City councillors will be getting together twice over the next few months to try and come up with a way to work together.
And they’ll be doing it in public, after rejecting a proposal Oct. 16 from Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann that would have had one meeting held behind closed doors.
The special meetings will be held in November and January. The first will focus on reviewing council’s priorities and how to move forward with them, while the second will focus on teambuilding and leadership.
The get-togethers were Landry-Altmann’s idea, something she raised at the end of the Sept. 25 meeting.
“I’m not satisfied with how things are going at council,” Landry-Altmann said at the time. “I’m suggesting we have something like a council summit or retreat … to regroup and refocus for the last two years.”
Those comments sparked a war of words between some councillors and the mayor. Ward 4 Coun. Evelyn Dutrisac said Matichuk needed to communicate better with councillors, and said she was out of touch with what was going on in the wards. Matichuk replied that some councillors were determined not to work with her from Day 1, and said anyone who doesn’t want to work with her should resign.
But the mood was different at the Oct. 16 council meeting, with some councillors exchanging good-natured hugs and handshakes and a smiling Matichuk agreeing to go along with Landry-Altmann’s proposal.
But she flatly refused the suggestion the January meeting be closed to the public and said she wouldn’t go if it was held privately. She quoted from a report by Ontario Ombudsman André Marin in which he said councils that close meetings for training purposes must be very careful the conversation not stray into city business.
“Based on this information, I’m very concerned that we’re going to have another ombudsman investigation,” Matichuk said. “(If it’s a closed meeting) I will not be there because of transparency issues, and I have heard from other councillors that they won’t be attending.”
This thing about he said, she said, let’s just have a group hug and get to work.
Ron Dupuis ,
Ward 5 councillor
Matichuk said there’s no need to take that chance and bring another ombudsman investigation similar to the one Marin conducted last summer. While clearing them of breaking any rules, Marin harshly criticized councillors for not co-operating with his investigation. Ten of 12 members of council refused to participate in Marin’s investigation because they weren’t allowed to have the city’s solicitor present during the interview.
That opinion was backed up by City Solicitor Jamie Canapini, who said the ombudsman didn’t have the right to ban his office from the interviews. Canapini also backed Landry-Altmann’s assertion that the January meeting could be held behind closed doors, but councillors voted to hold it in the open to ensure they wouldn’t face another investigation.
“As long as it deals only with training and education and not the business of the city” it would be a legal meeting, Canapini told councillors.
“It would be very transparent, and if you look at the words of the ombudsman, it does pass the test,” Landry-Altmann said.
“I think it should be in the open,” Matichuk replied. “It’s council’s decision, but I won’t be part of this” if it’s held behind closed doors, she reiterated.
Ward 5 Coun. Ron Dupuis said the meetings were an opportunity to move past the hard feelings and focus on getting things done.
“This thing about he said, she said, let’s just have a group hug and get to work,” he said, prompting him to hug councillors sitting next to him, drawing laughs from the gallery.
Ward 11 Coun. Terry Kett agreed, saying holding the meeting in the open was the best way to proceed.
“It’s just an education and training meeting,” Kett said.
He asked Landry-Altmann to agree, which she did, while insisting a closed-door meeting would have been legal.