Mount Allison legal fees for 2014-15 of $474,000 set another record

(March 21, 2016-Sackville, NB.) The Mount Allison University administration has just released its legal fees paid for the 2014-15 fiscal year and it’s a record amount.

According to the disclosure, in 2014-15 Mount Allison spent $474,118 on legal fees in that year, after spending $455,585 in the 2013-14 year.

“This radical increase in legal fees appears to be the consequence of the Board of Regents’ decision to hire an expensive outside lawyer as their Chief Negotiator in the 2013-14 year,” says Andrew Irwin, President of the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA).

The negotiation process impacted two fiscal years because of the initial negotiation period, provincial conciliation, a three-week strike, Special Conciliation, a back-to-work agreement and a drawn-out interest arbitration process.

In the previous nine years, from 2004-05 to 2012-13, Mount Allison spent an average of $69,240 on legal fees per year. There were two rounds of collective bargaining with MAFA during that time.

“Over the last ten to fifteen years Mount Allison has expanded its administrative group and these increases in legal fees represent a further increase in administrative costs,” says Irwin. “In the past Mount Allison always used in-house staff to negotiate collective agreements with faculty.”

Data from 2004 to 2014 was disclosed through provincial Right to Information (RTI) requests, but the most recent information was disclosed by the Mount Allison administration on a voluntary basis.

For the first time the administration also disclosed the three law firms who received payments in 2014- 15, those being Gorman Nason, Begley Lordon and Stewart McKelvey.

In 2013, the University took the unusual step of hiring an external lawyer to act as its Chief Negotiator. The lawyer, Brian Johnston, QC, is a Halifax-based partner with the law firm Stewart McKelvey. Stewart McKelvey is also the firm that Mount Allison uses for grievance handling.

Mount Allison records indicate that Brian Johnston served on the Mount Allison Board of Regents from 1991 to 2006. He served as Vice-Chair of the Board in 2004 and Chair of the Board in 2005 and 2006.

The chair of the Mount Allison Board of Regents in the 2013-2015 period was James Dickson, QC, also a Halifax-based partner with the law firm Stewart McKelvey. He has served on the Board since 2007, holding the position of Vice-Chair in 2012 and 2013. Mount Allison records also indicate that he served from 2009 to 2013 on the Board of Regent’s Human Resources Committee.

The Mount Allison Faculty Association represents 145 full-time faculty and librarians and 33 part-time faculty.

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For further information contact the MAFA office at 506-364-2289 or email mafa@mta.ca. Original documents are available upon request.