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Council to hire lawyer for potential action against parties involved in judicial inquiry

If the decision is finalized in another council vote, the lawyer will be given up to $15,000 to explore lawsuit options for the town to recoup costs of the inquiry
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Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

Collingwood council is hiring a new lawyer to explore possible lawsuits against people and/or parties involved in the events investigated by the judicial inquiry. 

After a closed session discussion this evening (May 3), council returned to public session to pass a motion (6-2) in favour of hiring BLG law firm to “ascertain potential action against various parties related to the judicial inquiry.” 

The firm would be given a limit of $15,000 for the task. 

It appears the decision, which was made in a committee meeting and will have to be ratified by council later, has something to do with documents obtained and kept by Epcor following the sale of Collus PowerStream to Epcore in 2018.

Council ordered the town’s CAO to sift through those documents following another in-camera session earlier this year with the town’s lawyers from the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry. 

CAO Sonya Skinner reported back to council in late April saying there were hundreds of boxes and drawers of documents to look through. 

“We knew enough to know there were shenanigans contained in the Epcor papers based on the judicial inquiry,” said Councillor Mariane McLeod during the May 3 meeting. “I’ve been convinced by the arguments made in closed session. I’ll be supporting this motion.” 

Council’s discussion in closed session are confidential and not available to the media or the public. 

However, decisions of council must be made publicly so the motion to hire a new lawyer for this process was made following the confidential meeting. 

Mayor Brian Saunderson along with Councillors Bob Madigan, Kathy Jeffery, Mariane McLeod, Steve Berman, and Yvonne Hamlin voted in favour of hiring BLG.

Deputy Mayor Keith Hull was not at the meeting when the vote occurred. 

Both Councillor Tina Comi and Councillor Deb Doherty voted against the motion, stating they thought the public had reached its spending limit. 

“It’s time for staff and our residents to hear that there are many other pressing issues deserving of time and attention,” said Comi. 

Mayor Saunderson said the move to hire a lawyer and look at possible lawsuit options was a step toward closure. 

“This last investment is to see if there is any realistic way of recouping costs,” said the mayor. “If not, then we will move on, but we will have done that knowing that we pursued all possibilities towards that end. And I think that is owed to our community.” 

The town’s CAO and Clerk confirmed staff are also still exploring options to recoup some costs associated with the judicial inquiry via the town’s insurance and from the province. 

The Collingwood Judicial Inquiry was called by council in February 2018 to investigate the 2012 share sale of 50 per cent of Collus to PowerStream and the subsequent spending of the share sale proceeds on recreation facilities for Central Park Arena and Centennial Aquatic Centre. 

The hearings for the inquiry took place over several months, and the investigation involved millions of pages of documents. As of March 31, 2021, the town has reportedly spent $8.2 million on the inquiry. 

You can read more about the inquiry here.