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     July 2013        

Released on July 01, 2013, 4:00 PM EST
Tag #: 658
Accountability: Failing to achieve

City hired a lawyer from Toronto to defend the director of water and wastewater
Tax payers pay $6,000 legal fees… Toronto legal firm makes a fortune

Benkovich: Controversial Practices


WikiLeaks Sudbury
learned that City hired a lawyer from Toronto to defend its director of water and wastewater services, Nick Benkovich. According to the court documents it was a personal dispute and Benkovich and Gary Comin (Supervisor III) were the defendants. As usual, City, did not hesitate to hire lawyers to defend their actions, whilst the total of their legal cost was paid from tax dollars. 

The court documents revealed that City was able to recover $ 4000.00. However, there is no immediate information regarding whether or not the remaining balance of $2,000.00 has been paid back to the City by Benkovich and Comin. Additionally, both Benkovich and Comin are in the sunshine list of individuals who earned over $ 100,000.00 per year in the public sector. 

The City’s legal services department consists of 11 full time staff members including in-house lawyers. These employees, however, never appeared before the court to defend their own bureaucrats. Instead, City continually utilizes external lawyers at the cost of tax payers. The lawyers are hired to defend issues regardless of severity, ranging from matters in both violation of the collective bargaining rights of the employees and matters from the Ontario Municipal Board complaints. 

It is evident that this Toronto-based legal firm claimed almost one million dollars from tax dollars (from 2007). Their expenses also included the hotel and air fare fees which added an additional 30% to the final bill. Sudbury has very capable legal firms that can handle any matter. Instead of utilizing local professionals, City now tends to call upon external legal support from this Toronto-based legal firm.  

In order to protect the third party’s economic interest, WikiLeaks Sudbury will not release the name of the legal firm.

This is another good example of misspending public funds. This practice needs to be stopped immediately and individuals who are responsible for misspent tax dollars must be held accountable for their actions. This, however, will never be achieved until a full clean out of the current bureaucrats in the City hall is established.  

Related documents

An outrageous spending practice found for Labour and Employment matters  
City’s Labour and Employment Legal Expenses Continually Soar  
Toronto based legal firm received $ 717,123.22 pay cheque : Disbursements also includes airfairs and hotel charges


Released on July 01, 2013 at 4:00 PM EST

The original article initially published on Journal of Risk Research,13 (1) 45–58 and Communications, 29, 59-76 . Excerpts from the article as follows.   

Citizen journalism and the transformation of news: Transparency and accountability in Canadian media policy

The Canadian media system is complex and multidimensional. In fact, the system has so many contingent parts working on so many different levels that keeping track of its many interactions can be a dizzying experience. At the center of this wheel is the publicly funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) which operates two main TV networks (in English and French), two cable all-news channels, four radio networks, a northern service that reaches into the vast expanse of the Canadian North and broadcasts in a myriad of Aboriginal languages and an international service, Radio-Canada International. The national public broadcaster receives 60 per cent of its funding in the form of an annual grant from Parliament with the remainder coming from sales and advertising. The CBC is the largest journalistic organization in the country and is also the main showcase for original Canadian radio and television production.

Much of the media horizon is dominated, however, by a clutch of privately owned media conglomerates whose stables of properties include newspapers, radio and TV stations, satellite services, magazines, cable operations and sports franchises. Taken together, they tower over the CBC in terms of both revenue and audience reach. The largest of these corporations is Bell Canada Enterprises, which owns the CTV network, Canada’s most prestigious newspaper, The Globe and Mail, a bevy of cable channels, as well as telephone and satellite services. CanWest Global, founded by the late Israel Asper, owns Canada’s third TV network, Global Television, and the Southam newspaper chain which includes the National Post, as well as a picket fence of important regional newspapers. In the large Vancouver/Victoria market, for instance, CanWest Global owns all of the major newspapers as well as the dominant TV stations.

Although the Canadian media system is dominated by a handful of corporations, audiences are fragmented to a degree not found in many other countries. This is especially the case with television. There are over 200 cable and digital TV services including ones aimed at children, the business community, Aboriginal people, older citizens, gays and religious viewers. There is also a blizzard of news, sports, ethnic and pay-per view channels. Included in the mix are international broadcasters such as TV5, a consortium run by broadcasters from francophone countries, and BBC Canada.

Although newspapers and magazines are unregulated, broadcasting comes under the aegis of the Broadcasting Act of 1991. Section 3, which is the main lever of the Act, stipulates that Canadian broadcasting is a public service, comprised of public, private and community elements, and that broadcasters must air programming that reflects “Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity”.

This article will describe and assess the various ways in which Canadian media organizations are held accountable to the public. We will examine the mandate and operations of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which regulates broadcasting in Canada, the industry and consumer groups that wage an almost continuous battle to influence government policy and public opinion, the operations of press councils and the CBC’s Ombudsman’s Office and most crucially the work of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage which has recently recommended new methods to ensure more effective checks and balances and greater transparency in the Canadian media system.   We will argue that the work of parliamentary committees is among the most effective means of holding media organizations accountable to the public. Made up of members from all parties represented in Parliament, these committees can hold hearings at which top bureaucrats, industry titans and ordinary citizens from around the country have a chance to present their views but must also endure rounds of tough questioning. They can also call for submissions, conduct site visits and commission research studies. Their reports can garner media coverage and stir scholarly as well as public debate.  

Another crucial element is the power of the Supreme Court and the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which came into effect in 1982. Over the last 20 years, the courts rather than Parliament have set many of the rules in Canadian public life. Judges have been required through judicial interpretation to put flesh on the bones of the Charter and political leaders have been more than eager to hand contentious “hot button” issues such as abortion, the rules governing Quebec secession, a person’s right to die, Aboriginal and gay rights, pornography and police powers to the courts. The Charter is a rights giving document whose ultimate objective is to tie Canadians to Ottawa rather than to their provincial governments and to create a shared community based on loyalty to certain values. The Charter has created a sea-change in Canadian life, and its letter and spirit provide the essential backdrop against which the Canadian media operate.

The Charter enshrines a wide range of personal freedoms including “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression including freedom of the press and other media of communication”. But it also stipulates that these wide ranging freedoms are subject to “such reasonable limits (…) as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”. Rights can be curtailed if Parliament, provincial governments, interest groups or individuals can provide the courts with legitimate reasons - can make the case - that unrestrained use of these rights may be harmful to society. Judgments usually hinge on whether a harm of some kind is being done.

 As risk incidents are central to the news agenda, the way in which social dangers are (re)presented can act as a barometer for gauging some of the advantages and limits of citizen journalism. Prior to concluding, I would like to propose five avenues through which the role of citizen journalism in the risk communications process can be further investigated. These research questions are not exhaustive and are posed in the spirit of provocation. Although the overlap is considerable, for analytical purposes the issues documented here revolve around media consumption/audiences, ethics, new mediations of risk/fear, content and technological navigation. 

First, we might want to ask some basic but vital questions about media consumption and media audiences. As researchers argue, there is a pressing need to find out more about particular alternative media practices and about how audiences use their content. What do different forms of citizen journalism mean for makers and consumers of news? Are individuals and groups more likely to use certain public sources for information about risk events? If so, which ones and why? What is the relationship between citizens that make and those that consume citizen journalism? Is the one practice likely to encourage the other? It is, of course, expectable that divergent styles of usage and presentation of citizen journalism will arise between different countries, classes and creeds.  But what are the precise impacts of cultural context, geography, ethnicity and gender on the creation and interpretation of citizen produced news about risk?

Second, in addition to issues around consumption and audiences, there are some sticky ethical issues that are ripe for inquiry. Without doubt, the ethics of certain aspects of citizen journalism are open to question. Is it humane to stand by and film the suffering of people in the aftermath of a disaster, rather than seeking to aid or assist the wounded? What is gained by filming and disseminating horrific images of human suffering? Butting up to these ethical concerns are a third set of issues congregating around the relationship between new mediations of risk and the constitution of fear. How do citizen contributions indent upon people’s perceptions of risk and their broader geographies of fear? More specifically, what are the psychological and cultural impacts of graphic public images of large scale disasters, such as the footage of planes soaring into the World Trade Centre? How do these media events impact on individual and collective memories and how – if at all – are they stitched to proceeding incidents? The link between representations of risk and the generation of moral panics is pertinent here and worthy of systematic analysis. Evidently, powerful actors and institutions are not beyond utilising the media to harness public fears about risks to the public. The extent to which this endeavour is successful is yet to be properly calibrated. Fourth, it would be sagacious to dig deeper into the actual content of citizen journalism as a multifaceted practice. In what ways can citizen journalists shape the news agenda around risk? How, if at all, does the rise of citizen journalism affect the balance between expert and lay contributions in the reporting of risk? How do changing patterns of news sourcing affect the content of news about human tragedies? As researchers indicate, alternative news sites are not necessarily direct portals for ‘ordinary’ citizens to express their views. Instead, such outlets will be driven by their institutional and political values and may tend to favour the opinions of counter-experts. Fifth, there is a lack of clarity around the ways in which people actually navigate different media technologies and respond to information about risk. How does the diversification of media platforms through which risk news is available influence media audiences? Are some technologies trusted more than others? Does the possibility of manipulation by (non) media professionals mean that people negotiate different media technologies in different ways? Does the portability and accessibility of new media technologies affect which risks are covered and indeed how or why they are covered? To what extent are people mixing old with new media? Whilst empirical research has shown that young people are likely to ‘stack’ or ‘multitask’ their media habits how does this play out across a wider demographic and what does it mean for meaning making around risk? If risk research is to keep pace with a rapidly changing and technologised world, such conundrums should be brought into focus.

Culturally progressive changes have surfaced from the transition from a centralised hierarchical media to a more horizontal and dispersed media. Yet it is worth unspooling the loops of citizen journalism, by putting aside the temptation to start off from absolute notions of its triumphs or flaws. One of the researcher denudes the motives for such polar thinking, ‘debating over citizen journalism is like arguing over a Rorschach test. Each sees in it the manifestation of his or her fondest hopes or worst fears’. Whilst it is best to keep a critical and open mind, the cultural inclination to communicate and respond instantaneously through mediated forms should not be upheld as a virtue in its own right. The fundamental issue is about the quality of information exchange – and its subsequent ability to enhance shared understandings – rather than the speed at which information travels. The rapidity of response that affluent Western media users are blessed with can at times be a burden in that it can inhibit our proclivity to think, reflect and analyse. The drive to mediate risk incidents with haste does not ultimately mean that we are able to understand them better. This remains the fundamental challenge for all stakeholders involved in the communication of risk.

WikiLeaks Sudbury
July 01, 2013


Mythen, G. (2010). Reframing risk? Citizen journalism and the transformation of news. Journal of Risk Research,13 (1) 45–58
Raboy, M., Taras, D. (2004). Transparency and accountability in Canadian media policy. Communications, 29, 59-76



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