Meeting of the board of directors on February 23, 2018
Published: February 23, 2018
1.1 Board members present
John McCamus (Chair), Remy Boulbol, Nancy Cooper, Christa Freiler, Carol Hartman, James McNee, Derry Millar, Michel Robillard, James Yakimovich, David Field (CEO/Ex Officio).
Janet , Mary‑Ann Cocchetto, Louis Dimitracopoulos, Stephanie Mealing, Vicki Moretti, Kathleen Murphy, Rod Strain.
Ann Marie Yantz, Tim Murphy (on temporary leave of absence).
2. Meeting agenda
The meeting agenda was adopted.
3. Conflict of interest
Board member, Carol Hartman declared a potential conflict with respect to the board discussion of the Law Society of Ontario Legal Aid Working Group Report.
4. Board of directors’ meetings
- Minutes of the December 8, 2017 meeting of the board
- Minutes of the December 13, 2017 meeting of the board
Minutes of the board meetings held December 8 and December 13, 2017 were adopted.
5. Chair’s report
5.1 Chair’s activities
The chair reported that he attended the following events since the last board meeting:
- Hemet with the new president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association (CLA).
- He and the CEO and the vice‑president, Policy, Research and External Relations attended the Tenth National Reinventing Criminal Justice Symposium in Montreal. This is an invitation‑only annual conference attended by defence counsel, chiefs of police, Crown attorneys, members of the judiciary, academics and legal aid representatives from across the country. Discussions included the creation of a more focused justice system that encourages discretion with respect to bail and alternatives to incarceration, sentencing, and age limits in the youth criminal justice system.
- He attended and spoke at the 20th anniversary and Family Law Project launch event sponsored by Pro Bono Students Canada.
5.2 Law Society of Ontario Working Group on Legal Aid
The chair reported as follows:
- He and the CEO met with Law Society of Ontario (LSO) Working Group on Legal Aid to discuss the committee’s report prior to its presentation to convocation. The report contained a number of comments from stakeholders.
- He reported that LAO submitted a response letter to the report which was circulated to the LSO benchers prior to convocation. LAO’s response indicated that LAO is agreeable to greater collaboration with the LSO going forward, and that the feasibility of particular initiatives recommended by the report would be considered at a future date.
5.3 Criminal justice system developments
The chair highlighted the recent Superior Court decision in R. v. Tunney, to illustrate LAO staff duty counsel’s advocacy in an application to the Superior Court of Justice resulting in a new protocol, which proposes a “bifurcated hearing” bail process that will likely give rise to more releases without sureties, making the process fairer and faster.
5.4 Proactive disclosure
The chair reported that he incurred expenses in the amount of $1,977.00 for registration, travel and accommodation associated with his attendance at the 10th Annual Reinventing Criminal Justice Symposium in Montreal.
5.5 Appointment of corporate secretary
Janet Budgell was recently appointed to the position of vice‑president and general counsel. Mary‑Ann Cocchetto is associate general counsel. One of the roles of general counsel is to serve as corporate secretary.
The board approved the appointment of Janet Budgell as corporate secretary of Legal Aid Ontario, and approved the appointment of Mary‑Ann Cocchetto as associate corporate secretary of Legal Aid Ontario, effective February 23, 2018. The board received the chair’s report.
6. President’s report
6.1 Value for money audit update
- The vice‑president and general counsel provided an update on the auditor general’s value for money audit.
- The president and CEO reported that the auditor general’s audit team is in the process of gathering preliminary information and an audit plan will be presented within the next few weeks. The audit team plans to meet with community legal clinic staff and visit a number of LAO sites. Among other areas, the audit team has indicated that it will focus on lawyer services and payments, the audit and compliance unit, panel management and fraud investigations and the duty counsel program.
The board received the update on the value for money audit.
6.2 Labour relations
The associate general counsel provided an update on negotiations with the Society of Energy Professionals (SEP).
The board received the update.
6.3 Workplace and occupational health and safety updates
LAO retained the services of an outside consultant to review its policies and practices with respect to workplace discrimination and harassment as well as workplace violence. LAO’s policy framework has been updated to comply with industry best practices. All staff are required to participate in mandatory occupational health and safety e‑training, beginning with supervisors.
6.4 Employee engagement survey
Subsequent to the tabulation of the results of the employee engagement survey, the president and CEO has participated in 13 town hall video conferences with staff to share the results and invite questions and comments. There was active participation—over 600 employees completed the survey and provided additional comments. In general, front line staff engagement was very positive.
6.5 Project Rosemary
LAO’s Racialized Communities Strategy has launched Project Rosemary which will allow for the collection of race data from applicants and clients, on a voluntary basis, in an attempt to better cater LAO services to the needs of specific racialized groups.
6.6 Client and lawyers’ service centre
LAO is in the process of increasing its staff complement in the call centre to address increasing wait times.
LAO has purchased a technical solution, the Knowledge Information Management (KIM) Project, in an attempt to improve intake and assessment information. LAO is also reviewing staffing needs to ensure that service level standards are maintained.
6.7 Community legal clinics
LAO is actively engaged with the boards of directors of two clinics as part of its oversight responsibilities, and is working with the boards to address issues.
6.8 Executive appointments
The president and CEO welcomed Louis Dimitracopoulos as the newly‑appointed vice‑president and chief administrative officer and Jayne Mallin as the new regional vice-president, southwest region and specialty clinics. He reported that a competition is underway for recruitment of a vice-president, strategic planning and compliance.
The board received the president’s report.
7. Board In‑camera session
End of In‑camera session.
8. Committee reports
8.1 Board committee meetings
Minutes of the January 24, 2018 meeting of the audit and finance committee of the board.
Minutes of the audit and finance committee meeting held January 24, 2018, were adopted.
9. Corporate service reports
9.1 Audit plan questionnaire response
The board discussed the auditor general’s audit plan questionnaire response.
The board approved the proposed response to the auditor general of Ontario audit questionnaire for 2017/18.
9.2 Approval for clinic infrastructure procurement
The vice‑president and CAO presented the report on clinic infrastructure procurement. He reported that computers and software across the clinic system are outdated and in need of an upgrade. LAO is proposing to purchase 1,000 computers at a total cost of $1.32M. Subsequent to the preparation of this report, the approved vendor has provided an undertaking that it will be able to fulfil the entire order within the current fiscal year. The board discussed the various processes for disposal of the old computer equipment.
The board approved the purchase of information technology infrastructure for clinic use at a cost in excess of $500,000.00, subject to confirmation of delivery by March 31, 2018.
9.3 Certificate of assurance
The vice‑president and CAO presented the 2017‑18 Interim (Q3) Board‑Governed Agency Attestation Key Risk Questions Tool. All Ontario government agencies are required to file an annual agency and appointments attestation with MAG. This is a preliminary (Q3) report due March 12, 2018. Staff are requesting that the board grant authority to the chair, the president and the CAO to approve the final version of the attestation documents. This report is based on LAO’s Internal Audit Unit recommendations. He reported that any material changes in the final attestation will be reported to the board. The questionnaire consists of four sections:
- Reporting requirements
- Legislative/policy requirements
- Internal control systems; and
- Record keeping
The board received the questionnaire and the Internal Audit Assurance Review Report, and authorized the chair, CEO and CAO to sign‑off on the final attestation documents.
9.4 Executive compensation framework
The vice‑president and CAO presented the executive compensation framework. He reported that LAO must comply with legislation which requires every agency under the Broader Public Sector (Accountability Act) to develop and publicly post a compensation framework for its executives. LAO retained the services of an outside consultant to identify appropriate public sector comparator organizations for each LAO executive position. Twenty‑seven comparators were selected from the Canadian broader public sector. The Ontario government regulation requires that LAO shall not provide compensation in excess of the 50th percentile of the appropriate comparator organizations. LAO is below the 50th percentile. The framework will be posted on LAO’s external website until March 24, 2018 to allow for public comment. After the public posting and consultation, any necessary changes will be made and the framework will be shared with the Ministry of the Attorney General for information and then presented to this board for final approval.
The Board received the draft LAO Executive Compensation Framework.
10. Strategic planning and compliance Reports
10.1 Board retreat theme recommendations
The acting vice‑president, strategic planning and compliance, presented the report on LAO’s 2018 board retreat. He reported that LAO will be conducting a strategic planning exercise over the next six months to develop a 5 year strategic plan. LAO has retained the services of a third party contractor to assist with the planning, provide expert advice, and develop a consultation plan. He suggested the board retreat could provide an opportunity for board members to participate in this process.
The acting vice‑president suggested that a sub‑committee of the board be established to approve topics and presentation material for the retreat.
The board approved the recommended theme for the retreat and approved the establishment of a sub‑committee of members of the board to meet and approve topics and materials.
10.2 Clinic financial eligibility funding–2018‑19
The acting vice‑president, strategic planning and compliance, presented the report on the Clinic/SLASS 2018‑19 financial eligibility investment. He highlighted the recommended approach for the distribution of financial eligibility funding in the amount of $7.2M over the next fiscal year to further the objective of directing resources to areas of greatest need. He highlighted the following key initiatives:
- Expand services to the SLASSs
- Fund increased central support costs
- Create a fund to expand services to vulnerable clients
- Invest in under‑resourced communities, while expanding services in every region.
A balanced strategy for clinic service expansion has been developed to maximize the benefit of expanded financial eligibility funding. The acting vice‑president highlighted next steps, including ongoing discussions with the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario (ACLCO).
The board approved the recommended approach to allocate $7.2M in financial eligibility funding to clinics and student legal aid services societies (SLASS) in 2018‑19.
11. General counsel reports
11.1 Audit and finance committee terms of reference
The vice‑president and general counsel presented the proposed revised audit and finance committee terms of reference. As a result of LAO’s review of its audit function, as recommended by the Auditor General of Ontario, the board approved a new internal audit policy, including the appointment of a chief audit executive (CAE) who has a direct reporting line to the board of directors. The CAE’s appointment to or removal from his/her position must be approved by the board. She presented the draft revisions to the terms of reference of the audit and finance committee of the board of directors. She highlighted the proposed changes to the objectives and duties sections relating to internal controls, governance and oversight. She also highlighted the proposed change to the composition section to eliminate a maximum in the number of board members who may serve on the audit and finance committee.
The board approved the revised audit and finance committee terms of reference.
12. Senior counsel year‑end report
The regional vice‑president, GTA region, presented the senior counsel year‑end report. She presented an overview of all senior counsel activity and indicated:
- senior counsel handle cases that are difficult to deal with in the certificate system because the cases are complex or involve representation of hard‑to‑serve clients by reason of mental health and other issues
- senior counsel provide mentoring and support for staff providing duty counsel services
The board received the senior counsel year‑end report.
13. Meeting adjourned