Is there trouble in paradise? Why is a council committee meeting with lawyers the day tenders are to be issued?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON July 20, 2011 – It was disturbing. Disturbing to learn that there was going to be a closed meeting of the Committee that was going to hear a presentation from the city’s solicitor on where things are with the Pier. Disturbing to see the “high priced” legal talent from Toronto walk into the room beside Nancy Shea Nicol, the city’s in house legal counsel.

Will we get to the point where these exposed beams get a solid deck built on them – or did someone find a fly in the ointment the day the tenders were to be issued?

Will we get to the point where these exposed beams get a solid deck built on them – or did someone find a fly in the ointment the day the tenders were to be issued?

Today is the day the city is releasing the tender to the seven firms that have been pre-qualified to complete the construction of the Pier at the foot of Brant Street. There are some very good constructions firms on that list. There are at least two that we would be lucky to get.

City staff have been focused on getting it right and I’ve had the sense that they have everything under control.

So why the need for a meeting with the lawyers on the day the tender is to be issued. City engineer Tom Eichenbaum was sitting outside the meeting room with a document that had the words DRAFT all over the thing – are we still using draft versions of documents on the day that the tender is to be released and given to the contractors. How come?

And why does the meting have to be a closed meeting. Sure, the city is in the middle of some very contentious litigation and we do need to be very careful. We are arguing with a number of people about the money we paid them and the work they did and we do want the bond that we required the original contractor to provide to be honoured.

The lawyers take care of these things and in time we will know just how much we have had to pay the lawyers. But that is an issue for another day. What I would like to know is this – why are we meeting with lawyers in a closed session the day that the tender was to be issued ?

Two lawyers, one carrying one of those big, big brief cases lawyers that come in at $400.+ an hour carry, guided along by our in house counsel Nancy Shea Nicol, to talk to a council committee meeting. Why now, why on the day the tender is being issued?

Kind of like meeting with your lawyer on the prenuptial agreement the day of your wedding. One usually gets those things taken care of before you send out the wedding invitations.

Burlington has an affinity for going into closed session and a definite preference for not telling people what they have every right to know – but that’s part of the legal culture. Don’t tell if you don’t have t – let the other guy drag it out of you. In this case that other guy is you and it is your money they are spending.

Council has been exceptionally responsible in managing a problem this council didn’t create. The only people who have been part of this from the beginning are Councillors Craven, Dennison and Taylor and Craven was a newbie at the time. We can’t blame this one on former Mayor Cam Jackson. Taylor and Dennison would serve the city well if they chose to comment at length at a committee meeting just how they see this whole matter and why the city got itself into this mess. Mayor Rick Goldring has galvanized his council and decided to go forward in a responsible way.

This last minute meeting of a council committee and legal counsel is not good news. Methinks one of the parties we are suing may have thrown a wrench into the works. Time will tell.

Prior to the lawyers walking into the room Council and a several key staff were going through the last of the working up the Strategic Plan that will get taken to the public late in August. They have done some incredible work – and it hasn’t been easy for them. Had the same attention to detail been shown to the issuing of the first tender for the Pier things would have been a lot different today and those lawyers would not be in that room.




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