Council goes into CLOSED SESSION without knowing why they are doing so; Taylor votes against the move.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  November 29, 2011 – They are at it again.  Playing with the rules which I’m pretty sure are being bent.  Your city council went into CLOSED SESSION on a “litigation matter” Monday evening.  That sort of thing happens from time to time;  When there is a Human Resources matter or someone is suing the city Nancy Shea-Nicole will ask the Mayor to hear her comments in a closed session.

This one wasn’t – or didn’t appear to be about an HR matter.  And in this city whenever there is something legal the word “pier” pops into mind.  (Noticed by the way that with this really good construction weather nothing is being done down at The Pier – other than a little bit of grading.)

Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor asked Acting city manager Kim Phillips why Council was going into closed session and was told it had to do with “report CD 20-11” which means it has to do with Community Development – an those are the guys who take care of the pier stuff.

Councillor Taylor didn't like the idea of going into a closed session of Council without knowing what they were going to talk about. Acting city manager Kim Phillips told him he would find out what it was about when they were in the closed session. Taylor voted against going. All the others voted for going into the closed session.

Taylor wanted to know what “CD 20-11”  was about and was told it was the same matter that had been discussed earlier – which Taylor couldn’t recall.  He said he didn’t think Council should go into a closed session without knowing what it was they were going to talk about.  Phillips told him that the words “CD 20-11” was all he was going to get until they were in closed session and with that the two people in the room, who were not permanent employees of the city, left the chamber and a sign was posted on the doors of the Council.

Councillor Meed Ward, who frequently mentions her background as a journalist, seems to have forgotten what open public sessions are all about.  There was a time when she would look a little guilty about going into a closed session but with a year under her belt – she slides into those closed session with the sense they are all just ‘taking care of business’.

This time though it was just a little different.  When council – not a council committee – goes into a closed session, the person operating the cameras that broadcast council meetings live, puts the words Closed Session up on the screen and turns off the microphones and he too leaves the room.  So what does Cogeco Cable do, when the television sets go cold?  Our Burlington stayed in the Council foyer for 20 minutes, and they were still at it when we left.

For those at home who have nothing better to do than watch Council meetings it must have been an odd experience.  There is just nothing – no sound, no visuals – nothing.  They could cut to the camera at Spencer Smith Park – do we still have those operating?

For those at home it must have been a little like watching television in the Soviet Union during the Cold War – but they at least had martial music playing.

Given that this was a closed session – and there are occasions when these things are necessary, of a council meeting that was broadcast live, the Mayor could have and should have explained to the public, what they were doing and why.  The city council isn’t trying to hide anything – at least we don’t think so.  What’s disturbing is that they never come clean at a later date and explain why they closed a council meeting or a committee meeting to the public.

As council Blair Lancaster would say:  This isn’t a best practice.  But they do it and it isn’t healthy.


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