Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Committee Appointments

Posted by auroracitizen on December 10, 2010

A reader submitted a comment that started us thinking (which is always a scary thought). They were enquiring about committee appointments.

How did Mr. Ballard manage to be on 4 committees when others who applied (my husband included) were brushed off with nothing more than a curt note from the clerk? Wouldn’t it make sense to broaden citizen participation with more diverse experience, knowledge and expertise rather than concentrate it into the chosen few? I hope the process changes this year. We are being short-changed if it is the same old few monopolizing all the committees.

The question for discussion is how should committee members be appointed in the future. What should the process be?

In the past, public notice was made of any opportunities and confidential applications were reviewed in camera by Council. Selections made and announced publicly.

Folks who applied, but were not chosen were not disclosed so people were not offended or embarrassed by not being chosen. But at the same time, there is no opportunity for public scrutiny to confirm that no favouritism was shown or that the best people received the appointment.

The issue was one of how the decisions were made in camera. Were the most appropriate people chosen? Was Council fair and impartial in their selections or was favouritism shown?

Councillor Ballard has been and continues to align himself with Phyllis Morris and her initiatives. When there is an appearance of favouritism it adds a stink to the air that is not helpful to anyone and breeds resentment on all sides — because suddenly there are sides versus working together for the benefit of the community.

To avoid any perception of favouritism and to demonstrate leadership in this area Mayor Dawe clearly stated in his election campaign that none of his key supporters would be appointed to any committees.

This term, a small group populates a disproportionate share of committees. The Town is not leveraging the diverse population to get the broadest input. I commit to encouraging diverse participation and will not support the selection of any of my key campaign team to any Town committee.

He subsequently listed his key campaign team on his website as part of his election thank you’s. So you can quickly tell if any are appointed to any committees.

We fully expect that he will honour this commitment. We are also confident readers will report if they see any conflict with this commitment. It’s pretty transparent from where we sit.

The fact that he felt the need to make this type of commitment suggests his view of past appointments, but does not implicate the process itself.

During his inaugural comments, Councillor Gallo made reference that politicians are held to a higher standard. We agree. They are in a position of public trust. It’s not just what they do, but how they are seen to do it. The commitment to simply not appoint any favourites to committees resets the bar and clarifies his position.

But the question still remains, what is best process for making committee appointments  — so it is seen to be fair and transparent by all members of the community.

And in this case, is there a loss to the town? In an effort to make sure the process is seen to be fair and impartial, potentially valued resources are precluded from participation because they were part of Mayor Dawes campaign team.

Your thoughts?

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18 Responses to “Committee Appointments”

  1. Stephen Forsey said

    This issue was a very important one in the campaign for a lot of reasons that have already been discussed here.

    As some of you may know, I was Sport Aurora’s representative to LSAC for a little less than half of the last term. An experience I did enjoy as it was my first involvement on a town committee. However in keeping with Mayor Dawe’s promise that no one from his core campaign team would be eligible to serve on any of those committees, immediately after the election I tendered my resignation to the Sport Aurora executive which was accepted. While I am aware of the fact that I was appointed to that position by Sport Aurora and not by the previous council, I felt it best to take the “high road” in order to avoid any possible questions of conflict.

    When the time comes I would encourage any one that has an interest in providing input on any number of the committees to make application. It is a very constructive method of getting involved at a high level.

    • Winter's comin' said

      Steve … I can appreciate your position. However, our town is losing value added here. The Mayor needs to address this with council. This is not in the best interests of running our community. … wc

  2. Winter's comin' said

    … Ladies et al, I think we’re all on the same page. GD, are you listening? IMO, to make this work, structure needs to be brought into the committee selection. Start fresh, post the requirements (incl backgrounds, commitment and long hours), then select from the responses. If a vacancy happens, let the public know about it. There maybe some new kids on the block by then or “oldies” who are now up for the challenge of committee work. Voila. … wc

  3. Grace Marsh said

    Additional Comment: One thing I don’t recall was any discussion on how “replacements” would be appointed if someone did not complete the two year (with renewal option) term. It’s possible that could be how C Ballard ended up on more than one committee. As residents moved on for various reasons, I don’t recall seeing ads for new applications. Likely there were appointees from amoung the faithful. Maybe Alison or Bob could offer some comments on that, since I obviously wasn’t there for those decisions. Perhaps that is “when the games truly began”.

  4. Grace Marsh said

    Here is what I recall about the process last term. It was done very early in the term while most of the new Councillors (me included) were still trying to figure out which way was up.

    I don’t believe we were provided with the applications in advance of the closed meeting. I could be wrong on that though. We were receiving mountains of paper on a myriad of subjects, some ahead of meetings, some not.

    In any event, what I do recall is Council sitting in the “back room” with just the Clerk and CAO present looking through applications. It was late (likely somewhere between 10pm and 1am). Not much time was allowed for real scrutiny. 9 people, all with a new sense of “power” making comments like “I know her, she’s a nice lady” or “I’ve met him and didn’t like him”, “this ones a lawyer, is that a good thing?” I think you get the idea.

    A bunch of unqualified, newly elected people, being influenced by remarks that may or may not have been relevant to the positions to be filled. I do recall some “rule” being cited about not allowing anyone who had already served two previous terms not being permitted to serve again. In hindsight the purpose of that may have been to eliminate those appointed by the previous Mayor/Council but early on, that was not as clear as it eventually became.

    In the interest of moving forward with a better process here are some suggestions:

    1. Have all the applications reviewed by the Town’s HR experts first and ranked in terms of qualifications, and then presented to Council, in a closed session for obvious privacy reasons.

    2. Have that same HR person at the meeting to answer questions about the ranking and qualifications.

    3. Have unsuccessful candiates confidentially notified, again by the HR experts as to why they were not chosen.

    4. In a public meeting, announce not only who was chosen but what qualifications they had that lead to their being chosen.

    5. Do not eliminate anyone – no matter who’s campaign they may have supported – but instead, simply choose the best qualified people (with the help of those who have formal training in making those determinations).

    • Elizabeth Bishenden said

      Hmm… I have to disagree about choosing those with the “best qualifications”.

      Does that represent the community?

      Instead choose a group of people who have lived in Aurora for a long time, for a few years, and who are new to town. Choose business people, educators, social activists, and some folks who have no formal qualifications but who love Aurora.

      Choose them because they’ve been involved in other volunteer efforts in the past, not because they’ve served on other Town committees.

      Then give them an orientation session about what their committee does, what the parameters are, and what that committee’s strat plan sets out for the future. Then they’ll start bringing in new ideas that will challenge both the Town Staff and the Council.

      Then set them free and see what they see in our Town. They’ll tell Council, and Council can decide.

      The Town of Aurora isn’t a game. It’s a fantastic community.

      I suggest joining in.

  5. fed up said

    “Let the games being” OH, sorry that statement has already been used this week>

    • Winter's comin said

      … Fedup, patience is a virtue. The games are within. Why not promote the positive?!! Voice your opinion and move fwd. I am sure GD could use the support and encouragement. … wc

    • fed up said

      There is nothing positive re: Ballard–there is history here–well known from the past–not to be trusted–GD has had and will continue to have my full support–it is Ballard that I do not trust

    • October Came, Thanks were Given said

      Yes, Councilors Ballard, Gaertner and to a degree Gallo will have to work under a microscope for now based on their past affiliations with the MorMac regime.

      I’m willing to cut them some slack, but how they approach some of the issues created last term that now need to be addressed should tell me how they will fare at the table this term. Code of conduct complaints and lawsuit funding issues will show which way the stripes run on the tigers.

      For instance was participation, or lack thereof, in the recent Neighbourhood Network breakfast meeting a barometer?

  6. veritas said

    I agree with WC that unsuccessful candidates should have a reasonable explantion of why they were not selected rather than just a note from the town clerk, notifying them of their rejection; somebody else was chosen. The ads for committee volunteers, when I applied, listed the required credentials and background experience. In my case, I responded by submitting my resume which verified that I had the appropriate experience and knowledge. I think that while unsuccessful candidates may not wish to publish their rejection, we could at least be provided with a resume of the successful candidate so that we, the residents, would have a clear idea of why their experience and expertise pointed to their selection.
    I feel VERY strongly that no applicant should be selected for more than one committee, therefore ensuring that we are fishing in a much wider pool. I don’t buy the argument that there are not always many applicants from which to choose. That still does not justify limiting participation to a very select few as we saw in the last term. Perhaps it should even be that each applicant can only apply for one committee, i.e. the one that best matches their credentials.
    I highly doubt that Mr. Ballard was the best candidate for 4 different committees or that he had the required credentials for 4 different committees, the operative word being different and therefore requiring different skill sets. You know what they say: Jack of all trades, master of none. Seems to me that we got a “Jack” instead of a master on some of those 4 committees.

  7. Brian Duff said

    The best people for the job should be appointed. Period. An open invitation to apply. All applications are held to be confidential and the appointees named after a proper vetting process. The names of those who were unsuccessful should never be known. I have been asked several times if I was going to apply to a committee or two and my response is always the same. I may apply and if I am the best choice and the council feel I would contribute in a positive way then Yes please appoint me. If there are other people who are more qualified or bring a different viewpoint to a committee then by all means appoint them instead. I fully support Mayor Dawe and his initiatives. It is unfortunate that some of his key supporters will not have the chance to sit on committees this term but the majority of them that I have met are quality people who will help in the community in other ways over the next four years and if they feel so compelled will have the chance to seek appointment next term. It is about our town not ourselves. Most of us understand that…

    • Elizabeth Bishenden said

      Geoff said that he wouldn’t support the appointment of key members of his campaign team to committees.

      They can still apply and be appointed, because all Councillors have a say in the appointment process.

      What’s great, though, is that the first qualification to being appointed to a committee isn’t having a particular political affiliation.

  8. Winter's comin said

    If I understand the intent of our committees and committee structure, they operate in the public/town interest. Therefore there is no question in my mind, committee selection must be transparent. No secret appts. The rules of engagement need to be clear and published. If you are interested and not selected, you should know why. GD, be prepared to say so. To me, credentials are at issue, including experience and general interest. I don’t really care where the appointees come from (I would hope that members of the previous council, elected or not or GD’s supporters were among those considered) – as long as the selection process is fair and objective and the appointees are effective in carrying out their roles. If not, the Mayor and/or the public should be able to bounce them and move on. Let’s get back to being the open and inviting town we are famed for. Aurora needs the Aura back. GD, you promised us this, over to you to make it happen. … wc.

    • Kelli said

      I totally agree with you wc! I believe that if you are interested in representing the public, then you should not shy away from that fact that you may just not have been the best person for the job. But – we should all know who applies, all know who is selected and on which criteria they were considered the top pick.

      When everything is out in the open then there is less speculation and concern.

      I will say – let’s give Mr. Mayor a little more then one week to regain Aurora’s “aura”. Much like our counterparts in the US wanting their president to solve all the worlds issues and create a prosperous, happy country in the worst possible time ever, and do it NOW … give our Mayor a chance, let him get in and get working before we make demands of his magic wand of repairing all the damage immediately, the damage that took years to create will take more than a week or two to change and heal.

      Breathe everyone…… breathe …..

  9. Hey guys. Unfortunately I’ve been very busy since the election and have had little time to comment here or even on my own blog. After Xmas, life should be a little saner again and I will be able to participate more fully. I did want to comment on this post though, so I’m making some time.

    Transparency in government is extremely important. All politicians give it lip service. Few actually follow through. When transparency is foist upon them, such as is currently happening in the States with Wikileaks, the politicians start calling for head to roll. Both figuratively and literally.

    There is no reason that a person applying to an advisory committee should not have their application made public. In fact there is no other way to ensure that the best person is being picked and the committee is not being stacked with loyalists. I am hopeful that the new council will make it so. If you do not like having your resume scrutinized by the public, then perhaps life on a public committee is not for you.

    Advisory committees are important. They bring perspective from the community of people who are not as close to the machinery as the politicians and staff are, and hopefully have experience and knowledge which will help form good advise. The advice they give is only going to be worth as much as the people on them. David Suzuki on the Environmental Advisory Committee would give the advise from this committee significant weight. Former BP CEO Tony Hayward, not so much.

    As for Mayor Dawes commitment not to put key supporters on any committees, I applauded his attempt to both act, and appear to act, without favouritism. That is to say; while he could in all sincerity feel that a member of his campaign team was the best person for the job, by not putting them on a committee, there is no way that he can be accused of any favouritism towards his friends.

    Having said that, I would not be adverse to some of his supporters being on committees, but I would say that the bar for them will necessarily be much higher in order to counter any accusations of favouritism. It is much the same as I find with my own kids in Scouting for whom I need to ask just that little bit more so that the other kids do not cry fowl costing both myself and my kids some lost respect from the other. I’m sure any hockey or soccer coaches here would probably say something similar.

    BTW. I said it on my website, but I did not say it here. Thank you to everybody who came out and voted on election day, and who took time to talk to me while I was campaigning. This was my first election experience of any kind, and (being a slightly introverted person) I was a little unsure about how I would feel approaching total strangers. I actually had fun, which I wasn’t really expecting at all in the beginning.

    Oh and for all those people who were asking me who my choice for mayor was. I’ll tell you now. I voted for Miloslav. I think he campaigned with the most integrity of any of the candidates. He had important issues that he wanted to raise the profile of, (and which I generally agreed with) and without any expectation of actually winning the seat, he spent a massive amount of time pounding the streets to talk to people. I thought it was important to help him get 2% of the vote so that at least he could get his registration money back.

    Cheers,
    Darryl

  10. JOHN H SARGENT said

    Read a letter about committees appointments yet not see were it who it came from???..There has not been a regular council meeting yet.. Not sure how appointments come about or are made yet. I do know that in this fine country of ours ,right people not always get the position, re government jobs,firemen, police and non profit groups for one reason or the other do a so called viewed minority,ETC..In my view police and firemen should be hired from the top of the class for the best one for position,,IN government jobs so called whites are now already the so called minority, yet nothings changes in hiring process..As for not for profit groups if they figure you to out spoken or truthful on social issues your chances of getting on committees or board are slim to none,no matter how valuable you are to them in a working sense,Are all these issues fair or just political correct..So in closing i guess this will make a good discussion and in the end after committees selection not all will be happy .. JOHN S

    • Elizabeth Bishenden said

      John, just to clarify…

      The committee appointments in this thread are not for employment. They are for people to volunteer their time to help shape the kind of community we have.

      There are a variety of committees, such as the Leisure Services Advisory Committee, the Fire Safety Committee, the Environmental Advisory Committee, and the Economic Development Advisory Committee that work with Staff to develop policies for Council.

      The Aurora Public Library Board, which is a governance board for the library, is also appointed by Council.

      I’ve been a member of the APL Board for the last four years. It’s been a great learning experience for me, as well as a chance to do something that helps the community.

      I’d encourage anyone who is interested in a particular aspect of our community to apply for the committee or board work. It isn’t always easy, and it is often time consuming (which is a reason why no one would want to be on four committees!) but it is worth every minute!

      To apply, see the town website: http://www.e-aurora.ca/aurora/index.aspx?ArticleID=48&lang=en-CA . The info there is still for 2006-2010, but I am sure it will be updated shortly.

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