(originally published in the Fourth and One Fifth August 2014 issue)
A strange thing happened at the March 25th council meeting. In an attempt to keep an issue off of everyone’s radar, a resolution that wasn’t even on the agenda was slipped in at the last minute. Moved by Counsellor Lees, seconded by Counsellor Turck, that “Council establish a Council Member Remuneration Committee to review and recommend revisions (by no later than June 30, 2014)”. The resolution named committee members but did not provide the terms of reference. It passed unanimously (with Counsellor Burns being absent).
This turned what should have been a routine setting of public policy into a completely secret process.
As I verified with the Mayor during question period, there was no public request for volunteers to serve as committee members, no public meetings, no publically available minutes of committee meetings, and no opportunity for the public to ask questions or provide input during the process. There is also a possible perceived conflict of interest as a senior official from the GRCA, which receives funding from the municipality, was on the committee.
The Mayor provided several misleading answers. She stated that anyone could have asked questions at the COW meeting when the report was presented to council by Jim Hunt, knowing full well that members of the public cannot ask questions of delegations, and any questions of council would have no impact on the report. She stated that they have been appointing members this way since 2000, ignoring their Strategic Plan endorsed by the current council that says they will do things differently.
When I questioned if council was operating in a manner that is consistent with their operating principle of transparency, I received the following unintelligible answer from the Mayor “When they were appointed it was identified which was prior to that and the update to the policies were brought forward”. A direct quote of her entire answer.
I have absolutely no problem with a regular review of council’s salaries. I have a big problem with a totally secret process that runs completely counter to Council’s stated operating principles of transparency, accountability, participation, and communication. I would have appreciated the opportunity to provide input, as I believe that the counsellor’s salaries should be higher.
It is time for council to decide what takes priority, their new set of operating principles or their old way of doing things. They need to decide if these operating principles will hang displayed like a trophy during council meetings, purely for show, or be taken off the wall and used as a road map to steer everyday decision making.