Monthly Archives: April 2015

City Council April 20, 2015

Changes to how things run were contemplated in this city council session.

In this meeting Councillor Wirischagin made a couple of motions that appear to be intended to smooth the meetings and streamline their operations. Specifically:

  • A motion to enforce the rules regarding what can be asked in Question Period and how often the same question can be asked. Because some just ask the same question again and again while others ask about things that were not in the meeting agenda.
  • A motion to remove the Question period at the end of the Committee Of The Whole meetings because the public gets to participate all during the meeting so having this extra bit at the end is redundant.
  • A motion to make the Council reports a Written submission and not a spoken report. This is to head off ‘grand standing’.

In her report Councillor Hammett made an impassioned speech regarding the recent controversial coverage of a CBC Radio interview with a local regarding the termination and rehiring of the city’s CAO, Doug Allin.

They talked about other things … you can see what and how much from the chart below.

gfcc150420 meeting pie

The live webcast was missing the beginning of the meeting. Council had an in-camera meeting that ran up to 5 minutes before the scheduled 7PM regular meeting start. They waited a few extra minutes but when they actually began the meeting I was still setting up my equipment! (point: IF you really want to see and hear everything the only guaranteed way is to show up and do it live in person)
I did have an experimental camera 9more on that in a later, to come, post) sitting there recording from the start so I was able to recover the missing minutes from that camera. They are in the complete meeting online and below.

And if you just want to watch from the beginning …

2015 Water Rates Amendment Motion to Remove Public Question Period at end of COTW because it is Functionally Redundant Councillor Hammett Motion that all Council Reports other than motions be written, not verbal Councillor Ross first three readings 2015 Tax Rates Bylaw 2012 Motion to Enforce Question Period Rules Councillor Wirischagin Councillor Thompson Councillor Butler Questions from public and media

Experiment in Meeting Broadcasting

If you were watching last night’s City Council meeting (April 20, 2015) you might have noticed a little yellow box on top of a tripod right in the middle of city council.

That is a Kodak SP360 camera. It shoots 360 degree video. From where it sat it could see ALL of the councillors and the gallery.

council_in_round

I will eventually have a more complete version of the meeting up. With the missing few minutes at the start. I’ll have to get them out of the camera I was testing which was running from the beginning of the meeting.

That camera is where ‘you are sitting‘ in the middle of the council and you can choose which direction you want to watch in and change it at any time.

I have almost 43 minutes of last night’s meeting recorded with this camera and you can view it at the link below. But ONLY if you use Google’s Chrome browser at this point. If you are seeing a video with the bottom half all black and the top half showing everything then the 360 video is not working for your browser.

It’s an experiment. For people doing my job, recording meetings, it might allow a reduction in equipment from 4 cameras to 1. No switcher to lug around. No wearing the camera man hat and the director hat and the journalist hat at the same time. For you viewers it makes you work a bit more … but it gives you more control over focus and attention. For the meeting participants … well they have to always assume that someone will be watching them and hopefully that will just fade into the background with time.

Please remember this is an experiment. My first in this application. The audio needs a boost – my apologies. A number of things will be learned from this and maybe there will more later.

 

Another possible use of this camera is to show All the councillors at the same time in a square video window.

council_stacked

Medical Cannabis Conference

This past Monday and Tuesday there was a Medical Cannabis Conference in Grand Forks.medical cannabis conference The event was put on by the Kootenays Medicine Tree.

This was two nights of speakers, Q&A and a movie – all related to various aspects of Cannabis and Health.

We recorded these so if you weren’t one of the 50 or so people in the audience you could still watch and listen. To the speakers that is … the movies you will have to find online somewhere else. (copyright issues an such)

The first night we heard from Rob Callaway on “Cannabis Basics & the Endo-Cannabinoid System”

The second night we heard from Dr. Zach Walsh, Associate Professor of Psychology at UBC on “Cannabis: Public and Mental Health”

CAO Severance and Rehiring

Setlle Down Logo Animated2midThe way the city’s CAO, Doug Allin, was let go and then rehired a few months later has generated some controversy. With a local being interviewed on CBC Radio earlier this week it has begun to heat up.

The article on CBC has caused people to begin talking again and the City to issue a Press Release. Perhaps it’s too late to point at the little slogan below the sign. The one that says ‘Settle Down’. Maybe having that there has worked in reverse … ?

UPDATE: Added quote, from my contribution to another conversation, before part on Section 90

The City’s Press Release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RESPONSE FROM CITY OF GRAND FORKS RE: CAO SEVERANCE AND REHIRING April 17, 2015

Grand Forks, BC – Doug Allin was rehired by Grand Forks City Council in February 2015 after his contract was terminated by the previous Council in November 2014. He was paid out, as per the conditions of his contract, in the amount of $190,000.

City of Grand Forks Mayor Frank Konrad notes that “the termination was not shrouded in secrecy as some members of the public have stated. Many CAO’s are let go without cause and this was exactly the case for Mr. Allin. The details of his termination have been released to the public on at least two occasions through the Freedom of Information Act.”

Council made the decision to rehire Allin after spending several weeks working through the hiring process and not finding what they were looking for. According to Councillor Colleen Ross, “Allin’s name came into the equation when, as a group, they narrowed down what the organization needed in order to be successful and move forward in the business of the City.” She also pointed out that when she ran for council she ran with the assumption that she would be working with Doug Allin, and was looking forward to that opportunity.

Council did its due diligence when hiring Mr. Allin, as they would have for any new candidate that was being considered for the position. A fair contract was negotiated with Mr. Allin that benefited the City. Had a new CAO been hired and relocated to Grand Forks, the cost to the organization would have been substantially higher.

It is understandable that there is a small contingent of the public that has reservations regarding the severance and rehiring of Mr. Allin. However, the City has had mostly positive feedback regarding Council’s decision.


A number of people have remarked on the way these decisions were done using in-camera (aka ‘secret’) meetings.

Section 90 is the part of the Local Government Act laying Municipal governance rules that deal with these sorts of meetings. It sets forth two lists of topics which can be dealt with in in-camera meetings.

One list is mandatory – these topics always have to be dealt with in secret.

The other is optional – these topics do not have to be dealt with in secret. That is up to the City Council itself.

Activities that have to do with Hiring and Labour Relations are in the optional list.

(I’m quoting myself from a FaceBook conversation here) I’m curious how this gets dealt with in other jurisdictions … the ‘optional’s are 15 items (a thru o) in section 90.1. Has anyone done a comparison between various BC jurisdictions and how often these sub-sections are cited by council’s when going in-camera? Because Prior Requirements (Section 92)(b) says that they not only have to say they are going to have an in-camera meeting but which subsection is being invoked to do it as well. So that would be in the minutes of councils … something for retired civil servants to do when they find time on their hands. Once all the minutes / agendas are available online from all municipalities it becomes something almost possible for one person. Certainly possible for a group of individuals … tracking and comparing municipal governments across the province.

From the Councillors’ Handbook:

Open Meetings (89)
As under the previous Acts, council meetings must be open to the public, except as permitted under section 90. Bylaws must be read and adopted in open session.

Closed Meetings (90)

Part of a council meeting may be closed to the public (in camera), but the subject matter is limited to the lists in s. 90 [see the Appendix for the text of section 90]. The discretionary list is in s. 90(1) and the mandatory list is in s. 90(2).
The proceedings and minutes of in camera meetings may be withheld from public disclosure (but see the 15 year rule in s. 12(2)(a) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act).
Councillors must keep the process confidential (117)

Persons Attending (91)

Staff members may be excluded from in camera meetings, but not Councillors. The minutes must disclose the names of all person present at a closed meeting.

Prior Requirements (92)

Before holding a meeting or part of a meeting that is to be closed to the public, a council must state, by resolution passed in a public meeting,

(a) the fact that the meeting or part is to be closed, and
(b) the basis under the applicable subsection of section 90 on which the meeting or part is to be closed.

Other Bodies (93)
The open and closed meeting rules apply to

• council committees
• municipal commissions (s. 143)
• parcel tax roll review panel
• board of variance
• advisory body established by council
• a body that under the Charter or any other Act may exercise the powers of a council
• a body prescribed by legislation

Closed meeting (90)

(1) A part of a council meeting may be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered relates to or is one or more of the following:

(a) personal information about an identifiable individual who holds or is being considered for a position as an officer, employee or agent of the municipality or another position appointed by the municipality;
(b) personal information about an identifiable individual who is being considered for a municipal award or honour, or who has offered to provide a gift to the municipality on condition of anonymity;
(c) labour relations or other employee relations;
(d) the security of the property of the municipality;
(e) the acquisition, disposition or expropriation of land or improvements, if the council considers that disclosure could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of the municipality;
(f) law enforcement, if the council considers that disclosure could reasonably be expected to harm the conduct of an investigation under or enforcement of an enactment;
(g) litigation or potential litigation affecting the municipality;
(h) an administrative tribunal hearing or potential administrative tribunal hearing affecting the municipality, other than a hearing to be conducted by the council or a delegate of council;
(i) the receipt of advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose;
(j) information that is prohibited, or information that if it were presented in a document would be prohibited, from disclosure under section 21 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act;
(k) negotiations and related discussions respecting the proposed provision of a municipal service that are at their preliminary stages and that, in the view of the council, could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of the municipality if they were held in public;
(l) discussions with municipal officers and employees respecting municipal objectives, measures and progress reports for the purposes of preparing an annual report under section 98 [annual municipal report];
(m) a matter that, under another enactment, is such that the public may be excluded from the meeting;
(n) the consideration of whether a council meeting should be closed under a provision of this subsection or subsection (2);
(o) the consideration of whether the authority under section 91 [other persons attending closed meetings] should be exercised in relation to a council meeting.

(2) A part of a council meeting must be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered relates to one or more of the following:

(a) a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, if the council is designated as head of the local public body for the purposes of that Act in relation to the matter;
(b) the consideration of information received and held in confidence relating to negotiations between the municipality and a provincial government or the federal government or both, or between a provincial government or the federal government or both and a third party;
(c) a matter that is being investigated under the Ombudsman Act of which the municipality has been notified under section 14 [ombudsman to notify authority] 111 of that Act;
(d) a matter that, under another enactment, is such that the public must be excluded from the meeting.

(3) If the only subject matter being considered at a council meeting is one or more matters referred to in subsection (1) or (2), the applicable subsection applies to the entire meeting.