City of Hamilton (Ont.). Department of the City Solicitor

Identity area

Type of entity

Corporate body

Authorized form of name

City of Hamilton (Ont.). Department of the City Solicitor

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Description area

Dates of existence

1847-

History

A city solicitor was appointed in 1847 by Hamilton City Council to provide advice concerning legal and legislative matters and to promote and defend the interests of the corporation. At first, payment was covered by fees for individual services rendered, and the solicitor sent in detailed accounts payable for Council's approval. In 1891, under By-law 583 the solicitorship was made a strictly salaried position with compensation allowed for disbursements and traveling expenses. After 1895, Council made an annual payment towards the salaries of legal clerks and assistants and to cover office expenses incurred on the City's behalf. During these years the duties of the solicitor, which previously had been determined by need on an ad hoc basis, were systematically laid out.

Until 1902, the city solicitorship was not a full-time position, and the solicitor continued to maintain a private legal practice while conducting the city's business. At that time, recognizing that the growing volume of civic legal business necessitated a full-time solicitor, a separate legal department was established with offices at City Hall. The earlier policy had led to potential conflicts of interest. In 1869, Council demanded that the city solicitor choose between representing the city or the Wellington, Gray, and Bruce Railway in which the city held an interest, maintaining that "the two offices are incompatible and ought not to be held by the same person." In 1872, while preparing the Hamilton and Northwestern Railway By-law, the Finance Committee discovered that the city solicitor also had been retained by the Provisional Directors of the Railway. It recommended that the city dispense with the solicitor's services, but Council reserved judgment. The matter finally was settled when the solicitor resigned. As with other branches of civic government, the growth of Hamilton in both size and complexity promoted the expansion of the solicitor's department. In 1920, an assistant city solicitor was appointed. Staff lawyers, often specialists in specific areas of law, were added to the legal department. By 1973, six lawyers and one law student staffed the department, and its appropriations totaled $344,310. The following individuals served as city solicitor: George W. Burton, 1847-1872; Frank Mackelcan, 1872-1906; John Morison Gibson, 1872-1894; F. R. Waddell, 1906-1931; A.J. Poulson, 1931-1957; Alan S. Stewart, 1957-1959; A. Foster Rodger, 1959-1965; Clifford R. Demaray, 1965-1967; Kenneth A. Rouff, 1967-1989; and Patrice Noe Johnson, 1990-[?].

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The duties of the city solicitor encompassed: attending all Council and Committee meetings if so requested; providing advice to the Mayor, City Clerk, Council, and the Board of Health; preparing and revising all by-laws and instruments; examining and reporting on titles to city properties; applying for legislation and lobbying the Federal Parliament and Provincial Legislature on behalf of the city; and prosecuting for or defending the city in legal proceedings.

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