Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Issues of transparency, frequency of closed Council sessions mark Committee of the Whole public comment opportunity

The most contentious part of Monday's City Council session came out of the Committee of the Whole portion of the evening and the opportunity for comment from the public, with Mr. Larry Golden a frequent contributor to that forum stirring up some hornets to a fashion with his inquiries on Council transparency and the large volume of Closed Council Sessions that now make for the work of City Council.

Mr. Golden's first inquiries on the night actually turned to the theme of the recent approval of pay raises for the Mayor and Council members, with the citizen participant on the night noting that he would have liked to have had more access to the findings of the blue ribbon select committee and how they determined which cities to use as a comparison for the civic salary report.

Council members did not respond to those comments, though later in the evening the City Manager, Robert Long would address the topic, noting for council that the findings of the group are available from the Council agenda of the February 25th session.

Observing further as to how the City always works in a transparent method on such areas of note.

Now while technically correct that the report is available on line, it is kind of a twisting trail for residents to access them through the city's Agenda page and most of us probably wouldn't think to look deep into those documents.

It is somewhat interesting that the city council membership would not have tasked their Communications Manager to compile a presentation for the public with all the pertinent information and post it prominently on the city's website, much like has been done for the Hays 2.0 plan and recent Budget notes, or the Rupert Talks initiative and other items that the city wants to relay information on.

Such information, presented in an easy to read format and highly visible and accessible for the public would surely help assist the goals of the oft stated quest for more transparency from council members.

The salary discussions are a theme we explored a fair bit on the blog over the last four months and you can review much of our documentation towards the salary top ups here.

The real highlight moment of the night however came when Mr. Golden turned his attention towards the ever increasing frequency of the Closed council sessions, something which as he noted, seems to be part of the council routine now, held at 5 PM on almost every council session night.

It's a topic that once upon a time was something that then council candidates would promise to change, making the reduction of the number of in camera sessions a key component of their campaign promises.

However, since taking office and in some cases re-elected for a second term, for the most part that goal seems to have fallen far off the council radar.

Mr. Golden's approach was to note that where once a Special Closed Council session was an exception, in recent years it appears to have become the rule.

And while Mayor Brain countered that argument by observing that Council only calls them when necessary, it does seem that the decision to go behind closed doors is required more and more often.

By way of review, so far this year, City Council has headed to the in camera option on eight occasions since the start of the year.

The Mayor also was quite forceful in expressing how he believed Mr. Golden was incorrect in his interpretation of how the city makes use of the Local Government Act.

At one point, Mr Brain took to chiding him somewhat, as to how he was wrong in how he viewed the way council handles their duties.

One point that Mr. Golden seemed to want to make as part of his presentation was to observe how Council spends so much of its time in Closed Session, that when they arrive for the public session later in the evening they often have nothing to say in public on any of the issues up for discussion.

And if Monday night was any indication, he may be on to something there, with yet another short 24 minute meeting providing for few comments of substance from many of the Council members on any of the topics addressed on the night.

At the very end of the Council session on Monday, City Manager Long also took a few moments to speak to the issue of Council transparency and adherence to governing legislation noting the following:

The City follows the Act to the Letter and that everything on the Agenda prior to a special in camera meeting is posted and the Council follows the appropriate resolution.

Mr. Long added that the city always does that and that it was quite transparent and quite capable.

You can review the exchange between the Mayor and Mr. Golden in more detail from our Council Timeline feature here.

The video review of the back and forth between Mr. Brain and Mr. Golden is also available starting at the eight minute mark of the Committee of the Whole session.

For more items of note related to Monday's Council session see our archive page here, a wider overview of Council Discussion themes can be explored from our Council Discussion archive page.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment