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Council's legal fees are nowhere to be found - PART 2


Readers of the Beagle might recall an open letter from Coral Anderson to Anthony O’Reilly, Director of Finances, Eurobodalla Shire Council saying:

"I would be pleased to receive a breakdown of all legal fees paid by council in relation to advice ( including to whom), proceedings taken/pending for and/or against Eurobodalla Shire Council for the past 5 years including the general substance of each case and/or advice undertaken or sought by Council.

I further seek information regarding the outcome of all legal proceedings taken by or against council and the cost to council thereof in either taking these proceedings and/or defending proceedings taken against them and the financial benefit/loss to council as a result of the taking/defence of any legal proceedings.

This information does not appear in any reports available on your website. Coral Anderson Coral provides the response she received below for your interest and comments. Good afternoon Coral Thank you for your enquiry below (above) and your follow up call to me today. Unfortunately we cannot provide this information as some of the information (for example a description of the matter) will be protected by legal professional privilege, and there is an overriding public interest against disclosure of such information under Schedule 1 (5) of the GIPA Act. There also may be other public interest considerations against disclosure under the table to section 14 of the GIPA Act, such as: o 1(d) prejudice the supply to an agency of confidential information that facilitates the effective exercise of that agency’s functions o 1(e) reveal a deliberation or consultation conducted, or an opinion, advice or recommendation given, in such a way as to prejudice a deliberative process of government or an agency o 1(f) prejudice the effective exercise by an agency of the agency’s functions o 3(c) prejudice any court proceedings by revealing matter prepared for the purposes of or in relation to current or future proceedings o 3(d) prejudice the fair trial of any person, the impartial adjudication of any case or a person’s right to procedural fairness o 5(e) expose any person to an unfair advantage or disadvantage as a result of the premature disclosure of information concerning any proposed action or inaction of the Government or an agency The above considerations could only be assessed by compilation of the requested report which does not currently exist. Contrary to your claim it cannot be easily generated by running a report from Councils finance system as this would only show costs and not necessarily all of the other requested details. The requested information in its entirely would therefore have to be sourced and compiled from a variety of different record systems including financial systems, electronic records, legal files etc. depending where the information is stored. Section 75(2) of the GIPA Act is clear that Council is not required to “create new information, or produce a new record of information, by deduction, inference or calculation from information held by the agency” (75(2)(c) GIPA Act). It is considered compiling the information from a variety of sources would require an unreasonable and substantial diversion of Council’s resources due to the amount and nature of information to be searched for, retrieved and compiled, which would take an unknown amount of hours of searches and processing. I trust this satisfies your enquiry. Yours sincerely Anthony O’Reilly Director Finance and Business Development Coral wishes to update the readers of her response below ….. Dear Anthony To recap emails to date regarding ‘legal fees’ for the last 5 years ….. I would be grateful if you could please provide the following information ….. Total amount of legal fees, for the last 5 years, paid by the Eurobodalla Shire Council to legal practitioners in respect of proceedings brought by or against council INCLUDING moneys paid to legal practitioners in respect of advice given either verbally or otherwise; Total amount of fees paid to legal practitioners regarding proceedings brought before NCAT for the last 5 years; Advice regarding how Council tracks legal fees in its general ledger and how it reports legal fees to its auditor; and Who is responsible for the expenditure of legal fees and the determination to cease legal pursuit? .... I am hopeful you can focus your attention on the matters requested above. Thank you for your time. Yours sincerely Coral Anderson


#Opinion #Weekly

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