Lambton Shores spends $12k on legal fees for CAO firing

John Byrne, former Lambton Shores CAO

John Byrne, former Lambton Shores CAO

Lambton Shores spent over $12,000 just in legal fees to remove the former CAO from his job. And that doesn’t include a severance package negotiated for John Byrne.

On Nov. 13, council met for what was to be a performance review of then CAO John Byrne’s work. The meeting ended with Byrne suspended and being escorted from the meeting room. By December, council announced Byrne had been fired with the municipality “moving in a new direction.”

The firing of the long-time CAO angered residents and caused many to ask what the council would have to spend on the move.

While Mayor Bill Weber says the contents of Byrne’s separation agreement won’t be released due to a confidentiality clause, the legal costs are now coming to light.

Acting CAO Janet Ferguson confirms $12,160.90 has been paid to two legal firms to deal with human resources issues surrounding Byrne’s departure. The bulk of the fees, $10,747.71, were paid to the London firm Siskinds.

Ferguson says there will not be any more legal fees coming for Byrne’s removal; however lawyers are being consulted on another human resources issue which will be billed for in the future.

The bill will take a significant bite out of the municipality’s legal budget. The 2013 budget sets aside $50,000 in legal fees for the entire year. Lambton Shores budgeted $32,000 for legal fees but spent more than double that amount.

Meantime, accounts from the March 4 meeting show a confidential payment of an unlisted amount made Jan. 31, 2013. In the past, council has also approved confidential payments, but a dollar figure is attached to the reporting. Ferguson would not say if the January confidential cheque was the payment for Byrne’s package, citing confidentiality reasons.