I sent the following email to Brighton Council when I noticed that the audio recording from the January 6, 2015 meeting of Council had not been posted on the Municipal website.

Dear Mayor and Councillors,

 

From the correspondence below I understand that committee of the whole (COW) Council meetings are not being recorded as per Council resolution no. 2014-398.

 

Since COW Council meetings are not excluded from this resolution, why are the COW meetings not being recorded as directed by Council resolution?

 

Please can you confirm if the COW meetings scheduled for January 20, 2015 will be recorded?

 

Thank you,

Adrian Ellis

 

***********************

From: Vicki Kimmett
Sent: January-15-15 12:18 PM
To: Adrian Ellis
Subject: RE: Budget Meeting Audio

 

I’m sorry Adrian….. I was in Council mode. The January 6, 2015 budget meeting was not recorded. It was a Committee of the Whole meeting and Council hasn’t addressed anything more than Council meetings.

 

I apologize and please disregard my earlier message!

 

Vicki Kimmett
Deputy Clerk
Municipality of Brighton

 

***********************

From: Adrian Ellis
Sent: January-15-15 11:58 AM
To: Vicki Kimmett
Subject: RE: Budget Meeting Audio

 

Sorry, should be Jan 6, 2015.

 

Adrian

 

***********************

From: Adrian Ellis
Sent: January-15-15 11:53 AM
To: Vicki Kimmett
Subject: Budget Meeting Audio

 

Hi Vicki,

 

Please can you advise as to when the audio recording from the January 6, 2014 budget meeting of Brighton Council will be posted to the municipal website?

 

Thanks,

Adrian

Section 238 (1) of the Ontario Municipal Act states, ““meeting” means any regular, special or other meeting of a council, of a local board or of a committee of either of them.

Section 1.1.11 of the Municipality of Brighton Procedural By-Law (No. 097-2013) states, “Meeting means a gathering of the members of the Council or a Committee where quorum is achieved and either public business or public policy over which the Council or Committee has jurisdiction or control is discussed or deliberated and/or during which formal action is taken. Member means the Mayor or a Councillor of the Corporation of the Municipality of Brighton.

Based on these definitions, the answer is “never” to the question “when is a “meeting of Council” not a “Council meeting“?”. All meetings of council are “Council meetings.

It is mind boggling to think that Staff are not aware of these definitions and if there was any confusion, why did Staff not ask for clarification from Council?

I hope that Council will without delay, provide further direction to Staff to ensure that they follow the directive set out in resolution no. 2014-398 and record all meetings of Council!

Follow-up:
I received the following responses to my email

Mr Ellis

 

1. Resolution 2014-398 states

 

That Council receives the report Recording of Council Meetings, dated July 21, 2014 as information, and that staff be directed to implement audio recording for Council meetings, and that the recordings be posted to the website.” (underlining my own)

 

2. Council has been informed that the first budget mtg of Jan 6, 2015 was not recorded because it was a committee of the whole meeting and NOT a “Council meeting” as described in preceding resolution. Also, council has been informed that the upcoming budget meeting of Jan 20, 2015 will not be recorded for the same reason.

 

3. For two reasons, it is – in my view – ludicrous that we should have argue about whether or not a “Council meeting” should be recorded. The two reasons are as follows:

 

(a) the spirit & intent of Resolution 2014-398 & professional interpretation of the law; and
(b) the letter of the law.

 

The Spirit & Intent of Resolution 2014-398 & Professional Interpretation of the Law

 

4. During the last term of council, I was one of the principal proponents of the recording of “Council meetings.” The spirit & intent of recording “Council meetings” was to ensure accountability, transparency & accessibility of council activities. When I read & voted FOR Resolution 2014-398, it was my clear understanding that the term “Council meetings” would be interpreted as meetings of council & included open & closed council meetings and committee of the whole meetings.

 

5. And my understanding of the term “Council meetings” seems to be supported by Mr Andre Marin, the Ombudsman of Ontario. Page 16 of The Sunshine Law handbook (Second Edition) (@ https://ombudsman.on.ca/Files/sitemedia/Documents/Resources/sunshinelaw-en.pdf) states, in part, “when the purpose of the gathering is to discuss business of the council, local board or committee and/or to make decisions a gathering is more likely to be deemed a “meeting …”” (bolding IS NOT my own)

 

6. I am not a lawyer, but the common sense interpretation of the preceding description of a “meeting” clearly indicates that when council meets to discuss one of the most important issues it will consider – that is how taxpayers’ money will be spent – the council is gathering to “discuss business.” And because council is gathering to “discuss business,” the gathering is a “Council meeting” (as described at Resolution 2014-398) & must be recorded.

 

The Letter of the Law

 

7. The Ontario Municipal Act is a law of Ontario. Subsection 224 (d.1) of the Municipal Act states,

 

It is the role of council to ensure the accountability and transparency of the operations of the municipality, including the activities of the senior management of the municipality.” (underlining my own)

 

8. In my view, if there is any question about whether, or not, a council meeting should be recorded, it makes sense to err on the side of the law. The law requires accountability & transparency. Recording a council meeting – whether it be a committee of the whole budget meeting or an open or closed council meeting – is one more step to ensuring the accountability & transparency required by law. So there should be no doubt that a committee of the whole budget meeting must be recorded.

 

9. There is nothing confidential in this e-mail. Please distribute it as you see fit.

 

10. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions about the preceding, or any other, issue.

 

John Martinello
613 475 5120

 

Good Evening and Thank-you for your inquiry.

 

Please be advised that I inquired with respect to this very issue on January 13th. I trust you can be kept informed by either myself, other members of Council or Staff as to developments in regard to this important issue.

 

Regards
Steven Baker

 

Hi Adrian,

 

I haven’t spoken to staff about this, but I suspect there is an interpretation issue at hand. The resolution from July 2014 passed by the former council reads: “… and that staff be directed to implement audio recording for Council meetings, and that the recordings be posted to the website.” The interpretation comes from the term Council meetings which has likely been interpreted as regular and special council meetings. It would seem that some are interpreting this to mean all meetings of council (both Council meetings and Committee of the Whole meetings). I believe that Council should provide clarification and direction to staff on this item, and I would support the recording of all meetings of council (both Council and Committee of the Whole meetings) moving forward.

 

Thanks for bringing this to my attention,

 

Brian

Brian Ostrander
Councillor
Municipality of Brighton

 

All members of council sit to comprise Committee of the Whole, you need a majority of council members to hold a Committee of the Whole meeting, who then work from the same Procedural Bylaw as regular council, who sit and discuss council business. I don’t care what you call it, its a meeting of council. Semantics nothing more.

 

I will not participate in the next budget meeting if its not recorded.

 

No quorum, no meeting…no meeting, nothing to record!!

 

Mark Walas

 

Mayor

Municipality of Brighton

 

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