Transparency And Accountability

Two words used ad nauseam by candidates during election campaigns.

The Town of Amherstburg’s website includes a page on council meeting information and it states “Municipal governments in Ontario have to be transparent and accountable. The provincial government has set the rules for Council, local board, or a committee to go into closed meeting. These rules are found in section 239 of the Municipal Act, 2001 (add link to Act).” Not surprisingly, there is no link. There is a link on the same page to a pdf of the 2014 council meeting schedule.

Navigating the town’s website for Agendas

To get to the page mentioned above, click on the Town Hall tab, then Clerks Department on the left sidebar, then Council Meetings, then the Agendas link on the left sidebar; there is a link listed under Council meeting dates that directs you to a completely different meeting calendar. Under each council meeting date, there is a ‘read more‘ link where, presumably, one would find more to read. However, the only additional information on that page is a map – the date and time are listed twice. And, because the map is included in the Visitor tab, you have to go back twice to return to the Agendas section to find the list of 2014 to 2009 Agendas.

If you click on the Link to 2014 Regular Council Meeting Agendas in PDF Format – Laserfiche, you will find three folders and if you click on the regular council folder, you can access this year’s agendas, including two supplementary agendas by Phipps relative to the financial audit: March 24, 2014 and July 14, 2014.

Navigating the town’s website for Minutes

The link in Minutes on the left sidebar of the Clerks Department directs you to:

Play Live Recording of Council Meetings from September 12, 2011 to April 22, 2014, but people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing will encounter barriers; besides, it’s July.

The Link to archived Regular and In Camera Council meeting minutes in Laserfiche will direct you to folders from 1998 to 2014. Click on 2014 to find a Regular and Special Council Folder. Click on Regular to find:
2014 01 20 Regular Council Meeting Minutes
2014 02 03 Regular Council Meeting Minutes
2014 02 18 Regular Council Meeting Minutes

The Link to all other Council minutes in Laserfiche repeats the three folders and links above.

Navigating Leamington’s Website

From the home page, click on the municipal services tab; there is one link on the left sidebar to Agendas, Meetings and Minutes where you can view the current Council Agenda, right on the page in HTML format Including links to reports from staff.

You also have the option of selecting any date back to January of this year to download the agenda and the minutes from that page; upcoming meetings direct you to a map and an option to add to Outlook.

Improvements Still Needed For Amherstburg’s Website

Since September 2002, I have appeared before town council, the town’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, sent emails to the town’s IT Department/staff and have written letters to the editor regarding the need for an accessible website. Dave Carpenter, Manager of Information Technology, assured me twice that a new website was being launched and would comply with web accessibility standards and informed council the site was standard compliant in July 2007. I provided site check results indicating the site failed minimum standards: one in June 2008 and another in January 2009 after the launch of the newly designed site.

CAO Pamela Malott advised me in June 2008, “We will post our Amherstburg Accessibility Advisory Committee Minutes and Agendas in text format as well as PDF format on a go forward basis.” Not surprisingly, this was not done. (There’s only one folder with minutes from January 2014 anyway). Additionally, it is an attitudinal barrier to assume that persons with disabilities are only interested in accessibility.

The Towns of Essex and Leamington launched new websites last year and the County of Essex and the Town of LaSalle are currently redesigning their sites. What is Amherstburg doing about its website? Is it still not a priority? Can the town not afford it?

Lack of accessibility aside, transparency and accountability is not possible if documents are buried in a stack of links and are not updated.

Commentary by Linda Saxon