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The “Education and Training” meeting for Councillors was held today and only one Press representative was there – but it was not me.  I had personal commitments but two of the 10 others who were in attendance helped with notes etc.  Although it was billed as being partially open (for a presentation) and partially closed, it appeared that it concluded before a closed session was declared and in fact before any real debate could be held despite Debra McCarthy’s attempt to re-open the meeting to hold such a debate on Governance.

The meeting started with a presentation by John Ewart, Certified Specialist Municipal Law, and it seemed to not be very helpful about strict legal requirements. If you look at the original presentation given to Councillors, [Download it here – thanks Ken] it is not crystal clear what is actually required by the law.  What is clear is that the Province wants more accountability and transparency and as the Ombudsman puts it: there is “much work to be done by municipalities to satisfy open meeting requirements of the Act”.

However, John Ewart does spell out "Best Practices":

  • Give adequate notice [No last minute additions to the agenda as is now commonly done]
  • Pick the right exception
  • Add items to the agenda sparingly.
  • Make a clear resolution to go into closed session. [Not done at this meeting although perhaps there was no closed session!]
  • Record all meetings, open or closed. [Not known if this is done]
  • Report back publicly in open session [not now done - at least not at the first available opportunity].

The second part of the meeting was about Governance and Warren McCarthy reported as follows:

When John the presenter talked about Governance, he at length (& citing ‘our experience’ numerous times) gave only advantages & benefits of the ‘Coordinator’ model, and only disadvantages of the COW/Standing Committee model.

The ‘coordinator’ model advantages included (‘in our experience’) - ‘more effective - fewer ‘closed’ meetings - less Councillor meetings time - less confusion - less Ombudsman complaints + others.

I believe John gave no advantages to the COW/Standing Committee model.

He indicated that of the 30+ municipalities they have worked with, approx. ½ use the ‘coordinator’ model.  [Editor's Note: But there may be a definition problem since CAO Stephen Peacock did not say that 50% of municipalities use the same system as Cobourg when this was discussed earlier]

At the end of giving only the advantages of the ‘coordinator’ governance model, he actually said:

“I would never try to sway you regarding something that is under Council consideration”. [Right!].

More heavy slogging for Council

Soon, Councillors are in for another marathon session – this time on the budget.  There is a special meeting of the C.O.W. scheduled for April 23 at 1:00pm in the Council Chambers. That's two days after the regularly scheduled meeting on Monday 20th.  Meanwhile they are also spending time with staff looking at the budget as it comes together.  Otherwise it would be impossible to do justice to approving the budget in a half-day session.

Addendum

  • The Town has posted the report by CAO Stephen Peacock on Governance that was made available to Councillors at this meeting. A copy is available for download here.
  • Earlier (in February), Stephen Peacock issued a similar report with more examples.  Municipal Governance Structures Review and Analysis - Download here.

 

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