Today’s Council priority-setting meeting was postponed “due to an unforeseen and significant event involving a family member” of Mayor Andrea Horwath.
I wish the Mayor well. She and her family are in my thoughts at this time.
Behind the scenes at City Hall this morning, the City Clerks caused much confusion while handling the cancellation.
The Clerks sent a confidential email to councillors telling them the meeting was cancelled.
Many members of Council changed their schedules and did not drive to City Hall.
Meanwhile, at City Hall, the meeting proceeded as scheduled.
Yesterday, Thursday, the City Clerk announced the meeting time had moved from 9:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. (More on the resulting confusion below.)
At 9:00 a.m., only four members of Council were present for the scheduled start time.
The Clerk presented announced they were waiting for quorum, and the live stream would momentarily begin.
The meeting had every appearance of a routine proceeding.
Shortly after that, Deputy Mayor for March, Ward 6 Councillor Tom Jackson, announced the meeting was being cancelled and will be scheduled for a later date.
The City Clerks added that lacking quorum, councillors presented needed to remain until 9:30 a.m. in an attempt to gain quorum.
What followed was a scramble to find enough councillors to make quorum to adjourn / recess the meeting.
Members of Council arriving “late” were surprised to learn the meeting began at 9:00 a.m. instead of the original 9:30 a.m. time.
At least one councillor responded to the quorum call email by asking if they could log in by video conference. The meeting room was not equipped for video conferencing.
Eventually, half of council was present. The Clerk declared half to be a “majority” of Council under the Municipal Act, the meeting was called to order, and then adjourned.
Half is not a majority.
The Open Meeting Requirement is Not Disinformation
Today’s confusion was the cumulation of a week of spin from City Hall.
The original plan was to hold the meeting in closed session.
I explained why the meeting is required to be open to the public.
Behind the scenes, an Ombudsman report into an August 2015 Township of Russell “strategic plan training session” meeting.
The Ombudsman ruled that closed session training meeting to be legal.
Key paragraphs from the ruling [emphasis added]:
32 In September 2015, LAS considered whether a “Strategic Planning Session” in the Township of Brock fell within this exception. In that case, council met in camera to allow for a “free flow” of ideas by workshop participants. The consultant who facilitated the session indicated that it was a “brainstorming exercise…to collectively define the list of [council] priorities and move toward a ranking of the order of the priorities”. LAS determined that this discussion did not fall within the education or training exception because members of council materially advanced the future business or decision-making of the council.
33 During the Township of Russell’s strategic plan training session, councillors were taught basic principles and vocabulary related to the strategic planning process. While the training session did reference the township’s then-current strategic plan, this information was used as a reference point for the abstract principles and vocabulary that the facilitator was teaching. The councillors confirmed that there was no decision-making or discussion of specific township priorities or planning. Unlike the strategic planning session in the Township of Brock, the training session in the Township of Russell was not a “workshop” with a “free flow” of ideas regarding the township’s strategic priorities. Rather, councillors were taught skills to assist them in better understanding the process of strategic planning at the municipal level. Specific discussion of the Township of Russell’s priorities and strategic plan was reserved for the open session on August 26.
This only reinforces the argument I explained.
I am not including this meeting in my attendance database.