Screencapture of the Red Hill inquiry website.

The Judicial Inquiry into the cover-up of safety reports regarding the Red Hill Valley Parkway is “anticipated” to begin public hearings in mid-2022, says a report from City of Hamilton City Solicitor Stephen Spracklin and Director of Communications & Strategic Initiatives Matthew Grant.

The report was released last Tuesday afternoon and will be considered by Council on Wednesday.

Council called the Inquiry in early 2019 after the public learned of the cover-up of the report, which was kept secret by City Hall during the 2018 municipal election.

City Hall was engaged in the coverup of the 24-billion litre combined sewage and stormwater leak into Cootes Paradise at the same time.

It is now expected the Inquiry will cost between $18 to $20 million dollars to complete.

Thus far, the Inquiry has cost $11.1 million, with $6.5 million being spent by the Inquiry Commission, the other $4.6 million are City Hall’s costs for external legal counsel, consultants, and data collection.

The initial cost estimate for the Inquiry was between $5 to $7 million dollars when it was called in early 2019.

Included in the final cost estimate is $432,400 to livestream the public hearings ($5,405 per day for 80 days), $5.5-million for Commission and City legal fees, and $180,900 for court reporter costs to transcribe the hearings.

The Inquiry has been researching and finding documents for the past two years. During these searches, additional information was uncovered and the Inquiry Counsel expanded their list of witnesses. The initial list of 36 witnesses expanded to 64 in January 2021, with over 115,000 documents being reviewed by the Inquiry.

Grant is asking Council to approve the hiring of an additional communications officer at an annual salary of $115,000 to communicate public updates on behalf of the City Manager’s Office during the Inquiry’s public hearing.

The report requests Council to allow City Manager Janette Smith to approve external legal counsel invoices of up to $1 million dollars each.

“It is anticipated that the hearing stage of the judicial inquiry should be able to commence during the second quarter of 2022, with the report stage potentially concluding prior to the end of the calendar year 2022,” the City staff report states.

The City staff report says there is a “Privilege dispute” regarding the “Boghosian memos”, and a “virtual privilege dispute” which is may or may not be the same, the report does not specify.

David G. Boghosian is a well-regarded municipal lawyer who has been hired by the City of Hamilton and Hamilton Police Services Board on a regular basis in the past. He was counsel for the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police Services Board in Hill v. Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police Services Board.

Council will discuss the “Boghosian memos” in closed session.

The Red Hill Inquiry Commission last updated the public on July 27, 2020. The City report states “We understand that Commission Counsel will be announcing the start date of the Public Hearing once the witness interviews and document disclosure phases of the Inquiry conclude.”