A Freedom of Information (FOI) request I filed recently shows a disturbing abuse of your tax dollars. Money was wasted that could have been spent on doing something good, something positive, something useful for Collingwood. Download the report here.
In the two-year period between mid-2014 and mid-2016, the town’s administration spent $340,000 of your tax dollars on its efforts to destroy the relationship with our utility partner, Collus-PowerStream. And given the billing trends shown in the document, that amount now tops $350,000 and probably much higher.
What’s equally troubling is that this effort appears to have started under the radar in July, 2014. To the best of my knowledge, this was not an initiative of the last council, but appears to be the work of staff. Why? Who authorized it?
In 2014, $13,355.48 was spent, all of it on Aird & Berlis (then the town’s legal firm). In 2015, that total escalated wildly to $250,006.65 for a variety of lawyers and consultants (see below). In just five months of 2016 up to May 31, $75,929.13 had already been spent (or more: not all invoices may have been submitted by the time I filed my FOI). Expenses for June and later were not provided to me, but you can bet they will come in: the town has kept its lawyers busy pursuing its destructive goal (see below).
In totals, here’s who was paid in that period:
- Aird & Berlis: $58,123.50 ($13,355.48 in 2014).
- True North Consulting: $34,350.00 (all in 2015)
- Miller Thomson LLP (the town’s current legal firm): $87,538.45 ($77,228.95 in 2015)
- BMA Management Consultants: $24,521.00 (all in 2015)
- Henley International: $33,730.50 ($26,781 in 2015)
- Stevenson Whelton MacDonald & Swan: $3,000.00 (in 2015)
- And the biggie, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP: $98,027.81. As far as I know, this paid entirely for the services of one lawyer: Mark Rodger. That’s almost $100,000 for one man in less than 10 months.
Rodger appears to bill a flat $5.650 in a month minimum when he has no other expenses. Nine of his seventeen bills between 30 Sep. 2015 and 31 May, 2016 were exactly $5,650. Whether he actually provided service during those billing periods or is just on a retainer, I cannot tell from the report. Given that we should expect billings from him for the past June, July, August and September, I expect a minimum of another $22,600 added to his billing, bringing his total to date up to at least $120,667. And if there are additional expenses to bill, that may top $130,000 by year end.
The average cost spent per month in this relentless assault on Collus PowerStream was $20,833 in 2015 and for the first five months of 2016, $15,186 per month.
Based on monthly averages, if the trend continues, the total legal and consulting expenses for 2016 to date will top $132,000, and by year end it will top $180,000. But with the RFP sent out looking for potential purchasers, and more lawyers needed to beaver away on that, we can expect considerably higher legal expenses this year. I believe it will be in the same range as last year – another $250,000 of your tax dollars draining into the pockets of outsiders.
This does not include at least $40,000 spent on legal fees by Collus PowerStream to defend itself from this barrage of attacks, and more to be spent if the share sale goes through.
And who pays for this egregious abuse of power? You, the taxpayer. You pay for the expenses at Collus PowerStream too, because that’s money that would have otherwise been given to the town as part of the annual dividend. Or at least put back into the utility for maintenance and upgrades. It’s all your money being wasted.
At least $350,000 wasted by this administration so far and more will be spent before this is over. For what? In pursuit of The Block’s personal agendas and private vendettas? Your elected representatives know and approved it all. Most of it has been done in secret, away from public scrutiny.
And to pay for it, they have twice raised your taxes this term. They will raise them again while they remain in office.
Imagine what good, positive, uplifting things could have been done for the community with $350,000 by, say, Economic Development or Parks, Rec & Culture. Instead, it was all spent on outsiders for no good at all.
This is not just a waste of your money: this is an absolute abuse of power, position and authority. This is corruption, plain and simple.
Collingwood deserves much better.