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Here's who wants to participate - and get funding from - the judicial inquiry

Those seeking to participate in the judicial inquiry hearings appealed to the judge yesterday, asking for standing and cash to pay for their lawyers.
The team in charge of the Collingwood judicial inquiry including Shelly Fuhre, Janet Leiper, Frank Marrocco, Kirsten Thoreson and Peter Rehak.

The judge presiding over the judicial inquiry into the sale of Collus to Powerstream in 2012 will soon release the names of the players in the upcoming hearings.

Yesterday the judge held a meeting to hear from those who would like to have standing in the inquiry hearings.

Parties with standing are able to participate in the hearings much like the lawyers, defendants and prosecutors in a trial. In order to achieve this status for the inquiry, those interested were required to submit an application and were given the option to speak in the meeting on Aug. 14 at the town hall council chambers.

Those who have applied for standing include Alectra Utilities Corporation (formerly Powerstream), Paul Bonwick, Ian Chadwick, Collus Powerstream, Sandra Cooper, Timothy Fryer, Edwin Houghton, and the Town of Collingwood.

All but Ian Chadwick are being represented by lawyers in the process.

Five lawyers presented their case for standing to Justice Frank Marrocco at the standing meeting on Aug. 14.

George Marron is representing current Mayor Sandra Cooper, who was also mayor at the time of the Collus sale and subsequent council decisions to spend the money from the sale on recreational facilities at Heritage and Central Parks.

Marron argued Cooper’s testimony and experience would aid the inquiry judge in understanding more about how the decisions were made and why.

Current councillor Tim Fryer, who was the chief financial officer of Collus at the time of the sale is being represented by his lawyer Ravio Uukkivi.

Fryer’s lawyer suggested Fryer would be able to play a dual role in the inquiry both as a witness and as a person with relevant information useful in asking others questions about the sale and subsequent decisions.

Edwin Houghton was the CEO of Collus at the time of the sale, and acting CAO for the Town of Collingwood for several months. His lawyer, Fred Chenoweth asked Justice Marrocco for Houghton to be given full, unfettered standing including the right to cross-examine and call witnesses, review documents and make opening and closing statements.

“His participation will be helpful in achieving the inquiry’s mandate,” said Chenoweth.

Paul Bonwick was a consultant for the contractor hired to build the town’s recreation facilities. He is being represented by lawyer David O’Connor.

“It’s obvious from material I found my client has unique and important interest,” said O’Connor to Justice Marrocco. “I don’t think there’s any question that he should get full standing. I don’t think I should have to say any more about that. It’s obvious.”

O’Connor and Chenoweth both referenced recently-released police documents containing allegations from an OPP investigation into the recreation facilities deal that names both Houghton and Bonwick. The lawyers argued their clients needed to participate in the inquiry to clear their names.

“As it turns out this inquiry is his only opportunity to do so,” said Chenoweth of Houghton.

Both lawyers suggested council’s decision to call for a judicial inquiry into the Collus sale was “politically motivated.”

All lawyers also argued their clients should receive funding from the town to cover legal expenses, suggesting their clients couldn’t participate in the inquiry without legal counsel and could not afford the expense from their own pocket. In one case, a lawyer suggested the funding be provided to the tune of $575 per hour. 
By comparison, legal counsel for the judicial inquiry – Janet Leiper – is receiving $400 per hour. 

Justice Marrocco will make a ruling on who will achieve standing in the inquiry soon, and to what level they will be permitted standing. He will make recommendations on whether or not he believes the parties applying for standing should receive financial support from the town for their participation. Council will be tasked with the final decision on awarding funding to the parties with standing. Funds granted to the parties with standing by council will come from town coffers.

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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 15 years of experience as a local journalist
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