Mayor speaks to release of in-camera info
In light of the article in Thursday’s Times Colonist, I would like to advise Sooke residents that confidential information as to a legal services contract was released to the media without council authorization.
I have instructed the RCMP to investigate who and how it was released and to report back to council. Release of confidential information puts the District of Sooke in jeopardy of being sued by the party that was exposed. As CEO and Mayor of Sooke the people of Sooke need to know that we treat this breach of confidentiality as a threat and risk to the taxpayers and all residents need to know we will take appropriate measures.
Regarding the Times Colonist article itself, I wish to advise that municipalities are exempt from the obligation to procure by tender, posting, Request for Proposal, Request for Quotes, etc. as to legal services under the provisions of the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement. There is no other agreement or enactment that deals with any requirement to tender legal services contracts.
For the same conditions as the TILMA exemption,council does not formally invite tenders or request for proposals for legal services under the exemption provided in its Purchasing Policy. The District of Sooke has reasons for not tendering a legal services contract. A municipality needs to have a lawyer who has expertise in regard to the Community Charter, case law, and municipal affairs. In the case of Sooke, there is the additional factor of the 11 years of corporate memory that our municipal solicitor provides as our legal advisor since 2000.
In April 2000, the council of the day appointed our current solicitor and we have used their services for the past 11 years. The new contract amendment is to reduce the high costs of legal services which have increased substantially over the last three years for many different reasons. The purpose of the contract amendment is to capture and reduce costs and to provide certainty on all legal fees related to municipal matters.
To the best of our knowledge, no other municipality in the Capital Region other than the City of Victoria has tendered legal services contracts, since the decision is such a personal one for each council.
There was also a question raised as to why the discussion on the legal services contract was held In Camera; Council was OBLIGATED to enter into the contract In Camera. Municipalities must not disclose to the public information that would reveal trade secrets of a third party or commercial or financial information of a third party that is supplied in confidence, the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to harm the competitive position of the third party. This is the effect of s. 21 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPOPA) and of the confidentiality provision of the contract itself. This means the contract decision MUST go in camera under s. 90(1)(j) of the Community Charter. The District and the person who disclosed the information are not protected by s. 73 FOIPOPA because the information was not released to the public in good faith.
Any individual who breaches Council confidentiality is subject to prosecution under s. 117 of the Community Charter and under s. 5 of the Offence Act in regard to the breach of FOIPOPA.
Mayor Janet Evans
District of Sooke