Town council considering eliminating two committees, combining two others

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A motion to combine the parks committee with the recreation and culture committee as well to eliminate the economic development committee and audit and finance committee has failed.

However, it doesn’t appear the issue is dead.

The motion lost thanks to a tie vote at the most recent meeting of town council with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo voting in favour along with councillors Rick Fryer and Diane Pouget. Opposing the motion were Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and councillors Leo Meloche and Joan Courtney.

Councillor Jason Lavigne was not in attendance at the July 10 meeting.

The issue may be brought back for a reconsideration at a future meeting.

In a report to town council, clerk Paula Parker said her department was directed by CAO John Miceli to attend most committee and board meetings in 2016 to “for the purpose of providing procedural advice and to assess and address committee inconsistencies.”

Among the concerns they noted were that agendas were not posted to meet notice requirements as per the town’s approved procedural by-law, agenda templates are not consistent, agendas are not being published with supporting materials, chairs tend make motions, chairs tend to lead the meeting, there is no disclosure of pecuniary interest asked at the start of meetings, procedural rules are not being followed for delegates, no deferral motions, motions are too vague, minutes are not recorded as per Municipal Act requirements, minute templates are not consistent and recommendations/reports to council are inconsistent.

“The recent amendments to the Municipal Act add additional requirements and limitations to committees of council, if these concerns are not addressed, the town will be non-compliant with the Municipal Act and possibly the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act,” Parker stated in her report.

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Training was conducted for committee chairs in March 2017 but concerns were raised that they volunteer their time and should not have the same knowledge of the Municipal Act as the clerk’s department.

Staff liaisons were also provided additional training.

The staff liaison is now required to understand and follow parliamentary procedure and its supporting legislation. It is important to note that the clerk’s department has specialized knowledge in this area and is current with all legislative changes, the clerk is also charged with the responsibility of ensuring that all procedural rules and legislation are followed at all times. With this said, it is difficult to expect all staff members of the administrative team to know all the nuances of this specific task and as a result increases the potential risk of non-compliance,” Parker added in her report.

Parker said information was requested from the staff liaisons with respect to the function of each committee in preparation of her report that went before town council July 10. Some concerns that were brought forward include cancellation of meetings due to difficulties achieving quorum, absence of council representation, cancellation of meetings due to failure to meet notice requirements, committees moving motions that do not comply with their mandate, committees moving motions to eliminate portions of their council adopted mandate, committees challenging council decisions and committees supporting initiatives that require additional staff time that is not available within the time allotted recently by council.

Pouget said people on the committees work hard and try to give the best advice they can to council. She was concerned about whether committee members had been notified.

Meloche questioned whether town council has worked with its committees enough.

“I don’t think council has really engaged the committees,” he said, adding he believes there has been some “disconnect” between council and the committees.

Meloche didn’t object to dissolving the audit and finance committee, noting it is difficult to get a quorum for those meetings, nor did he oppose combining the the recreation and culture committee with the parks committee. He did not want to see the economic committee meeting be disbanded, noting they meet regularly and try to further economic development in the town.

DiCarlo called it “an issue of resources for the town” and that the recommendation to dissolve the committees was not personal against the committee members.

“Administration is also having a pretty tough time keeping up,” said the mayor.

DiCarlo added after the meeting he didn’t recall the Deloitte report saying the town had to have the audit and finance and economic development committees, believing the report gave guidance on what to do and what the town should be doing. He said the town is now moving in the right direction and that momentum could be continued without the committees.

“As much as we brought the committees in to move the town forward with accountability and transparency, I think we’ve achieved that in a lot of areas,” said DiCarlo.

DiCarlo reiterated concerns over resources and quorum, noting there are no “extra bodies” in the clerk’s department.

Economic development advisory committee chair Bob Rozankovic said that committee has only had one instance in three years where they failed to have quorum and that it is run well in terms of policy and procedures.

“The sword of Damocles still hangs over our heads,” Rozankovic said after the meeting.

Rozankovic believes there are certain council members who don’t like the committee and the issue of dissolving the committee “is somewhat of a petulant reaction” by those members.

“We’ve challenged them and, personally, I don’t think they like that.”

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