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Legal matters cost Harrison $35,000 since beginning of the term

Council approved release of itemized invoices from legal counsel
Harrison couuncil released invoices from Vancouver-based law firm Lidstone and Company from November 2022 to March 2024. Among other things, the firm was retained to write a cease and desist against a resident posting “slanderous and defamatory” posts on at least one local social media page. (Observer File Photo)

By request of council, Harrison Hot Springs village staff recently released a series of invoices from municipal law firm Lidstone and Company between November 2022 and March 2024.

This release came from an April 3 resolution in which council unanimously approved releasing all legal invoices since the beginning of the most recent electoral term, identifying subject matter and dollar amount.

The costliest items on the invoices were listed as “council matters,” costing the village more than $35,000, about $10,000 more than what was budgeted for legal fees that year. The “council matters” items ran from November 2022 to April 2023 and in July 2023, August 2023, January and February 2024.

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Two redacted items cost the village $16,100 and $3,400 respectively over the course of four months, from December 2023 to March 2024.

An encroachment agreement concerning 120 Esplanade Avenue, the Aqua Shore condo complex, cost the village $12,000.

Lidstone billed the village for a “conflict of interest” for about $1,600 last March. Lidstone also reviewed the village’s current Official Community Plan (OCP) bylaw last November to the tune of $3,400.

Many of the remaining items were listed as labour or employment inquiries or inquiries from the CAO or corporate officer.

Last year, Lidstone and Company was hired to create a cease and desist letter against an unnamed resident who allegedly made “derogatory comments against Council” on a local Facebook group. Both the name of the resident and the Facebook group involved were redacted.

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In February, the law firm advised council they would need more information on the Facebook posts in question, and council voted to provide said information. Coun. John Allen proposed this cease and desist letter include the local Facebook group “Harrison Hot Springs Forum,” but the motion failed due to the lack of a seconder.

According to the village’s most recent budget, the unaudited total for the village’s legal expenses in 2023 amounted to $89,000, 256 per cent over the $25,000 set aside for last year.

Adam Louis

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