Minutes criticized at April meeting of BLR Council

The Brudenell Lyndoch Raglan (BLR) Council meeting on April 7 began with an apology and a request for members of Council to declare any pecuniary interest. Advertised as BLR’s first videoconference meeting, Mayor Sheldon Keller apologized that instead it would be the usual teleconference because a grass fire had called away Fire Chief Jordan Genrick who was the only member of staff who knew how to set up the meeting on Zoom. A possible declaration of interest came from Councillor Andrea Budarick who said the vague description in the Agenda for the closed session did not indicate if there was anything she should declare. She said she would confirm the declaration once Council went in camera. Councillors Iris Kauffeldt and John Rutledge didn’t have that problem: they both declared a conflict of interest regarding an Agenda Item involving the Madawaska Valley Fish & Game Club of which they are members. Both absented themselves later in the evening while Council voted to allow the Club to use the arena at no charge for a Gun Show this fall.

Minutes of meetings

As she had in previous meetings, Councillor Budarick questioned the level of detail on the minutes of the March meeting. She listed six different areas where items were omitted, starting with the names of policies to be reviewed. She said she had specifically asked about review of the Integrity Commissioner protocol, the Recreation and Procedural Bylaws, the Harassment Bylaw including training and review of it, and the E4m training that has been requested several times since they have been engaged. Mayor Keller said, “I guess we can include that.” At that point Budarick’s luck ran out and she did not succeed in getting agreement to include the five other areas she asked for. These included the composition of the Recreation Committee; the lack of regular reviews of any incidents — and a recent missing incident report — for the joint Health and Safety Committee; a payment she had queried; the equipment malfunction during last month’s meeting which resulted in an interruption in the audio recording; and the omission of any reason for a Resolution to pay a $3,000 grant in advance. She said, “My point [is] we have the resolution but nothing about the discussion.” Citing the Municipal Act, Acting Clerk-Treasurer Valerie Jahn replied, “We never put any of that in.”

Budarick referred to a section in Ontario’s Municipal Conflict of Interest Act – A Handbook* reading, “The value and importance of accurate and complete minutes, from both open and closed meetings of council or a local board, cannot be overstated.” She then read from the 2011 Divisional Court’s decision in Tuchenhagen v. Mondoux, about the importance of keeping good minutes: “I note from the reasons of [the trial judge] that as detailed minutes were not kept of the various meetings that it cannot be said with certainty what transpired as this matter unfolded . . . The record in this file was at times confusing about what specifically happened on specific dates . . . As well, the minutes from the various meetings were less than complete.”

Jahn continued to insist that BLR minutes were prepared in accordance with the Municipal Act, even when Budarick pointed out that case law such as she had just read “becomes the living Municipal Act.” Jahn said, “You tell me what to do; I’m at a loss to try and figure it out.” Mayor Keller steered the discussion towards how long it takes staff to prepare the minutes. In response Budarick agreed that keeping records is important and referred to the Ontario Ombudsman. She read out recommendations about what information should be included in minutes. “And specifically, a detailed description of the substantive and procedural matters discussed including references to any specific documents considered.” Jahn replied, “You guys make a decision; we’re just spinning our wheels here.” Keller called for a vote (recorded as requested by Budarick) “to move this along, it’s already been 20 minutes.” Budarick was the only councillor to vote against adopting the minutes with only one of the amendments she had requested.

After a deputation by resident Mike McCloskey (Click HERE for article by James Di Fiore), the meeting proceeded with Municipal Reports.

Clerk’s Report

MPAC: Jahn reported that MPAC assessments would be delayed for 2021 as they had been last year. Ratepayers should know that their properties will continue to be assessed at Jan.1 2016 values.

2021 budget: Council approved inviting a representative from Emterra to speak at the first BLR 2021 budget meeting scheduled for April 14.

Municipal modernization fund: Jahn said BLR was unable to apply for the second round of provincial modernization funding, because the municipality had not yet spent the $297,000 they were awarded in the first round.

Interim Control Bylaw regarding cannabis production: Jahn said the Bylaw was in place until September and she had recently asked County of Renfrew for an update on the study they had been requested to conduct on behalf of BLR and other municipalities including Madawaska Valley, Admaston Bromley and North Algona Wilberforce. She said that because Charles Cheesman, Manager of Planning Services for County of Renfrew, was retiring at the end of April, they were unsure who would complete the studies.

Free passenger tires accepted: Council decided to waive the $15 fee for rims on passenger vehicle tires left at the BLR waste site until further notice.

Mayor & Council Report

Mayor Sheldon Keller reported on the recent EORN announcement to improve cell service in the region.

Councillor Budarick again raised the issue of when Council should review certain policies as mentioned above. There was additional discussion about revising the Recreation Committee Bylaw and event planning, and the Acting Clerk-Treasurer said the promised E4m training had slipped her mind. The following points were also noted:

Integrity Commissioner protocol: Budarick said a review could be conducted about the process on the basis of only those reports that had been concluded, to see whether timelines in the protocol were followed and whether it ought to be changed in any way. Jahn responded that there would be a cost for the review as the protocol was prepared by municipal solicitors Wishart Law, but Budarick said the protocol made it clear that it was up to Council to review it. Mayor Keller refused to present a Resolution to Council, saying, “I’m going to get somebody to move this and second this that may already be part of an investigation and this is wrong. I can’t go ahead with this. I can’t. There’s no way. You’re gonna raise a whole friggin’ can of worms with this.”

Indemnity Bylaw: For the benefit of staff as well as members of Council, Budarick asked when and how notice of the need for legal representation under the municipal insurance policy should be given, and to whom. Jahn said a member of council would have to be found to be acting in good faith to get legal fees reimbursed. Councillor Trevor Lidtkie said BLR’s insurance premiums had gone up by 48 percent this year.

Budarick also asked about a review of the Workplace Harassment Policy but Mayor Keller said he was not aware of any request to do so. He and Jahn advised Budarick to email the Acting Clerk-Treasurer and all members of council with a list of any questions she had.

Fire, Recreation Report

Fire: BLR Fire Chief Jordan Genrick returned in time from a grass fire to discuss the suggested Fees for Service Bylaw which included charges to be recouped by fire calls. Genrick said the Wildfire Season had started on April 1st but conditions were already very dry. He warned that residents should always check for a fire ban which he would post on signs in the municipality, at the fire halls, on Facebook and on the BLR website.

Facilities: Genrick said some residents requested the township to provide garbage bags for a roadside clean-up in May. Council was generally in favour, so Genrick said he would sort out dates. Genrick also reported on a request from residents for topsoil and mulch in the approximate amount of $750 to maintain the municipal flowerbeds. The volunteers will provide the plants themselves.

Finances

The list of payments was approved as presented with little discussion this month. Members of Council reviewed the Financial Statements as at December 31 2020 prepared by the municipal auditors, MacKillican & Associates. Lidtkie questioned the statement that the projected life span of the waste site would be 6 years, saying not long ago it was said to be 25 years.

Bylaws

Council reviewed the annual lease for the Quadeville playing field and agreed to amend it by including termination terms, access to the property, and some wording so that local organizations could erect the Christmas tree.


*O’Connor, M. & White, D. Ontario’s Municipal Conflict of Interest Act – A Handbook, Municipal Knowledge Series 2019 ed p.62

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