Who’s in Charge Here? – A letter to the Mayor and Council

Mayor Ruttan and Council:

At the Council meeting of May 10, a $5 million contract came before you (RFP 1003) which appeared to be passed in large part because Staff reported that they had obtained legal advice that if it were not awarded, the City might be open to litigation. Councillor Sherry, late in the discussion, reminded all present that no contract larger than $250,000 could be awarded without approval from Council.

I would like to know whether the authority to inform bidders of the results of a bidding process was open to Staff without Council’s prior approval given that this apparently leads to legal obligations which override existing city signing authority bylaws and apparently supersedes Council’s authority. Has Council allowed Staff practices to trump Council’s obligations to govern under the bylaws of this city? Was legal advice sought regarding this specific problem?

I await your response and ask that you also consider this question: Have you ever found a lawyer who is willing to stipulate that there is no risk of litigation from any action that might be taken? In other words, is it ever reasonable to anticipate a legal response which does not reflect a possible risk? And if it is not, then how are we to measure the magnitude of the risk so that the response is of value in the real world?

Ron Bolin