Chair of Council Committee “will be more vigilant” when Council is in closed session.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON September 15, 2011 When city council committees meet to do the business of directing the city they do so in public. They meet with the appropriate staff – in public where all the facts are heard by everyone in the room.

When the bids for the completion of the Brant Street Pier were opened it was done in public – no one knew what the bids were until the envelopes were opened – in public.

This is the process that keeps people honest and allows a public to be informed.

The Burlington city council goes into “closed session” which means the media has to leave the room and a sign gets posted on the door to the Council Chamber saying Council is in closes session.

Councillor Craven is the best procedural person on council but he too can let something slip by.  To his credit, he recognizes his mistakes and does something about them.

Councillor Craven is the best procedural person on council but he too can let something slip by. To his credit, he recognizes his mistakes and does something about them.

One of the Council committees recently went into closed session to talk about a matter related to the Paletta Mansion, which Council had learned was losing a pile of money. There was no reason given as to why they were going closed – they just say it is confidential and the media has to accept that. Any council member can ask that they go into closed session. Ward 1 councillor Meed Ward has on occasioned mildly questioned going into closed session but she has never said no – which she has a right to do.

When they come out of closed session council never tells you what was discussed. The Clerk knows but she (usually female) is bound by an Oath of Secrecy..

During one such meeting, the Chair of the committee that was coming out of closed session said they had discussed the Paletta matter – and then added that there were questions raised about the Pier as well. THAT was a no, no.

Your council has a right to decide something is confidential and they can talk about that and only that in a closed session. So when Councillor Craven mentioned that Pier questions had come up I asked him later why that was done..

He agreed that it should probably not have been done. I advised the chair of the committee that I would be writing him formally and lodging a complaint.

Councillor Craven is a pretty proactive chair and he looked into the issue, discussed it with the Clerk and made the following statement last night at a Committee meeting.


It has been pointed out to me by a member of the news media that I made a procedural error at our last Community Services Committee.

I announced that we were going into closed session to discuss the Paletta Mansion

When we came out of closed session I announced that, while we were in closed session, there had also been a couple of questions about the pier.

I have met with the Clerk about this matter.

The member of the news media was correct..

I should not have allowed the pier questions in closed session because the had not publicly stated his intention to ask these questions before we moved into closed session..

In the future I will be more vigilant in ensuring that we stick to the announced subject in the closes session, and I ask that all members refrain from asking questions on other topics, unless they announce their intention in public before we go into closed session.


Now on the surface this might look like someone being overly picky and sensitive. Not the case. Your city council goes into closed session far too often – and when they are there you, the public, have no way of knowing what was said other than the subject they went into closed session to discuss. And, as Craven’s comments show, – they will talk about other issues while in closed session. There is no oversight and while the Clerk has considerable influence legally, there isn’t a member of the Clerk’s office in this city that is going to challenge a chair.

There is a different, healthier ethic developing on this council. Burlington is a better city for it. The information identified in the Shape Burlington report is being narrowed.

Councillor Craven has served notice that he will be more vigilant and he will. Councillor Sharman, the other councillor that chairs a committee, as well as their respective co-chairs now know that they need to respect the public’s right to know.




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