The City of Brandon has rejected two Brandon Sun requests to release the amount of legal fees it paid for the legal opinion in a conflict of interest investigation of Mayor Shari Decter Hirst last May.
The legal opinion was required in light of concerns over whether Decter Hirst had broken the Municipal Councils Conflict of Interest Act in relation to the Strand Theatre project, because she participated in Renaissance Brandon meetings where that project was discussed.
The Brandon Sun filed a freedom of information request on June 13 for the legal fees information.
The request was rejected on June 28, which prompted the Brandon Sun to make a complaint to Ombudsman Manitoba.
In rejecting the information, the city cited it was refusing access because a solicitor-client privilege applied to the legal fees the city paid.
After a review by the Ombudsman’s office, the city’s records information manager, Ian Richards, wrote that records were found that could be disclosed, but if they were disclosed, it could affect the “business interests of a third party.” So the third party, which was not identified in the correspondence with the Brandon Sun, was given a chance to make a case for or against the disclosure of the legal fees paid by the city. They objected to the disclosure.
In a letter to the Brandon Sun, Richards added to the city’s list of reasons to deny the information by invoking Section 18 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act on Nov. 6. Section 18 deals with information that could reveal information supplied by a third party with an expectation of confidentiality.
Richards added that disclosing the legal fees paid by taxpayers, “is likely to affect the contractual and competitive position of a third party.”