By Mike Archer. Last week we asked if it was appropriate for Council’s Task Force on Homelessness to be meeting in secret on the very day the homeless were being evacuated from the Happy Tree camp across from the Salvation Army.
While Councillor John Smith chose to ignore our request for information, his co-chair, Patricia Ross responded but never quite got around to explaining why the meeting had to be secret. Deputy Manager Jake Rudolph told us, ““The three elements I went over with the City Clerk were essentially land, labour and law, issues. For example, there are issues around the subject of a homeless coordinator (which you have mentioned in previous emails) which require discretion. I can have the Clerk’s Department be very specific if you like but the concept was to anticipate topics which might come up that fall under the category of appropriate for Closed.”
My response; “Anticipating topics which might come up that fall under the category of appropriate for a closed meeting at some later date seems to be a rather broad interpretation of the Community Charter and it seems to leave the decision to meet secretly open to an enormous amount of interpretation.”
Those three elements – land, law, personnel – have, in many jurisdictions, simply become catch phrases which are routinely used when politicians want to be able to discuss things away from the prying eyes of their bosses – the public.
Councillor Henry Braun has railed against the seem ease with which council and its committees slip in and out of closed session and has pledged to curtail the practice if elected mayor.
Mayor Bruce Banman has made ‘transparency’ one of the things he claims to have brought to City governance during his term as mayor.
How many other secret meetings get called based on the “land, personnel, law” trifecta when our councillors choose to meet secretly?
Well here’s one:
So Much For Transparency
To qualify, by my understanding of the Charter, and the boxes checked off to justify it above, this meeting must be about municipal service negotiations over a piece or pieces of land, which may or may not include the land on which City Hall sits (because after all – they aren’t meeting in the sky), in which a staff member, or future staff member, or past staff member (or imaginary staff member?), may, or may not be personally involved … or might be in the future, or not depending on your definition of the word ‘may’.
We asked both the City Manager and the Deputy City Manager:
a) If this was a correct interpretation of the Charter or of the City’s own policy
b) If there would be a reporting after the meeting as to the subject matter and any decisions taken
More importantly, to quoted a hackneyed old phrase, “Is it the right thing to do?” When Abbotsford citizens, who are not even allowed speaking to council with giving them two weeks written notice, is faced with notices like the one above, merely announcing, for no reason they are porepared to share with us, they are going to have a secret meeting, citizens have every right to know why.
We’ve received no response from either city official..
So much for transparency. So much for open, democratic government.
Thanks for changing things at City Hall Bruce.