prepare a report on potential actions against parties related to the legal inquiry. The report was presented to council behind closed doors in June, and tonight’s decision was based on advice from council received at that closed meeting on June 24.