City Solicitor Janice Atwood-Petkovski Providing Much Needed Change in Hamilton

You may be seeing a story from 2012 circulating among your social media circles this morning that current City Solicitor Janice Atwood-Petkovski was dismissed by the City of Vaughan prior her recruitment in Hamilton.

That’s all the story says and there are no accusations of wrongdoing, negligence, or misconduct. In fact, there is no further mention of Atwood-Petkovski by the Vaughan Citizen after the dismissal.

In senior levels of government and the private sector, dismissal is not unusual. The fact there is no follow-up in the media indicates this is a ‘routine’ senior management change.

Breath of Fresh Air

Atwood-Petkovski arrived at Hamilton City Hall in January, in the middle of the legal firestorm that was Dialogue Partners. She successfully negotiated the City out of the contract they had with Dialogue Partners, negotiating a settlement that ended any further legal liability to the City. **

She inherited a bad contract that was standard for the City and managed to come out with a solution. Reforms to consultant contracts following this fiasco.

Under Atwood-Petkovski, Council closed sessions are rarer. Legal advice is often delivered in public session for citizens to hear, Council is often reminded of their responsibilities to conduct open meetings, and the Ontario Ombudsman’s investigation into the Dialogue Partners closed session found that it was properly conducted and there were no questions about improper conduct.

When Council has tried to stretch the limited exceptions for closed sessions to conduct difficult debates behind closed doors, Atwood-Petkovski has repeatedly told Council that doing so would violate Open Meeting laws.

On media access, Atwood-Petkovski is consistently reminding committee chairs of the public’s right to view and attend meetings.

One quasi-judicial committee refused access to media recordings. There is now a draft resolution that will satisfy the legitimate privacy concerns related to media access and ensures  access when City Councillors are speaking in front of this committee or it is hearing matters of wide public interest.

Atwood-Petkovski’s legal advice record, thus far, is excellent. She has advised Council to drop suits they have no chance of winning such as fighting social service agencies, and repeatedly appealing decisions when there is zero chance of winning.

This is saving taxpayers money.

The City’s win record at the Ontario Municipal Board is improving, and City lawyers arguments are improving. I attend OMB hearings often and I haven’t heard some of the frivolous arguments City lawyers have advanced in the past under Atwood-Petkovski’s watch.

The Matter of Vaughan

So what happened in Vaughan?
[module align=”right” width=”half” type=”pull-quote”]Ah, Vaughan, the city of dysfunctional politics where residents sue their mayor, their mayor sues her council and everyone assumes developers have the run of the place. –

Michele Mandel, Toronto Sun

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Personnel matters remain confidential and we won’t know.

When Atwood-Petkovski was hired, I read the article and worked my contacts outside of Hamilton. Having worked for two national media outlets, and covered a few other Council meetings in the GTA during that time, I’m able to reach out to people who followed Vaughan’s dysfunctional City Council during the past few years.

To say Vaughan was a circus is insulting primates intelligent enough to throw their own feces.

None of my contacts had negative information about the new solicitor.

Two of my contacts in the provincial civil service spoke highly of Atwood-Petkovski stating she maintained professionalism in difficult circumstances as Vaughan’s Council engaged in bitter paralyzing feuds.

Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin’s office praised Atwood-Petkovski this summer for how she handles matters with that office. Praise from the Ombudsman is worth taking notice of.

Chris Murray Interviewed, Check References, and Hired

Atwood-Petkovski was hired by City Manager Chris Murray.

The City Manager’s Office said Atwood-Petkovski was forthcoming during the first interview about the Vaughan dismissal and they conducted due diligence in the hiring.

The Summary: Good Hire

Atwood-Petkovski’s record since becoming City Solicitor is very positive.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing, negligence, or misconduct in her work for Vaughan.

Vaughan’s Council is widely known for being dysfunctional.

Dismissals are not uncommon in senior level work, both in the public and private sector.

The contacts I trust in Toronto that know of her work speak positively.

In short, Atwood-Petkovski is proving a good hire by Hamilton’s City Manager.