Lack of In-camera Information = Lack of Transparency?

In its January 2012 Report, TOWN OF AMHERSTBURG – “BEHIND CLOSED DOORS,” the Ombudsman stated, paragraph 73:

“In my view, the council’s resolutions authorizing closed sessions, which were reviewed during this investigation were deficient and failed to provide adequate notice to the public, as well as individual members of council, as to the nature of the proposed subject matter and the justification for having an in camera meeting.”

Council’s resolutions today typically cite the applicable Municipal Act section; the June 28, 2021 SPECIAL IN-CAMERA COUNCIL MEETING Resolution# 20210628-210:

That Council move into an In-Camera Meeting of Council at 3: 34 p.m. pursuant to Section 239 of the Municipal Act, 2001, as amended for the following reasons:

Item A – Section 239(2)(d) – Labour relations or employee negotiations; and, Section 239(2)(f) – Advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose.

Item B – Section 239(2)(f) – Advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose.

Item C – Section 239(2)(i) – A trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial, financial or labour relations information, supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board, which, if disclosed, could reasonably be expected to prejudice significantly the competitive position, or interfere significantly with the contractual or other negotiations of a person, group of persons, or organization.

Item D – Section 239(2)(c) – A proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of the land by the municipality or local board.

Clerk Valerie Critchley’s Response:

Regarding the In Camera Minutes, you noted examples from June 28, 2021, August 8, 2021, August 16, 2021, August 25, 2021, September 13, 2021, September 16, 2021, November 16, 2021 and December 13, 2021. I would note that the November 16, 2021 and December 13, 2021 minutes have not yet been approved by Council and will be on an upcoming Agenda.

With respect to the other meetings, s. 239(4)  of the Municipal Act  states that:

s. 239(4) Before holding a meeting or part of a meeting that is to be closed to the public, a municipality shall state by resolution:

(a)   the fact of the holding of the closed meeting and the general nature of the matter to be considered at the closed meeting.

As a result, Notice is given in the manner that you have set out below and a resolution is passed which cites the allowable exception pursuant to the Municipal Act which the Municipality is relying on to move camera. That allowable exception also serves to provide the “general nature of the matter to be considered”.

Further, sections 239(5) (6) and (7)  Municipal Act states as follows:

s. 239(5) Subject to subsection (6), a meeting shall not be closed to the public during the taking of a vote;

s. 239(6) Despite section 244, a meeting may be closed to the public during the taking of a vote if,

(a) subsection (2) or (3) permits or requires the meeting to be closed to the public; and

(b) the vote is for a procedural matter or for giving directions or instructions to officers, employees or agents of the municipality, local board or committee or either of them or persons retained by or under a contract with the municipality or local board.

VOTE October 24, 2022 – hold candidates accountable.

Lack of Link = Lack of Transparency?

Residents notified me of the lack of links to view meetings and I verified the town’s calendar page for the February 28 regular council meeting did not contain a video link.

It’s worth repeating, as mentioned in the post, No Link To Committee Meetings Workaround, how is transparency possible if people are unaware of a workaround to the lack of the town’s posting the links.

The Town’s Amherstburg’s Transparency and Accountability Policy contains definitions: 4.8.  Transparency means how outside parties, such as the public, are able to observe how the decisions of Council, Staff, Committees and Local Boards are made. The Town of Amherstburg actively encourages and fosters stakeholder engagement in its decision making process.

LASALLE YOUTUBE CHANNEL – town residents can view council and some committee meetings, just like some other municipalities in the province.

the burg watch is 8 years old

Eight years ago, the burg watch was the first site to create a permanent record of council’s performance as a reminder to voters heading to polls.

Early posts were about council’s contravention of the Municipal Act following the Ombudsman Review Of Closed Meeting, flip flops and a lack of commitment to accessibility.

In 2014, the burg watch provided an historic opportunity for residents to question the candidates directly. Despite being threatened with legal action and negative comments, I feel it was a worthwhile endeavour even if not everyone responded as that indicates, to me, their future behaviour.

In 2018, posts referenced another Ombudsman’s Report of council’s and the JPAC’s contravention regarding in camera meetings on the Policing RFP and council’s decision to choose Windsor Police Service without obtaining an OPP costing as promised.

Thank you to those who support the burg watch.

Meloche Wants Deputy Mayor Seat

The River Town Times’ write up on Current Councillor Leo Meloche states Meloche believes he has the leadership skills and decision-making ability to be deputy mayor.

Like DiCarlo, Meloche acknowledged the controversial policing issue; Meloche voted to have Windsor Police takeover policing the community.

According to the RTT article, Meloche said Essex had $3.9 million in policing costs in 2018 as compared to Amherstburg’s $5.8 million.

“Yes, we get a higher level of policing but what we need to look at is are we really getting value for the difference,” he said.

“Overall, we thought it’s a good deal for Amherstburg as a whole,” he said, noting there are $14 million in potential savings over the next 20 years.

DiCarlo’s Objectives For Second Term

The River Town Times started reporting on the candidates that have registered so far. Current Mayor Aldo DiCarlo’s write up mentions some objectives, along with the controversial 20 year policing contract with Windsor Police.

The article concludes with this quote, “My simple message is if you like what you’ve seen the last three-and-a-half years, expect more of the same,” he said. “If not, don’t vote for me because plan to continue with what I’ve been doing.”

Ward System Needed?

During the 2014 municipal election campaign, the burg watch invited readers to submit questions to the candidates, one of which was Question 28: Amherstburg seems to have an unusually high amount of staff for its size and population; do you think the town has grown to the point that a ward system would better serve the residents?

Although Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale did not answer the question, the River Town Times now reports that DiPasquale is once again trying to see what the level of interest is in bringing in a ward system to Amherstburg; his notice of motion will be brought forth to council as a motion during the March 23 meeting.

What do you think?

reminder: this and any other polls are for entertainment purposes

Should Council Accept 0% Salary Increase?

According to the Windsor Star, “Currently, the mayor is paid $26,872 per year, while the deputy mayor receives $18,413 and councillors are paid $15,936 in base salary. They are also provided with a $1,500 discretionary fund to assist with the costs of phones, computers, publications and other requirements of the job.”

November 3 Council Meeting On, Off, On And Off Again

Commentary by Linda Saxon

An October 20 post that the November 3 meeting would be held was subsequent to a petition to Paula Parker to call a special meeting following Mayor Wayne Hurst’s postponement of meetings.

A day later, the town posted a notice on its website that the November 3 meeting was postponed and rescheduled to Monday, November 17, 2014.

Are the Municipal Act and the town’s procedural by-law both not being complied with? Both are quite clear and specifically contain a mandatory clause for when the clerk shall call a meeting:

Section 240. of the Act: Subject to the procedure by-law passed under section 238,
(b) upon receipt of a petition of the majority of the members of council, the clerk shall call a special meeting for the purpose and at the time mentioned in the petition.

Procedural By-Law Section 9. b) the clerk shall summon a special meeting upon receipt of a petition of the majority of the council members for the purpose and at the time and date mentioned in the petition.

The issue is not the Mayor’s postponement, but who is making decisions that circumvent Council members’ legislated authority to call a Special Meeting and what will be done about it.

Craig Pearson, The Windsor Star, reports CAO Miceli also said that, after discussing the councillors’ petition with a town lawyer, he determined a special meeting was not warranted. “I advised all the members of council that calling for a special meeting is not to deal with regular town business,” Miceli said. “It’s to deal with special issues. What they (the councillors) proposed to discuss at that meeting did not meet the criteria for a special meeting.”

Special meetings of council 2014 were held to consider issues ranging from zoning by-law amendments and drain improvements to the Sale of Shares Offer from Entegrus Inc.

Since there is no criteria for a special meeting in either the Municipal Act or Procedural By-Law, and since both contain clear language, I would argue that there is no basis whatsoever for any objection to a majority of council calling a special meeting.