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Mississauga News - Apr. 16, 2010 - By Joseph Chin -

Council nixes legal fees for councillors

A motion by Ward 3 Councillor Maja Prentice to get taxpayers to pick up the tab for legal fees incurred by councillors at the Mississauga judicial inquiry was narrowly voted down at Wednesday’s City Council.
Prentice pointed out the City has agreed to pay the legal fees for other parties involved in the inquiry.
“All I’m asking is that we be given the same coverage that everybody has,” she said, noting she does not intend to hire legal representation for her interview with the inquiry’s forensic investigator.
“I’ve been advised that it’s just a conversation...but If I’m called to appear at the inquiry I think it is only fair and just that I should be allowed to have a legal representative with me.”
The hearing phase of the inquiry begins May 17. Among other undertakings, it will probe conflict of interest against Mayor Hazel McCallion and her son’s role in a $14.4 million bid by World Class Developments Ltd. to purchase a 3.5 hectare parcel of land owned by the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System.
Prentice’s proposal would have allowed individual councillors, if they choose to do so, to spend up to $10,000 for legal representation at the hearing phase of the inquiry.
Ward 11 Councillor George Carlson, however, questioned the need for a lawyer.
“What exactly is a lawyer going to do? He’s going to sit there and collect $350 an hour. Unless you’re up to something, then I don’t understand why you’ll need a lawyer,” he said.
Ward 5 Councillor Eve Adams agreed.
“I think it’s a waste of tax dollars. You’re going to an inquiry to answer questions and you should be answering honestly to the best of your knowledge,” she said.
Adams said residents were already questioning why the City was paying the legal fees for various members of the public.
Prentice lost support for her motion when she opened old wounds by saying that not everybody wanted the inquiry.
“It was foisted upon us and it was foisted upon the residents of Mississauga even though some of us objected to it. It’s something a bunch of people on a Council decided that this is the route we’re going to go. If it’s going to put people in a position where it could affect their livelihood to have to testify, then I think it is the responsibility of this Council and the responsibility of the taxpayers of the community to pick up the tab.”
Ward 6 Councillor Carolyn Parrish reminded Prentice that the inquiry was approved by a majority of Council.
“Seven of 12 people is a democratic vote, and seven of 12 people wanted an inquiry, and seven of 12 people are not willingly paying everybody’s fees on this,” she said.

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