The 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.