At Monday night's last meeting of the current term, Stratford city council recommended changes to procedure to the new incoming council.
Recommendations are as follows:
Regular training on the closed meeting exceptions continue to be provided to council and staff; the inclusion of a closed meeting agenda item title, along with the section 239 exception continue to be provided in the resolution to adjourn into closed session and in the resolution used for reporting out following a closed session; that committee of the whole in-camera sessions will be chaired by the deputy mayor and that the deputy mayor will be responsible for reporting out.
Reporting out refers to reporting the topic of an in-camera session after the session concludes.
Staff also recommended that the city clerk undertake a review of the City of Stratford’s procedure bylaw and to prepare a new bylaw. The new bylaw is expected to be ready by the second or third quarter of 2023.
City clerk Tatiana Dafoe clarified that the move to have the deputy mayor chair the committee of the whole in-camera session is to ensure opportunities to chair meetings and to make it more obvious to the public that council is moving into an in-camera session.
The intent is to streamline the process and make it easier for members of the public to find all the information in one place. Dafoe also noted that staff are reviewing and preparing more recommendations for the incoming council.
The recommendations follow a report on council’s use of in-camera meetings, which indicated some confusion regarding the protocol for closed meetings.
The in-camera report from investigator Tony Fleming on behalf of the law firm Cunningham, Swan, Carty, Little & Bonham LLP, investigated 56 in-camera meetings from the beginning of 2020 to June 14, 2021.
This was the second report investigating the City of Stratford’s use of in-camera sessions. One infraction - the motion adopted in open session - has already been corrected due after that initial report was presented.
Staff’s report to council also indicated that the cost of the investigations is more than what was in reserves. About $30,000 is in reserve to cover the costs of investigation services and Integrity Commissioner services. The total cost to the city for both investigations was $47,605.
That may impact the 2023 budget. Staff may recommend to pursue investigation services through the Ombudsman’s Office, which is a service provided for free to municipalities.