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Trillium Ford

County's legal department marks first year

Posted April 19, 2017

Simcoe County's legal department celebrates its first anniversary this month by reporting savings of approximately $300,000 by handling files in-house.

On April 1, 2016 Marshall Green, long time solicitor for the County of Simcoe via his private practice at HGR Graham Partners LLP, announced he was leaving the firm after 41 years "to take up a new challenge, and will join with Zarah Walpole to establish an in-house legal services department at the County of Simcoe." Ms. Walpole had been a member of the City of Barrie's Legal Services department. She is Director of Legal Services. Mr. Green is Senior Counsel.

The County's 2016 budget package anticipated salaries and benefits to be $355K. This included three FTE's consisting of a Director of Legal Services, a Law Clerk and an Administrative Assistant. Administration costs were expected to be $62K.

Ms. Walpole was not listed on the 2016 Sunshine List for public servants paid $100,000 or more - though her annually salary tops $100k. Mr. Green made the list at $128,968.

In her first year round-up report to County councillors included on next Tuesday's meeting agenda, legal services are divided into three categories: general; real estate/social housing; and litigation.

"A rough estimate indicates that the equivalent legal services being completed by external legal counsel would have cost over $800,000. In contrast, the cost to the County to operate the Legal Services Department from April 2016 to March 2017 was approximately $536,000," according to Ms. Walpole.

"Second, in-house legal counsel has been able to respond more quickly and efficiently to legal issues as they arise. For example, when the County was made aware that an OMB hearing dealing with an aggregate application in Dufferin County, in which a proposed settlement would designate a haul route through Simcoe County, Legal Services quickly mobilized to bring a motion at the settlement hearing, which granted the County party status and allowed the County to argue against the proposal."

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by Tony Veltri
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