With a taxpayer-funded lawyer at their sides, several city councillors and the mayor were re-interviewed by the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office on Wednesday.
Councillor Bud Polhill confirmed to CTV News that he had a lawyer in the room, but when asked if there were any objections, he added “I can’t tell you that. What went on in the room is confidential.”
Legal representation during questioning strays from the process during previous ombudsman investigations when they were forbidden.
But the ombudsman’s office says “[Legal] council is permitted to observe the interview and is present to provide advice to their client about any potential legal issues.”
Ombudsman Andre Marin’s team is probing a February gathering of six councillors and the mayor at Billy T’s Tap and Grill.
Sixty complaints were filed alleging the meeting was an illegal strategy session – though everyone involved has denied the claim.
London Mayor Joe Fontana says his hour-long re-interview “was mostly clarification of points made” during his previous interview in March.
The legal stakes were raised when the ombudsman issued a summons to those he wanted to interview again. It reminded council that refusal to appear, obstructing the investigation or lying under oath could result in a fine up to $500 or three months in jail.
Fontana says his story hasn't changed, “I invited two or three members of council to join me at different times during the day at Billy T's. The rest of the attendees were a surprise to me.”
Councillor Stephen Orser called the presence of a lawyer a partial victory for charter rights, but still wanted access to his previous testimony.
“A year ago people weren't allowed lawyers. If I had the transcript today I would be in there by myself.”
The investigation continues and no date has been set for the findings to be released.