"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Sunday 3 November 2013

What's the price of trust

At Tuesday's Committee meeting, Council will receive the judicial response a question posed by the town.  

Council members can be members of   the Culture Centre Board and vote on matters  of pecuniary interest  to the board without incurring a Conflict of Interest.

If  one understands the meaning of conflict , the answer was never in doubt. 

In the simplest terms, a conflict of interest happens when an elected member  votes on a motion that has the potential of putting money into her pocket or the pocket of a close relative .

The opinion was supportive and  considered good governance to have Councillors serving on the board.

It is said to be precedent setting decision. 

I don't think so. 

Half the membership of the Library Board are Councillors the rest are town appointees. 

Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority  and the Hospital Board  both have regional councillors serving;

Boards of Education are entirely elected. Police Services Board and  any other  board receiving public funding   has elected members on board including the Board of Public Health. 

The common factor is that meetings are conducted in public. 

The Culture Centre Board meetings are private. 

The Board would not budge on that in negotiating   a new agreement ,

They choose board members. 

They meet behind closed doors . 

They have a   valuable rent-free building, with utilities  and maintenance paid by the town and 
hundreds of thousands of public dollars  to spend, growing every  year.

They meet in secret. 

The Judge didn't know.  He wasn't  told. 

The night a motion was debated in Council to give twelve months notice of  termination  to the Board 
something  strange happened. 

The debate ended . Everything that could  be said had been said.  Support was evident.

The Mayor spoke at length in support of the motion. 

All that was left was for the vote to be called.  It  wasn't. 

A pause intervened; long enough to be noticeable.

Finally ,prompted by the Mayor, CouncillorThompson  and Humfrey's  moved an amendment that jettisoned the motion.

It was  about then I requested  a review of  the agreement by the town solicitor.

The Mayor demurred. The solicitor had plenty of work  to do , he said, without adding to it. 

Council discovered  about the same time , the Mayor had been attending board meetings for months against advice of the town solicitor.

The solicitor's review led to negotiation of a new agreement. 

It is better than the first. 

Asked  to guess the appointees to the arm's length ,self-appointed board with closed door meetings, allowing  secrecy in all their deliberations  I would say Mayor Dawe and Councillor  

As  members of the board ,they may speak for the public's interest. We cannot  be certain tof course.
Because they will be bound by secrecy  and independence inherent in the Board's  constitution.

Somewhere there's a reference to ex officio members. How is that useful? Ex officio members can attend, on=bserve,participate in deliberation; they cannot vote .

No conflict of interest presents for Council appointees. No obvious purpose of any kind really.

Only a breach of the requirement for elected officials to conduct all public business openly and without concealment. Except for a few notable exceptions. 

One of which is NOT participating in  secret meetings of a  board spending public funds 


Anonymous said...

Pshaw !

Anonymous said...

I guess it could be worse. We should be grateful that the # of votes acquired determined who would be attending those meetings. Having a former member of the Board in attendance would be ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Not being privy to the written legal questions and/or argument submitted on the Town's behalf, presumably by the Town Solicitor, with possible outside legal consultation, it does indeed appear to be most unfortunate that the matter of the Board meeting in secret was not mentioned and therefore the Judge didn't know this.

If this a correct statement then a further submission should be made on behalf of the Town to the Superior Court.

Meetings in secret are only permitted under the Municipal Act for a few very specific reasons. The secret meetings of the Centre Board don't qualify.

Anonymous said...

I think of the Centre as Aurora's Senate because of the obvious similarities. We will see just how objective those from Council are when this gets discussed in the Budget meetings. [ or you might have to tell us ] The numbers are certainly large enough to make them of interest to possible voters in any election.

Anonymous said...

The identity of the appointees could make for interesting discussions. I would suggest Cllr Abel & Cllr Thompson. Not sure how that would work out around the table but they do sit near to the top.

Anonymous said...

Would it not be appropriate for Council to get an opinion from the Town Solicitor concerning the apparent fact that the judge was not aware that the Centre Board meetings are secret and that elected officials serving on it would effectively be contravening the Municipal Act?

Anonymous said...

Speaking to the transparency issue, the Supremes have lowered the drawbridge on the PM's latest ' appointment ' to the Supreme Court until he is confirmed. He is not allowed in their building or to have any contact with the sitting members.They are doing this to prevent any appearance of conflict of interest.
Aurora has to do likewise and not allow councillors to attend Centre meetings while they are still held in secrecy. If nothing else, there is an ' appearance ' of a conflict of interest, IMO

Anonymous said...

What is it about secret meetings that Council do not understand ? It isn't space science.

Anonymous said...

The town solicitor should be able to advise Council. But, given their disregard for his advice in dealing with the property owner with the 3 controversial trees, I don't really expect them to pay attention.