Why I intentionally sought legal advice
A complaint has been brought against me for seeking legal advice about a matter heard in closed session. I required this advice so that I could properly understand the ramifications of a closed session matter. While confidentiality rules restrict me from writing or speaking openly, I can state that the Commissioner maintains I violated the city’s code by seeking legal advice from a lawyer.
As a democratically elected body, we, as councillors, are accountable to our constituents. Such is our job. At all times, we serve the best interests of constituents, no matter the issue. We remain accountable at all times. In a democracy, constituents hold us accountable by evaluating our choices based on the information they have.
During the course of these events, I sought legal and ethical advice. Not once, not twice, but three times – from three senior practicing lawyers. Everything I discussed with them is strictly confidential. It is subject to solicitor-client privilege and legally it cannot be revealed. At all times, I acted in the best interest of my constituents. I find it hard to understand that my seeking privileged legal advice respecting a matter important to the people of Orillia was wrong. I remain absolutely confident that my actions were honest, just, and conscientious.
I spent more than $12,000 of my own money to obtain legal advice, so that I could confidently say to Orillians, that, at all times, I acted in your best interests; that I upheld my legal and ethical obligations as a city councillor. Following this, I self-reported my actions to the Commissioner and to the council.
As a democracy, our institution only works with accountability. When the public can hold us accountable for the decisions we make. Our city Code of Conduct requires it. Our institutions fail if we are not forthright, open, respectful, and transparent. Accordingly, as a councillor, I make a point of being respectful to city staff in absolutely every situation. To suggest otherwise is utterly without basis.
I am aware that doing what is right is not always popular. Three years ago, when I became one of your councillors, I made an unwavering commitment to act in the best interest of the citizens of Orillia. It is for this reason that I take pride in my actions. For they are evidence that I have held firm to that commitment. That I have not wavered from doing what is right, even when it is incredibly difficult to do so. Even when it cost me $12,000. Even when it costs me sleep and peace of mind. Given all of the facts, given all of the expert advice I have received, I steadfastly believe the citizens of Orillia would whole-heartedly support my actions.
Over my time as a councillor, I have found that Orillians are smart. They are informed. They are engaged. They are passionate. The public’s participation in the Couchiching Beach Park Master plan including the five thousand plus signature petition on the Terry Fox Circle is but one recent example. There are countless others.
Allow constituents to reach their own decision regarding the ethics of me having sought legal advice. Allow them to vote me out of my role if they deem it appropriate.
Such is democracy.
Democracy is not providing a sliver of information from which the electorate is forced to draw a conclusion. Democracy is strengthened when we are open, honest, and transparent with our constituents. If the price I must pay for seeking legal advice is a code violation, then I will go forward, code violation in hand, steadfast in the belief that I have served my constituents well.
Additionally, while I am strictly bound by the rules of confidentiality, I am happy to talk with any Orillian about the principles and values which have guided and continue to guide my actions. I am also a phone call away should anyone wish to raise concerns regarding any issues they may be facing in our community. Please always feel free to reach me at 1-705-279-3249 or at email@example.com.
Watch the regular council meeting on this issue live on Rogers TV at 4 p.m.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia; Image Supplied)