Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Has Transparency Been Re-defined This Term?

Posted by auroracitizen on December 16, 2009

This is the first of a continuing series of articles by Richard Johnson.

Council Watch — issue #1, by Richard Johnson

I have decided to take up the offer to contribute to Aurora Citizen on a more formal basis. The list of issues and concerns that spring to mind concerning our municipal government seem to offer no end of possible topics that deserve to be raised for consideration and discussion. From my perspective our democracy requires both a detailed examination of the facts as well as debate in order to achieve the best possible results. While most issues may not be clearly black and white in nature, a thorough debate can clarify, refine and sometimes even evolve our respective positions to our collective benefit (at least that is my hope).

Provided enough time, effort and clarity is brought to any given discussion one can expect to see an underlying truth emerge or at the very least the full range of perspectives, regardless of the fact that some details may be debated or the simple fact that we may all view any given issue from a slightly different perspective. With this in mind, I am grateful for the opportunity that the Aurora Citizen has provided everyone in Aurora to express their views and concerns. While we may not all agree all of the time, I can only hope that we can agree to respect and appreciate everyone that cares about the issues facing our town, regardless of their perspective.

Without further adieu, I would like to now get down to business.

For my first topic I would like to raise the issue of transparency and accountability.

While we were all promised a new and higher standard of civility, responsiveness and transparency during the Mayor’s 2006 inaugural speech it strikes me that in reality we have been subject to something quite different. Local reporter Sean Pearce has been forced more than once to file Freedom of Information requests in order to obtain what appears to be simple answers to basic questions, as has been my regrettable experience. In fact the 2009 file number (#39) that was assigned to my two recent Freedom of Information requests may suggest that over 40 questions have been submitted to the town through this last resort method of inquiry in order to hold the government accountable, but that is another question for another time.

After receiving no response following multiple weeks and multiple e-mails to the Town Clerk in which I was merely trying to understand a simple Council Procedure that appeared to have been potentially politically manipulated in order to serve the Mayor’s self interest, I felt compelled to file a Freedom of Information request on November 11th. You will note in the Freedom of Information response from the Town of Aurora, that there are no written procedures for editing the town’s website, therefore my initial reasons for concern in this instance appear to have been well founded.

The FOI response states that when material is posted on the town’s website at the direction of Council the “staff  generally requires direction from Council regarding the removal of the posting” and “The posting regarding the Code of Conduct complaint will be removed from the town’s website upon direction of Council.” 

Here-in lies the conundrum: how can Council ever contemplate the removal of the unsubstantiated and potentially politically motivated accusations posted on the town’s website attacking Councilor Evelyn Buck if, according to the Mayor, raising a motion to remove the material is considered to be “reconsideration” of an earlier motion posted the material in the first place ?  The Mayor’s handling of this issue at council strikes me as being not only indefensible but absurd.

It should not have required a response to an FOI request to come to this rather obvious conclusion given that the Mayor’s apparently broken logic was raised for discussion by Councillor McRoberts and Collins-Mrakas at the same time that numerous councillors stated for the record that they wanted to “move on” from the whole code of conduct issue, however true to form their comments were apparently ignored by the Mayor and her block of supporters.

I’m open to hearing all perspective related to this story, however based on the facts as I know them today this situation looks to me to be rather transparent and clear cut from my perspective.

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12 Responses to “Has Transparency Been Re-defined This Term?”

  1. Older than Dirt said

    I found the Phyliss Banner interesting today Dec 29.
    WOW, the council Christmas card was there, a little late. Must have been Gaertner putting the card in the paper.

    More interesting was the magazine,Aurora Living, put out by the Banner. In it the mayor says to residents that they will get everything they need in this magazine.
    It tells us about the Integrity Commissioner and says the following. ” In order to ensure the compliance with the Towwn of Aurora’s Code of Conduct for Members of Council and Code of Conduct for members of Committees and Boards, the Municipal Act permits council to appoint an Integrity Commissioner, Etc, ETc. and so on. Then it says “the Integrity Commissioner works to provide advice to members of COUNCIL regarding Code of Ethics, Performance Appraisals, good governance etc etc.

    Another couple of examples that this mayor and council know not what they are doing.
    Late Christmas card and an Integrity Commissioner who was fired for trying to guide the council to run a proper council.

    Please remember this October 25, 2010 and vote them all out of power

  2. Brickbat Returns said

    Citizen

  3. Luckywife said

    I just read an article in the Banner that states that Evelyn Buck’s lawsuit agains the GOS is being defended by the town insurance carrier. I’m curious as to why the insurance company would accept the case as each councillor is being sued individually, and HOW this decision was made. A resolution from council? I certainly saw no mention of it when watching the last council meeting. I would really like to know and also what is the town’s potential liability, how much will our insurance go up because of this and by extension our taxes, what punitive damages are there for the councillors if Buck wins and the town taxpayers pick up the tab and they get to walk away laughing without it costing them so much as a dime.

    • fed up said

      So my tax increase in going to help fund the defence of this rabble. There is no defence for what they have done. Slander is slander no matter how you spell it. Get rid of this infection in our town in Nov 2010

  4. Richard Johnson said

    The following very helpful information pertains to our municipal procedures concerning “reconsideration” of earlier council motions.

    Reconsideration:

    5.20 (a) After a resolution/By-law that determines the final outcome of a main motion has been enacted, Council may not reconsider or rescind such resolution/By-law for a period of six months, except in accordance with these provisions.

    (b) Any Member may give notice of a motion to reconsider or rescind a resolution/By-law.

    (c) Such notice may only be given during the New Business/General Information – Councillors section of a meeting and may relate to a resolution/By-law enacted during that meeting or at a prior meeting.

    (d) If the motion is seconded, Council may only enact such a motion by a two-thirds majority vote.

    (e) Where it is determined that a resolution/By-law shall be reconsidered, no further action shall be taken to carry into effect the affected resolution/By-law until after the motion to reconsider has been disposed of, either at the next regular meeting or at a special meeting called to consider the motion to reconsider.

    (f) No discussion of the affected resolution/By-law shall be allowed at a Council meeting where notice to reconsider is given, until Council has voted to reconsider the same, but the Member giving such notice shall have the privilege of stating the reasons for doing so.

    (d) When the affected resolution/By-law is reconsidered, either at the next regular meeting or at a special meeting, it shall be declared lost, unless passed by the majority of the Members present.

    (e) Once a resolution/By-law has been the subject of a motion to reconsider duly seconded and voted on, such resolution/By-law may not again be reconsidered until six months after its original enactment and no resolution to reconsider may itself be the subject of a motion to reconsider.

    LINK to full document:
    http://www.town.aurora.on.ca/aurora/index.aspx?ArticleID=1130&lang=en-CA

    • Anonymous said

      I noticed on your FOI response from the Town that Acting Town Clerk, Mr. Cooper, recorded Points of Order in his minutes of the September 15, 2009 meeting.

      I can’t say with certainty if Points of Order were recorded by the former Town Clerk, Lucille King, during the meeting at which Sher St. Kitts addressed council in open forum.

      Are Points of Order to be recorded? Or are just motions to be recorded in the minutes?

      I’m curious to see what the proper protocal is.

    • Richard Johnson said

      To Anonymous, December 17, 2009 at 11:01 pm

      The Town Clerk should answer your question with regards to council protocal.

      I am not sure if Mr. Cooper is still acting in that capacity but you might try and reach him at the following e-mail address: Ccooper@e-aurora.ca

      You can also leave a message at the Clerk’s office at the following phone number: 905-727-1375 ext. 4222

  5. Nigel Kean said

    I am glad to see that you are continuing to take up the torch and asking the right questions and following the right procedures to get answers about what is happening with this council.
    It is a disgrace that you and Sean need to go to this extreme to get information that should flow freely to residents of Aurora. To me it shows the lack of respect for the residents.The word Transparency should not be used by anyone in government unless the meaning is followed through and not hidden with misguided words.Town staff should be allowed to do their jobs and not controlled by council.
    The posting on the Town Web site regarding Councillor Buck should be removed immediately to allow the healing to begin.Now is the time, if the mayor and certain councillors are willing, to begin working together and try to, at least get through the last year of the term on a positive note.
    Richard, thank you again for this posting.

    • Brickbat Returns said

      How about an answer to my Question candidate ?

    • Anonymous said

      To Brickbat,
      Keana answered your question very well and said why he said what he said. He also has apologized to Jones,who really did not deserve an aplology.
      Why would you ask for a one word answer Yes or No when I think he did a great job answering in the past.
      Again to Brickbat,”yes” or “no” why do you care that much?? Who are you? One word only!!

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