"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

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Sep 24, 2012 - 3:40 PM
Georgina's closed meeting breaches Municipal Act
But procedure, outcome of lawsuit meetings legal

Investigators determined the town breached the Municipal Act at a Nov. 21 committee of the whole meeting with “a substantive decision in closed session”; one that was “couched in a direction to staff”, according to a report being presented to council Monday night.
In addition, it states that councils, when in committee of the whole, should be wary of providing direction that is more properly within the purview of council to provide in open or in closed session.
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Despite the fact the town breached the Municipal Act at one of its closed meetings regarding a dropped defamation lawsuit, the overall procedure it followed was legal, according to results of a now concluded four-month investigation.
Investigators determined the town breached the Municipal Act at a Nov. 21 committee of the whole meeting with “a substantive decision in closed session”; one that was “couched in a direction to staff”, according to a report being presented to council tonight.
“That was a breach of the Municipal Act, in our opinion,” according to investigators.
The report contains the results of an investigation into closed sessions of town council and committee of the whole meetings launched by Keswick resident Kristina Toomey, who felt proper procedure was not followed over a defamation lawsuit against a former leisure services director with the town.
Ms Toomey, town CAO Winanne Grant and the town clerk were consulted during the course of the investigation conducted by Amberley Gavel Ltd., which began in May and included a review of agendas and minutes of meetings of council, procedural bylaw and applicable legislation.
During the closed meeting in November, staff provided a letter containing legal advice from the town’s solicitor, including but not limited to, a conclusion that litigation would be commenced, for review by the committee.
Staff were directed to “follow legal advice” to initiate legal proceedings, which effectively were decisions that “exceeded a mere direction” even though the committee did not take a formal vote of the matter.
While there is no clear direction or definition under the act regarding “directions” to staff, investigators concluded the intention of the act is not that a substantive decision be “couched” in a direction to staff.
The report goes on to say council, a committee or a local board are merely permitted to vote on a procedural matter or to give directions to staff, but not allowed to make substantive decisions “behind closed doors”.
In addition, it states that councils, when in committee of the whole, should be wary of providing direction that is more properly within the purview of council to provide in open or in closed session. The primary function of a discretionary committee of council is to provide advice to council, not to act on its behalf.
While no sanctions were outlined by Amberley Gavel, it recommended council and committees should be very diligent in ensuring the way a matter is handled in closed session and does not breach the Municipal Act.
“More specifically, a council cannot make substantive decisions (even if they don’t vote on them) and then characterize the decision as a mere direction to staff or others when, indeed, it is not merely directional in nature,” the report states. “Committees have even less authority to direct staff in either open or closed session.”
In addition, the town could have followed proper municipal procedure more accurately when citing the reasons for closed sessions on meeting agendas, but those “procedural inaccuracies” would not render any decisions made at those meetings illegal, the report concludes.
“We do not think there was any intention of the town or of council to shield the overall matter from openness and transparency by assigning the broader, more ambiguous Municipal Act exception dealing with “personal matters”, even if it was not the more relevant or accurate exception,” the report states.
For example, by the time discussions were continuing regarding the matter at a Dec. 12 meeting, a more accurate exception under the Municipal Act should have been applied rather than a “personal matter involving an identifiable individual” on meeting agendas.
While the matter started off as a ‘personal matter about an identifiable individual’, there were times when more information should have been provided to the public rather than just carrying over the “personal matter” from each agenda to the next until the final meeting in February 2012, the report states.
Since a statement of claim had already been issued in the matter by the Dec. 12 meeting of council, the issue was now in the public domain and, therefore, could have been listed on the agenda as “Litigation; Section 239(2)(e); John McLean” to conform to the Municipal Act, according to the report.
Although they were continuing to discuss a “personal matter” involving an identifiable individual, they were discussing the progress of litigation, according to investigators.
There was also “no apparent reason why this item had to be discussed in closed session” at a Jan. 23 council meeting since a statement of claim had already been issued in the matter and the litigation process was in the public domain.
Furthermore, instead of citing client/solicitor privilege as a reason for the closed special council meeting Feb. 2, it would have been more accurate to continue using the litigation privilege exception under section 239(2)(e) of the act.
This would lead to openness and transparency of the “general nature of the matter to be considered” during the closed session, while “preserving confidentiality over the substance of council’s deliberations”.
But investigators concluded “the personal matter” was properly before the closed meetings of council and committee of the whole in accordance with the Municipal Act.
In addition, the breach of the Municipal Act was “either a procedural irregularity or did not affect the legality of council’s ultimate decisions”.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mais Non ,Mon Ami

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Rid...":

"A policy is not cast in stone." ABSOLUTELY CORRECT!

You say: "the policy was adopted to have sidewalks on both sides of streets during the last term."

What "streets" does this policy apply to?

Why does Kennedy Street West not have sidewalks on both sides? It is a residential street. This street is used by hundreds every day who walk, who walk their dogs or their baby carriages, who jog, who ride their bicycles. It is a major walking route for kids going to and coming back from school. It would be far more appropriate to apply the "policy" to this street than to Industrial Parkway.

You say that "Council has been reluctant to exercise personal judgement. It seems easier just to do as they are told."

Told what and by whom?

Are members of Council lacking in grey matter? They sought public office so that they COULD and WOULD exercise personal judgement. Did they all, instead, seek to serve the public by not having to think, to simply act as RUBBER STAMPS for staff?
This is potentially a gross outrage!

No it's not. Kennedy Street West allows me to illustrate.
Policy applies to decision-making.Not road building.
Before  the Region, the western end of Kennedy Street was not urban. It was in King  Township.
 There were few homes. It was a dead-end.  It was  a truly rural right of way. No pavement, sewers, water lines or street lighting.Certainly no sidewalks.I'm not even sure it had culverts for drainage. 
It was one of the first in the town proposed  for reconstruction in the seventies.
Residents fought furiously not to have the character of  their street changed.
I agreed with them but not for their reasons. I didn't see why I should help pay for amenities I didn't have.
I  believed  if they were to get all those  expensive improvements, they should  pay for them with a local improvement tax.
I  saw no virtue in foisting  expensive amenities  on people who didn't want them.
Of course there was a rational argument. I just didn't choose it as mine.
Dick Illingworth was  Mayor at the time. I heard someone had his photograph on a dart board that neighbours enjoyed  piercing with darts.
It was a bitter battle. The residents got what they wanted. 
It happens a lot.
Policies be damned.
In those days, the town didn't have an administration to speak of. We had a consultant engineer on retainer.
Decisions on road design  rested on engineering principles,  the judgment of  the elected and a public keenly aware of how taxes were being spent.
If I remember correctly, the province shared  costs of road-building at the time and provincial standards had to be met. 
But even some of those were twisted and turned to avoid running afoul of residents on a particular street.
People do have an influence on how Councillors vote. .
Nowadays, it's safer just to accept professional advice.Lots of people think that's how it should be.
Councillors  are continually  reminded  how little they know. How dependent they are on experts.
Our society is chock- a- block  with experts. Graduates with degrees that may or may not stand for something.
Public servants made redundant from successive amalgamations. 
They write books and articles, get  nominated for awards from associations they created  and offer workshops to teach the unwary newbie politician for fees paid  for by  municipalities.
There's always more money where that comes from.
Off the newly elected  go with due diligence and back they come full of wisdom and knowledge and "innovative' ideas.  
Fifty years ago, York County's solicitor,Doug Lucas was on retainer. One of the few in Canada, who specialized in municipal law.
There wasn't a living to be made in municipal law so few municipalities had the resources.
Not like today. 
When, Oh My God, expertise spills over  in abundance like Niagara Falls. 
It's  common sense that's in short supply.