Mistake Made, Admitted and Fixed

Yesterday’s Council agenda (June 27) contained a report from a closed-meeting investigator, the widely respected Nigel Bellchamber from Amberley Gavel. He determined that some subcommittees and working groups created by Council operated incorrectly. The agenda included the report in its entirety as a matter of record.

The report concludes that for some of those meetings “no public notice was provided…the meetings were effectively closed to the public, and substantive decisions were made in the absence of the public.” It is important to note that all decisions proposed by the subcommittees and working groups came forward to Council for consideration and an ultimate decision. No decision made by a committee or working group was binding. All final Council decisions were valid and proper.

Previously, staff and Council operated under an interpretation of the Municipal Act that turned out to be incorrect. We believed that if you did not have a quorum (less than six) of elected officials on a subcommittee, public notice was not required for meetings.

The interpretation error is not new. For example, Councils before and after amalgamation used a striking committee in private to fill subcommittee positions. Mr. Bellchamber listed the striking committee as one of the offenders.

We now know that any Council created subcommittee or working group requires public notice of its meetings where elected officials comprise the majority of members. (A committee of residents and councillors, where the former are the majority, would not be subject to the same rules.)

Our clerk spotted the interpretation error months ago. Since then our subcommittees and working groups have operated in full compliance with the Municipal Act.

If we screw up, we admit it and fix it.

Municipal governance rules are evolving. We won’t always get it right. My colleagues are honest to a fault. There was never any intention to mislead, nor will there be with this Council. We work to ensure that the decisions we make are the best for residents of Mississippi Mills.

Sadly and predictably, PRATAC jumped on the report as if they’d uncovered the second coming of Watergate. On the group’s website, Jan Maydan flings fire and brimstone on all and sundry with the zeal of an evangelical convert. She singled out me, Councillor Jill McCubbin (why Jill again?) and CAO, Diane Smithson, for special mention. (PRATAC members just can’t resist taking shots at Ms. Smithson.)