Here are 3 articles published in the Mud Creek News. We copy them as sent to us by Mr. Daniels but formatting differs. We have inserted a couple of comments. These are in red and identified.
MUD CREEK NEWS MARCH 2011
March 21 Town Council 7:30 p.m.
March 24 Community Development Committee 7:00 p.m.
April 4 Committee of Council (Question Period) 1:30 p.m.
LET’S GO ON A HOLIDAY (FROM GOOD GOVERNANCE)
At the February 7th Committee of Council meeting I asked when Council had made a decision to allow CAO Brideau to take an eight week holiday. His contract allowed him four weeks per year and carry over of two weeks from the prior year. First the mayor answered no council decision needed to have been made; he had the authority to authorize the 8 weeks. The meeting was breaking up when Councilor Oldham whispered to the Mayor. The Mayor then “corrected” himself, saying that council had in fact made a decision. When I asked if the Mayor could tell me at which Council meeting that decision had been made, he said he could. I said I had reviewed Council minutes from the previous six months and saw no such action taken. Rachel Turner, then acting CAO, said the decision had been made in camera and the Mayor had been given given instructions. The Council can provide instructions to “staff” in in camera sessions, according to Ms. Turner. The Mayor, however, is not a member of “staff.”
We now are told that the Council has accepted Mr. Brideau’s resignation. He will be away until the end of March and his last day of work will be April 15th. He will be working from Florida two days a week and that because Ms. Turner is a candidate for the CAO position, Mr. Morrison has been named acting CAO by Mr. Brideau. (I assume Mr. Brideau made that decision during one of those days he was functioning as CAO.)
Here are some of the duties of the CAO set out in Chapter 59 of the Town’s Bylaws, aptly entitled “Chief Administrative Officer.” S.3(a) “administer the day to day business affairs of all the departments of the Town in accordance with the policies and plans approved by Council.” (f) “maintain close contact with senior staff to facilitate the flow of information and policies and to maintain coordination of Town government.” (q) “supervise the performance of all contracts or agreements entered into by the Town and ensure that all the conditions relating thereto have been fulfilled in accordance with the provisions of such contracts or agreements . . .” (s) “be the official liaison between Council and the administrative staff.”
Section 5 of the bylaw provides that “[w]ith the exception of general information inquiries, Council shall communicate with the administrative staff of the Town solely through the CAO.”
Here are some questions for the Mayor and/or Council:
Assuming Councilor Oldham’s recollection is accurate, at what council meeting did the Council make the decision to grant Mr. Brideau 8 weeks holiday?
When Council made that decision, did it consider the well-being of the Town to be without its CAO for 8 straight weeks during the budget writing time?
If, as Councilor Oldham seemed to believe, the decision to grant the CAO 8 weeks vacation was made by Council, has council now rescinded that decision and allowed the CAO to act as CAO two days a week while on his holiday? If so, at what Council meeting was that decision made?
Does Council think that Mr. Brideau can adequately carry out his legal obligations from afar?
When Mr. Brideau is working as CAO and getting paid as CAO, is Mr. Morrison no longer the Acting CAO?
[Some of these questions were asked at the Question period after the Committee of Council meeting on March 7 but little was learned. The mayor it seemed had all the Councillors buttoned down tight. He had the role of “answering” if you can call his responses answers. Basically his answer was “move along, nothing to see here.” See further on this below. Ww ]
At the February 21, 2011 Council meeting, which I attended, Council approved a policy amendment which provides that audio recordings of the committee of council meetings and council meetings be placed on the town’s website.
The 2009 Core Principles of Governance include: “The communication process will be open, efficient, effective and accountable to the citizens of Wolfville and will strive to involve them in their local government.”
Councilor Irving proposed an amendment which would place the audio recordings of all town committee meetings on the website.
Councilor Simpson spoke against the amendment, claiming that it would be inappropriate for the committee he chairs, the RCMP Advisory Board, to have recordings of its meetings on the website. He argued that what was said at the RCMP Advisory Board committee meetings was somehow special and the recordings should not be placed on the Town’s website.
Matters relating to public security may be dealt with in a closed session of the committee. MGA s. 22(2)(h). There is no reason why other matters should not be placed on the website.
As was mentioned several times during the discussion, all committee meetings are open to the public, and of course media cannot be excluded nor prevented from writing what they hear. So Councillor Simpson needs to explain what is being discussed in an open meeting which should not be readily available to the public over the internet. Indeed, one could argue that the public should be better informed if safety and policing issues are being discussed.
One argument mentioned against placing the recordings on the internet are that comments can be taken out of context. But doesn’t that happen when the print media, for lack of space, just quotes a few juicy lines. Placing the recordings on the internet, where the entire meeting can be heard, where the context can be made clear, seems to make sense.
A compromise was reached in which each committee could decide whether to place audio recordings of its meetings on the website.
[It was seemingly unclear from the discussion that day that Council had already agreed that Council meeting audio would be placed on the website. The discussion that day about putting audio on line was , so we heard from people in attendance, negative and Mr. Irving’s amendment to include all committee minutes was defeated, replaced with one that gave committees the option not to have their minutes accessible this way. Mr. Zimmerman has given us a copy of the policy which clarifies the issue and audio is now on line in mp3 format for a Feb. 24 committee meeting and the March 7 CoC meetings. This is a step forward, a boon to those of us who cannot get to meetings. There are still many shortcomings – largely because Council has already emasculated the meeting process so that questions and input from residents have been restricted, and sidelined – but we are hopeful with a different, more open and more courageous group of Councillors, and/or a new mayor, this will eventually prove a benefit to residents. We encourage readers to listen to these proceedings and especially to question period which can be heard at the end of the March 7 meeting audio. The mayor just can’t help showing his true colours and ruining what otherwise might have been deemed (by those not in the know) a civil exchange. He called Mr. Becker silly. We guess, then, he won’t mind us when we call him silly. Ww]
CLOCK PARK DECISION
At the February 27, 2011 Council meeting, the Council voted to move forward with the clock park. The proposal is to cost $150,000.00. Councilor Irving proposed an amendment to limit the cost to the Town to the money then contained in the reserve account. At the February 7th Committee of Council meeting, I recall seeing that the reserve account contained 115,000.00. At the Council meeting, the amount listed was $120,000.00. The discrepancy was not explained. The Mayor believed that any extra money could be made up by donations of money or in kind services.
All articles have been written by David A. Daniels.