Nearly $8,000 in legal costs broke the budget of Nanaimo city councillor Diane Brennan halfway through the budget year but she says the opinion was requested by council.
The City of Nanaimo has released its second-quarter report on councillors’ expenses, showing that Brennan was more than $1,300 over her annual budget of $11,500.
Under a financial policy, the city releases politicians’ expenses every quarter and in the year they’re incurred. Councillors also now have budgets for the year, including $3,000 for conflict of interest legal opinions.
Between Jan. 1 and June 30 this year, the report shows the largest expenses of Brennan were $479 for the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities conference, $2,750 for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and $7,958 for legal fees. Overall, the costs bring the councillor’s year-to-date expense to $12,883, the highest on council. She’s followed by Mayor Bill McKay, who has spent $10,076 so far and Coun. Jim Kipp at $4,497.
McKay is the only other politician who spent money on legal fees in the second quarter, amounting to $2,621.
According to Brennan, council wanted a legal opinion on a particularly complicated, conflict of interest matter, but she couldn’t say more than that because it’s a closed meeting issue.
She did say that she thinks the payment would have been separate from the typical $3,000 councillors are permitted for conflict issues.
“It was a particularly difficult one that council wanted an opinion on. I was pretty clear about what I thought, but council wanted the opinion,” said Brennan. “I guess they can attribute it to me, but at the same time it wasn’t my request that it be done.”
McKay said his legal fees were also tied to conflict of interest and something council asked for.
Deborah Duncan, city financial manager, said the budget is the agreed-to amount and she would expect that’s it for Brennan, as far as spending.
A report on management expenses is expected to be released on the city website later this week.