Tbnewswatch Local News
Tuesday July 7 2015
10:14 PM EDT
2014-08-08 at 15:59

More closed doors

Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com
By Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com

THUNDER BAY -- City council this term met behind closed doors more than 30 times a year on average, but one city official says that’s just a reality for running a city.

An average of 34 closed sessions have been scheduled every year, not including the times council have gone behind closed doors during public meetings, since 2010. Legal, property, personnel and security matters have to be in camera under the Municipal Act.

"It's more a matter of meeting those conditions as opposed to how many times or how many reports or how many meetings," city clerk John Hannam said. "That's just the nature of business for municipalities these days."

Council tries to do as much as possible in public but complex issues sometimes need to be dealt with in private.

The number of closed sessions has increased over the years but so has the number of reports and discussions in public meetings.

"The way we operate has changed over time as it does for any organization," Hannam said.

The number is high but it also reflects the amount of work council is doing mayor Keith Hobbs said. Council has also been dealing with huge number of legal issues from the 2012 flood to Horizon Wind, which has to be done behind closed doors. But the city has also seen a record number of building permits, leading to property matters that is actually a good thing for Thunder Bay because it shows the city is growing Hobbs said.

"Yes we have to be secretive at some times but eventually the issue comes out to the public," he said.

Coun. Ken Boshcoff said it's also the reality of living in a more litigious society. Some people see the city as an organization with deep pockets. Every time there's a legal issues, whether it's valid or not, council has to discuss it.

"There is a necessity in terms of trying to get these addressed property," he said.

Boshcoff would like to see the length of time spent in camera addressed though. Often councillors are asking questions that they wouldn't need to if they had read the reports before going into a meeting.

The public can file a complaint if it thinks council is going into closed session unnecessarily through a closed meeting investigator.

A report is coming to council Monday night after one such complaint, only the third filed against the city since 2007. In the report, closed meeting investigator Paul Heayn recommends that council realize the significance of the public's right to know.

When coming back into open session they discuss relevant content so that the public sees how council reached its decision.


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sinkoreswim says:
Clearly this is evidence that council is secretly conspiring to establish a new city order...and the public won't know until it's too late!
8/9/2014 9:24:52 PM
fastball says:
Because certain things that Council discusses that MUST be kept private for a variety of very good reasons - things like property issues or personnel issues, perhaps contractual issues - and I think there's one or two more types of issues that MUST be dealt with in camera. It's the law.
And council has spent no small amount of time discussing property issues (which, if made public, could result in certain people capitalizing on what they heard at council. You'd be the guy to buy up all the land near where the city would want to build a road or a development.) You can't discuss personnel issues in public, either - or the state of ongoing negotiations with local unions or salaried employees. These are legally bound to be kept in camera.
So maybe we could just loosen up the headbands on our tin-foil caps and perhaps entertain the notion that a private session is NOT A BIG GIANT CONSPIRACY designed to keep the taxpayer in the dark.
Man...you could cut the paranoia here with a knife!
8/9/2014 1:39:35 PM
p.o.ed taxpayer says:
right on cue, fastball rides to the rescue...
I think most people know there are times when issues must be discussed in camera; however a more important point is whether these meetings are being held for the intended and legit purpose or are they being abused for expediency? Are the meetings being recorded accurately? Is the investigator provided abbreviated minutes from these meetings or does he get complete taped versions of the meeting to more accurately determine the reason to be in camera?
8/10/2014 7:25:47 AM
fastball says:
Occam's Razor tells use that if all things are equal, the simplest scenario is usually the correct one.
So if the Council is meeting in camera, I'd go out on a limb and choose to think that they're discussing those matters that must be discussed in private in a professional and above-board manner - as opposed to the scenario that would have us believe that the official secretary is bound and gagged in a corner, while Council gets together with some shadowy cabal of carpetbagging profiteers and proceeds to sell us all down the river - all the while laughing up a storm and smoking big cigars.
8/10/2014 2:59:41 PM
Royalflush says:
So why not have all meetings behind closed doors, what can go wrong. I mean theres no reason to think there could be any hidden agendas is there? We ordinary citizens could not possibly understand the machinations of running a city. No need to worry, big brother is taking care of business. Now run along and go shopping children. Chairman Mao would be proud of you
8/11/2014 3:59:59 PM
p.o.ed taxpayer says:
That is why there are checks and balances in place, because unfortunately the things you so eloquently state actually do happen in places...so you should have no objection to the meetings being properly recorded....
8/11/2014 6:29:59 PM
Royalflush says:
Who else beside councillors, mayor and administration is at these closed door meetings? And why is that kept a secret?
8/9/2014 8:52:01 AM
Jack Frost says:
Flagrant secrets and blatant sneakiness are NOT proud colours of this current vulgar
"CLOWNCIL" that have earned and deservedly lost the trust and faith of most if not all the citizenry...

Extremely SHAMEFUL indeed !!

On 27 October '14, the citizens of this small broken city will have the golden opportunity to grade their final report card before their final dismissal...
8/8/2014 10:47:29 PM
Harvey says:
More closed doors because this council and administration have been slapped with so many multi million dollar lawsuits (due to their stupidity, negligence and incompetence) probably quadruple the total amount of lawsuits then any other previous council or city administration . They call themselves the infrastructure council. They should be calling themselves the lawsuit council.
8/8/2014 7:27:50 PM
ranma says:
It's pretty obvious that council is scared of what informed people would do. It's time to vote these clowns out.
8/8/2014 5:39:01 PM
enos012 says:
Ken Boshcoff said it's also the reality of living in a more litigious society...and society has taken on more so of a business mentality instead of a people approach first, which is why as much you want to look at the glass half full it's pretty much empty....
8/8/2014 4:10:44 PM
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