Information request fuels debate on council process, transparency

Puslinch councillor Dick Visser does not understand why a lawyer had to be consulted for a recent freedom of information request regarding the mayor’s financial records.

“I think council should be open,” Visser said. He was referring to a bill for $552 from the Kitchener legal firm of Madorin, Snyder for services rendered regarding a request from resident Dennis Lever for all Mayor Brad Whitcombe’s expense claims from October 2006 to February 2009.

Whitcombe replied it was not his idea to hire a lawyer. Clerk Brenda Law explained she wanted to ensure she was responding correctly to the re­quest, so she hired the firm, which has done similar work in the past for the township.

Councillor Don McKay said given the scrutiny Pus­linch council has been under lately, he fully supports Law if she feels uncomfortable with the process and wants a legal opinion.

Councillor Susan Fielding stated, “I think this is a hardworking council and I have no problem with people knowing what I make.”

Councillor Matthew Bul­mer agreed, though he noted if hiring a lawyer makes everyone more comfortable he has no problem with doing so.

Visser also wondered why the information was not regularly included in agenda packages so everyone can see the expenses. Law said the legislation has changed and there may be issues with privacy.

When it came time to decide, all councillors – including Visser – voted in favour of paying the legal bill.