Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My Response to the Legal Opinion

This is a press release that I sent out on the weekend, as my response to the legal opinion on whether I have violated my oath of office.

"I have now had the opportunity to review the legal opinion regarding my oath of office. I have sought legal opinions myself and I'm now ready to comment on the report and its conclusions.

First, I can not accept the findings of this report, based as they are on inaccurate and incomplete information. I would have been more than happy to provide the report's author with any required information, but I was never contacted. The only information used to prepare the report was provided by the City Solicitor and the outside legal counsel retained for the lawsuit. I have asked to see this information, to assess its completeness for myself; my request has been refused. Based on this, and on incorrect information in the report itself, I can only conclude that the report is neither impartial nor objective, as originally intended, and is therefore of little value. I regret that taxpayers' money has been wasted in this way.

The report incorrectly states that I decided to join the lawsuit in early December 2007. I did not make this decision until January 2008, a decision that I immediately made public. It also refers to numerous in camera meetings of council where strategies for the lawsuit were discussed. In fact, the matter of the lawsuit was referred to Small Claims Court in late 2006 and has been before the courts, and beyond Council's power to influence, ever since. There were no discussions of legal strategies regarding the lawsuit in any meetings I attended, only brief references to the City's intention to continue to pursue the matter. There was nothing said in any of these meetings that would place me, or anyone else, in conflict of interest regarding the lawsuit.

I believe, as I always have, joining the lawsuit was the open and honest thing to do. I chose to stand with the others who were taking the City to task, at their own expense, to correct an injustice regarding pension contributions. I did not need to join the lawsuit in order to benefit; if the suit is successful, all previous councillors affected by the error will receive the pension contributions owed them by the City. Joining the suit was, in my mind, the best way for me to publicly declare my interest, and to be part of the legal process from which I stood to benefit. Again, as soon as I made this decision, I made it public.

I also believe that employees, both elected and non-elected, have the right to seek redress when they believe that they are being treated unfairly by their employer, and to continue to do their jobs while the process unfolds. This is what I intend to do.

I will not resign from council, based solely on a flawed and severely biased report. To do so would be unfair; unfair to the city by triggering a costly and unnecessary by-election, unfair to the people of Ward 3, who have consistently supported me, and unfair to me, since I have done nothing wrong. I am supported in this by two legal opinions, as well as the opinions of two former mayors, several former councillors, and the many residents of Prince Albert who have contacted me to offer their support.

Eighteen months ago, the residents of Ward 3 elected me to represent their interests at City Council. This is a commitment that I take very seriously, and I will continue to fulfill that commitment to the best of my ability. As their councillor, I will continue to ask the questions they would ask, and to work toward solutions that benefit our ward and the city as a whole. I wish to thank the residents of Ward 3 for their ongoing support, and I assure them that I intend to continue to represent them on City Council."

Last night's council meeting went about as expected - this matter was put to the top of the agenda, I was asked to speak to it, then other councillors expressed their opinions, and in the end, council decided to refer the matter to a judge. I look forward to the opportunity to provide my perspective before a judge, and hope that council will be able to work on issues that are truly important to our community, while we await the final decision.

It's been a difficult couple of weeks for me and my family, and I'm afraid that I let some of the accumulated stress get the better of me at the end of last night's meeting. I should not have left the meeting early, and I apologize to my colleagues on council and to the public for doing so.

This matter has consumed far too much of my time and energy over the past couple of weeks. I hope that future blog entries will be able to get back to my real purpose here - to keep residents of Prince Albert, particularly those in Ward 3, informed about council decisions, and my view on issues.

"If you have a job without aggravation, you don't have a job." - Malcolm Forbes

1 comment:

Donna said...

Well done Lee. It never ceases to amaze me the lengths that some on council will go to in order to try to "be right" rather than be effective. I admire and respect how you have been able to keep the 2 issues separate (the lawsuit and your ability to make good decisions for your Ward and this City). I do not see how remaining on council could possibly affect the outcome, and wonder why our taxpayer money keeps being spent on such self-serving issues. Shame on all those who voted for this silliness. Aren't there much more pressing issues facing this city?