Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Community Corner: Closed Door Meetings

Posted by auroracitizen on November 7, 2008

A reader sent in the following comment. It is published unchanged.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of the AURORA CITIZEN.

I found an interesting item on the Council agenda for the October 14/08 meeting. Could you please open this as a topic of discussion? I think it’s quite suspicious that two councillors are fighting for transparency and the other are fighting against it. This was a fantastic suggestion by Mrakas. How is one to “investigate” a closed session meeting if there is no record?

6. Motion from Councillor Collins-Mrakas
Re: Audio Recording of Closed-Session Meetings
(Notice was provided to Council on Tuesday September 9, 2008)

Moved by Councillor Collins-Mrakas Seconded by Councillor Buck

WHEREAS the closed session meetings and attendant proceedings of Council are subject to investigation at anytime should a member of the public feel it is warranted; and

WHEREAS the accuracy of the records and/or documentation kept in regards to the closed session meetings and proceedings of Council is therefore vital; and

WHEREAS currently only minutes are taken and there is no verbatim – written or audio-recorded record of the closed session proceedings of Council; and

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT, if permitted under relevant legislation, all future closed session meetings of Council shall be audio-recorded.

DEFEATED

————–

An interesting question. A very small number of topics are allowed in-camera because the discussion may be harmful to people or the town if discussed in open Council.

Examples would be an interest to sell/purchase real estate, talk about someones performance and possible dismissal or a legal matter. One can easily see that some matters should be discussed behind closed doors.

However, no decisions are to be made in-camera. All items must be presented in open council for a decision to be made (obviously all the details are not shared).

However, there has been concern expressed by the Mayor and certain members of council that inappropriate behaviour is taking place behind these closed doors. Public accusations can be made about something said and the accused has no defence.

Similarly, discussions take place that lead to a decision and the public have a right to know the basis for the decision — for example on a real estate matter.

Having a recording that can be released when the item becomes public would help us all understand what took place.

Clearly personal information needs to be withheld, but the comments that it doesn’t allow for a free discussion is nonsense. What are these folks saying that they don’t want the public to hear?

One might conclude it is the inappropriate behaviour that is the concern versus the release of personal information. These concerns sound more like a desire to hide their own behaviour versus concerns for privacy that can be simply solved by editing out details about a person or legal matter.

Lastly, these tapes would only be made available when an issue is raised , either by the public or a member of council, similar to requesting a transcript or recording of current meetings. So the cost is basically a tape recording hook up connected to the current recording equipment.

Seems like a simple fix. So why the problem?

Admittedly, this is a new idea. It is not practiced in other municipalities. So there is no precedence.

But one must wonder, what’s the issue? Isn’t it a step forward in promoting openness and transparency? Council is willing to show leadership with clotheslines, why not with openness and transparency? After all, it was the big promise from the election — while I don’t recall anything said about clotheslines.

Let us know your thoughts.

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10 Responses to “Community Corner: Closed Door Meetings”

  1. Anonymous said

    What HR ‘background’ does this mayor actually possess?
    Does she have actual qualifications?
    What is the nature of this experience? At what firm? For how long? At what level?
    Her C.V. seems light considering the way she seems to be all knowing about every issue.

  2. Anonymous said

    Less in-camera sessions, more transparency, more teamwork,impartial leadership,willing to listen to the residents of Aurora, were all promises of Phyllis Morris. Everyone of these promises were broken. Better yet, there were some, myself included who saw through Ms. Morris during the last election and warned anyone who would listen that her record was really sub par and included alienating employees of both the town of Aurora and the Region. The voters saw otherwise and voted her in. To further illustrate the voters folly they even voted in a councillor whose signs embarassingly vowed to fight crime….in Aurora? and to fight higher taxes.Since both of these areas are outside a councillors jurisdiction why did the voters buy into it?
    Fast forward to today, and we have a Mayor clearly unsuited for the position (even unsuited for a role in her background of Human Resources).We have councillors ie Al Wilson who are unsuitable for the role of Councillor. So who is to blame? I believe the gullible voters of Aurora must shoulder the blame for this disgrace of a Town Council!

  3. Anonymous said

    I’d be interested in reaction to the Nov 12 Banner article:

    “Aurora staff spent $500K without approval

    Town embroiled in lawsuits to recoup cost of arena repairs
    By: By Sean Pearce, Staff Writer

    The Town of Aurora is locked in a legal battle to recover more than $440,000 in unauthorized spending by staff last year.”

  4. Anonymous said

    I made a post on Clr. Buck’s blog asking the question if there is anything that we, the tax payers of this town, can do to recall the council we have? The Municipal Act is fairly clear and unfortunitly, it looks like we are stuck with a tyrant leader and her lined up ducks for another 2 years as we are now at the half-way mark.

    Short of mass resignations (and that is not going to happen), I am sickened to see what is happening in Aurora.

  5. Anonymous said

    As a former Councillor I am concerned about the number of closed door meetings that this Mayor wants after her election promises of an open and transparent mayor and council. There were many in-camera meetings, when she was a councillor, where she did not attend as she felt that the topic being discussed should be discussed in the open council chambers.
    I also know that at times the in- camera meetings meant that certain councillors of the day could say what they wanted to about anyone in the room knowing that it would go no further. I wonder if things have changed.I really doubt it.
    These in-camera meetings were held for a small group of items laid out in the Municipal Act and at times even then it seemed silly as some of these items could have been discussed out of the back room.
    It really is amazing that more than ever backroom meetings are a part of this mayor’s agenda.

  6. StephanieAllen said

    Razie, put your offer in writing in some official way to the town council. It sounds like a great idea to me, and I would hate to see it end here. Do other towns do something similar? At the very least, ask someone on council to present it at a meeting for you.

  7. Razie said

    Well – in the age of “youtube”, apparently our honored council forgot the meaning of “webcam”.

    Why shouldn’t ALL council meetings be recorded and published on youtube, while the “closed room” meetings stored and not published?

    BTW: you don’t need any investment for that, since youtube provides all the infrastructure you need: storage, connection and bandwith. I will donate a webcam if needed. I also undertake to personally upload the videos on youtube, weekly, free of charge, if that’s perceived as expensive…

  8. Anonymous said

    An interesting proposal and one that you would think the Mayor would endorse. However, her campaign for transparency is somewhat mis-stated. She wants transparency on her terms only. Having a proposal come from someone that is on the outside of cronies doesn’t look good. I would hazard a guess that in a few months, the Mayor will propose a similar suggestion and it would be endorsed whole-heartedly because it would be “her” idea.

  9. Anonymous said

    Once again who writes this stuff that you highlight, especially this notion of secrecy. Is that ironic or am I just one of the unwashed in Aurora?

  10. Anonymous said

    Residents are encouraged to visit phyllismorris.net and read Mayor Morris’ inaugural address. These are the written commitments she made to our town.

    This is an extract that goes to the core of “transparency”:

    “Together We Can … foster an open and accountable government, where leadership is impartial and allows ideas to be discussed, where teamwork is valued. And where the public is invited to contribute.”

    I’d say the Mayor has failed on this commitment to our town.

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