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District renegotiates five-year legal services agreement

District of Sooke Mayor Wendal Milne - Pirjo Raits
District of Sooke Mayor Wendal Milne
— image credit: Pirjo Raits

True to his word, Mayor Wendal Milne is looking through contracts made by the District of Sooke over the last few years.

Back in October, the district entered into a five-year contract with Lidstone and Company Law Corporation, in the amount of $570,000. The agreement was signed in-camera in September and did not go through a bid process.

The legal bills of the district have historically been far lower than the $114,000 per year the agreement would see them pay.

Former Mayor Janet Evans had stated that the high legal costs were because four local citizens had challenged decisions made by the previous council, although there is no evidence that citizens’ enquiries cost “hundreds of thousands” of dollars as stated by Evans.

What did cost the district a lot in legal fees in the past few years were negotiations and agreements for developments such as the Prestige Hotel, boat launch, Mariners Village, to name just a few.

“We met with Lidstone and felt the exceptionally high cost was not in line with historical costs,” said Milne.

He said they mutually agreed to conclude the contract and came up with new terms.

Milne said he thinks the District of Sooke can get its legal obligations covered for $40,000 to $60,000 per year. The legal services will be used as needed and the price is competitive. The district can also use any solicitors it chooses.

Milne said legal services would in the future be used and managed more carefully.

On Dec. 9, 2011, District of Sooke council met with Mr. Don Lidstone of Lidstone and Company and it was mutually agreed that the five year contract for legal services would be replaced by the former “as needed” arrangement.

In council’s discussions with Mr. Lidstone, it was agreed that there are a number of ways in which the district can reduce its legal fees and that he will provide advice on how we can accomplish this. One of the ideas was to create a check list which could be used before legal advice was sought.

Lidstone has provided legal services over the past 12 years to the District of Sooke. Lidstone and Company, in particular Don Lidstone, is recognized as one of the leading experts in relation to Municipal Governance in British Columbia.

“The district appreciates Mr. Lidstone’s cooperation in this matter and looks forward to continuing our relationship with him,” states a District of Sooke press release.

“He was a real gentleman,” said Milne.

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