Answers needed

A fivefold increase in legal costs for Greenwood show need for a fuller explanation of this important & expensive budget line item.

Over the past month Greenwood council has approved payment of nearly $12,000 for legal fees.

While nearly every line item on this year’s budget was either held to previous levels or cut, there was one notably exception: the budget for legal fees was increased from $3,653 to $20,000.

When asked last spring why legal advice went up so dramatically, the mayor said it was an in-camera item, adding only that it is a project that the city is working on.

When asked again at Monday night’s meeting Mayor Kettle gave a bit more information, explaining that the city is involved in negotiations on a project to “attract an outside investor attempting to do something with Greenwood water and a water bottling plant.” He said contracts have to be approved by a lawyer. The mayor pledged that after the negotiations are concluded, the information would be made public.

But item #19 in the 2013 annual report for Greenwood is worrisome. Under the heading Contingent Liabilities, it states, “The city may also be exposed to liability in respect to an allegation of censure and defamation. As at the report date, no estimate can be made of the likely outcome and no accrual has been made for this potential claim.”

When asked on Monday night if a lawsuit has been filed between council members or between the city and one or more council members, Kettle said there is no lawsuit but he did confirm the city had sought a legal opinion.

In February, Councillor Barry Noll was removed as the city’s representative at the RDKB table. Council issued a statement and at the next meeting Noll said his lawyer had advised him to no longer attend in-camera meetings without his lawyer present.

I think we need some clearer questions—or perhaps clearer answers.

 

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