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Ouch! Lawyers having a field day as Red Hill Inquiry costs soar

Ouch! Lawyers having a field day as Red Hill Inquiry costs soar

The latest estimate on the cost of the Red Hill Inquiry suggests the final tab will be at least $26 Million. When council voted to ask for a judicial inquiry, staff estimated the cost at $2 to $11 million—a number that was upped to $20 Million last year. With $18 million already spent and many witnesses yet to be heard from, the new estimate adds another $8 Million to the likely cost.

A report from city legal staff says, “the increase in costs is primarily due to Commission Counsel’s rescheduling of several witnesses scheduled to be heard in July and August 2022 to September and October 2022 additional interviews requested by Commission Counsel and the privilege dispute process.” The “privilege dispute process” refers to certain documents requested by the commission that the city deems to be privileged. That matter will be argued in court next week. Staff admit they only get general estimates of costs from the commission, making monitoring of costs difficult.

Of the $18 million spent so far, the commission has spent $9.4 million on its lawyers and disbursements. The city has spent $6.3 million on outside counsel and their disbursements, Some of the city’s costs include providing legal counsel to all current and former city employees and members of council who are on the witness list, which number in the dozens. As an example. the former Hamilton Director of Engineering Gary Moore, spent five days on the stand, with city – paid legal council with him throughout the proceedings.

While it now looks like a final report will not be available until well after the election, maybe into 2023; one theme that has emerged in the hearings is not only a disconnect between city staff and politicians, but also the siloing of information within the bureaucracy between departments and even within divisions of departments. The inquiry in particular heard how the city’s traffic operations department and the engineering department, both within Public Works, did not share information, about testing that had been conducted on the highway.  There was also evidence that staff were instructed not to cooperate with the City Auditor who was conducting a value for money audit into pavement conditions on the Red Hill and other city streets and getting stonewalled. There was testimony about the lengths to which staff went to avoid complying with a council directive to explore better lighting on the highway.

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