In a closed meeting on Monday, city councilors approved an additional $55,000 to pay for potential legal fees related to a councilor’s appeal for judicial review, bringing the total funds approved by the city for the defense of the case at $120,000.
Com. Jay Fallis has called for the review after being disciplined by the city’s Integrity Commissioner and having his salary suspended for 45 days in 2021 for sharing confidential information about the city’s waterfront redevelopment project city with an outside legal adviser he had hired.
Following a report from the Integrity Commissioner alleging that Fallis violated the city’s code of conduct and recommended that his salary be suspended for 30 to 45 days, council members voted unanimously to suspend the Fallis salary for 45 days.
Funds for the city’s defense come from its tax rate stabilization reserve. The Board originally approved $65,000 for the case in 2021.
In a statement to OrilliaMattersMayor Steve Clarke – who filed the original complaint about Fallis’ actions – said the city intended to “vigorously” pursue his case, but was aiming not to spend all of the approved funds.
“The total budget of $120,000 has been approved by the Board. A final statement of legal costs will be provided when the case is concluded in court, as the city expects to recover its costs from the plaintiff,” Clarke said.
“The City of Orillia recognizes the importance of responsible stewardship of taxpayers’ money. Ensuring accountability and transparency is one of council’s key roles under Section 224 of the Municipal Act and is a priority for maintaining public trust,” said Clarke.
“The taxpayer was put in this position by the plaintiff’s initiation of legal proceedings. As board members, we certainly didn’t want to be in this situation in the first place. »
Fallis is represented by Ashley Wilson and Wade Poziomka of Ross and McBride LLP. Speaking on behalf of Fallis, Wilson said Fallis initially sought out a lawyer with the best interests of the city in mind.
“Jay sought legal advice on a closed-door case where he realized the city was going to make a very important financial decision, and he wanted to make sure it was done in the proper manner,” Wilson said.
“It’s not about the suspension of his salary or the fact that he was reprimanded; the point of this case is to say councilors need to be able to have confidence in the decisions they make on behalf of their constituents, and sometimes that will require specific legal advice,” she said.
Beyond the individual circumstances of Fallis’ penalization, Wilson said it’s important to establish that Fallis didn’t violate the city’s code of conduct so other councilors can in turn seek guidance. legal on complex issues.
“It’s a really important thing for ratepayers to know that their councilors can act in their best interests, and I think what the city has done so far prevents that from happening,” she said. declared.
“I think this is a very important issue for municipalities across the province,” Wilson said. “Advisors are required to make big decisions that might go beyond what you would expect of them in their area of expertise, so I think it’s really important for them to be able to access those resources.”
Wilson also pointed out that confidential city documents are safe with outside legal counsel due to solicitor-client privilege.
“A lawyer, when you provide him with confidential information, is not allowed to use that information in any way – you are not allowed to publish or broadcast it. Nothing has changed regarding the confidentiality of these documents behind closed doors.”
The judicial review is scheduled for June 28.