Palmer Rapids – A former member of Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglan Township council has already repaid over $15,000 in legal costs for an appeal and notice of appeal to her first conviction and there is still another court judgement to come.
Andrea Budarick, who was asked to step down from council following a lengthy investigation, lost her court case and appeal resulting not only in her own legal bills but the court costs she had to pay back to the township. To date she has paid $15,100 for the appeal and notice of appeal, but there are more costs to come.
“Late last week we had notice of what she owes in the conflict of interest,” Mayor Sheldon Keller said. “It is substantial and will be discussed at the next (council) meeting.”
This is at least a bit of a dent into the almost $300,000 in costs ratepayers saw accumulate during the two-year saga involving two former councillors – Mrs. Budarick and Trevor Liedtke. Both were found guilty of violating the Code of Conduct and other measures but refused to resign. This resulted in court dates for both, although only Mrs. Budarick went through with her court dates.
The final accounting of just how large the bills were was presented at a recent meeting of council by Municipal Manager Andrew Sprunt, who said the cost for the investigation into the misconduct was $176,473.10. On top of this was the cost of the legal proceedings against both former councillors. Mrs. Budarick went to court and then had an appeal. The costs of the proceedings against her totaled $104,506.33. Mr. Liedtke was scheduled to go to court but resigned from council the day before he was due in court. His legal costs for the court proceedings were $15,278.22.
“So, just shy of $300,000,” Mayor Sheldon Keller noted.
In doing the math, he said the costs added together were $296,311.65.
Councillor Valerie Jahn, one of the two councillors recently appointed to replace the councillors who resigned, questioned if this factors in what the court ordered following the conviction and lost appeal.
“Does this reflect the costs that were awarded in court to be repaid?” she asked.
“That would be a comparison we could bring back, but the short answer is ‘no’,” Mr. Sprunt said.
Mayor Keller told the Leader even with the court orders, the township will still have costs associated with the investigation and the court proceedings. For one of the smallest municipalities in Renfrew County, $300,000 is a significant amount of money, just shy of 10 percent of the budget for the municipality. When factored into the levy it is an even greater amount. The levy – the amount collected from ratepayers – was $1,354,618 in 2021.
“It is a large chunk of money for a municipality of our size,” he said.
However, the costs were not accrued in one year but over several, he pointed out.
“Some costs were in 2020, but most were in 2021,” he said.
Because of the costs which were growing in 2020 with the investigation, council had budgeted $150,000 for legal costs in 2021, he said.
Any costs over the top of this would come out of the general budget, he said.
“Typically, we don’t spend all the money in our budget,” he noted.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader