It looks like Penticton taxpayers are not going to know how much the legal battles over Skaha Lake Park are going to cost them until after everything is settled.
Despite Mayor Andrew Jakubeit agreeing, at the Nov. 1 council meeting, to release the legal costs incurred to date, the City of Penticton is so far refusing to release the information, after repeated media requests.
The city’s official position, according to corporate officer Dana Schmidt, is that the city will release legal billing information when it can no longer harm the city through disclosure.
That means that even though the city is asking for public input on (and hopefully support for) their new Skaha Lake agreements at a special council meeting tonight (Nov. 23), they are not willing to share with the public the full picture of how this 18-month long controversy is affecting the city.
Mayor Jakubeit said the release of legal costs discloses the city’s legal strategy and may harm its legal position, arguing that putting the city at a legal disadvantage would be against the public interest.
However, the Save Skaha Park Society disclosed their legal costs (so far) at their annual general meeting last month. They filed a civil suit in September 2015, and as of Aug. 31, 2016 spent $17,511 on legal costs.
The mayor has admitted the city’s legal bill is more than what a referendum would have cost (about $30,000), but hasn’t yet exceeded $100,000.
As a society, the SSPS is required to give a financial accounting to their membership — it would be nice if the city would hold itself to the same standard.
It is time for everything to be brought into the open, and let Penticton taxpayers decide, based on all the information, whether they want to support or oppose the plans for Skaha Lake Park.