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Ombudsman: council received ‘bad legal advice’

Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin and Sudbury city council continued their war of words Dec. 11, with Marin accusing council of having a “lawyer fetish,” and councillors taking turns expressing their dislike of how he does his job.
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Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin addressed city council Dec. 11.

Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin and Sudbury city council continued their war of words Dec. 11, with Marin accusing council of having a “lawyer fetish,” and councillors taking turns expressing their dislike of how he does his job.

But Marin’s strongest criticism was aimed directly at City Solicitor Jamie Canapini, whom he blamed for incorrectly advising councillors they had the right to have the city’s lawyer present during investigations.

“You received bad legal advice,” Marin told councillors. “You were told that we had to go through a lawyer, the city solicitor, and that for us to go straight to you would be a breach of rules of professional conduct.”

The ombudsman was referring to an investigation the office conducted last spring of three closed-door meetings held in 2011 to discuss the fate of Auditor General Brian Bigger. When Marin’s Open Meetings Law Enforcement Team (OMLET) came to Sudbury to investigate, 10 of 12 city councillors refused to meet with them. Acting on Canapini’s advice, they insisted they had the right to have him present during the interviews.

While council was cleared of wrongdoing, Marin cited them for being the least co-operative city council he had ever dealt with.

“The city solicitor should know better than to be present there after he has been advised that we would not proceed with him in the room,” Marin said Dec. 11. “The city solicitor complained to the Law Society, and that complaint was thrown out ... The duty to co-operate is not an option.

“You would have preferred if I walked away and just zipped it. But I owe it to the community to write credible reports.”

Marin also said that while Canapini is the lawyer for council as a whole, he’s not the lawyer for individual councillors and should have known that.