Due process?

As mentioned in the previous post, Council moved to accept the contract between Avant-Garde Inc. and the Town of Peace River at the January 14, 2013 meeting.

Let me first be clear.  None of these posts are meant to imply any contention with the individual hired.  I have been in two meetings with Mr. Bunn to date and have found him to be professional, courteous, and intelligent.  And there is no doubt in my mind that he will strive for excellence in everything he does.

But that does not mean as voters we don’t have a right to understand the hiring process.

I will direct you to the minutes of the aforementioned meeting but in case you’re short on time, here is the low down.

This is the agenda councillors received prior to this meeting.  The blacked out line items in the in-camera section are not regarding personnel.  Nothing in the in-camera section, nothing in the unfinished business section.

I refer you now to the Peace River Procedural Bylaw, a bylaw to “provide rules governing the proceedings and the regular business of council and council committees”.  Two points are of interest here.

5.1 (2): The conduct of all Town business is controlled by the general will of the Council and committee members–the right of the majority to decide, accompanied by the right of the minority to require the majority to decide only after a full and fair deliberation, in a constructive and democratic manner, of the issues involved. (Emphasis added)

5.4 (3): Only business listed in the agenda shall be undertaken at a meeting, unless a resolution to change it is unanimously passed. (Emphasis added)

In the minutes you do see additions were made to the agenda.  But they were capital budget timeline, gravel truck, and museum.  Nothing about CAO or personnel.  The motion was carried to adopt agenda as amended.

Now go to page 3 in the minutes.  Suddenly under unfinished business you see “1. CAO-Item to be brought forward during In Camera discussions.”  Wasn’t on the agenda.  And wasn’t voted on to be added to the agenda.  What gives?

Then saunter down to the bottom of page 8.

They’ve recently come out of camera, during which, as the minutes report, a personnel discussion took place.  Despite that not being on the agenda or added to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting.

Here’s how it went once out of camera.

1.  Deputy Mayor Darling makes a motion that “the contract between Avant-Garde Inc. and the Town of Peace River for the term of Feb 4, 2013 to April 30, 2022 be approved and that the Mayor execute the contract on behalf of the Town.”

2. Before this is voted on, Councillor Milligan makes a motion to “have another legal opinion look at the obligations placed upon future councils pertaining to the cost and structure of the agreement”.  This motion goes to a vote and is defeated 4-3.  Milligan, Tarpey, and Needham for, Mann, Darling, Lafontaine, and George against.  This arrangement will persist when I state 4-3 so I need not repeat it.

3.  Darling’s motion brought back to the floor.  Carried 4-3.

4.  Darling then moves that the “contractor’s employee be appointed the Chief Administrative Officer”.  Carried 4-3.

5.  Darling moves that appointment of current acting CAO be rescinded.  Councillor Milligan moves that this be tabled, presumably to attempt again to give all councillors due time to assess the contract.  Motion defeated 4-3.  Darling’s motion then brought back to the floor and carried.  You know the score.

6.  Darling then moves to allow the contractor’s employee to approach the “current acting CAO for administrative information prior to” the start of his term, subject to execution of the contract and signing of a confidentiality agreement.  Motion carried. 4-3.

This is what the publicly accessible record shows.  If it is wrong, then it stands to be corrected.

Even assuming there was prior knowledge among ALL councillors of this contract being presented at the meeting, is it all that much to ask for an opportunity to review it?

The town had been without a permanent CAO for EIGHT months.

The next Council meeting was in TWO WEEKS.

How could council be expected to vote responsibly on a motion that would tie the town to a $2,350,656 contract (not including inflation increases or performance bonuses) without being able to examine a physical copy for a reasonable amount of time?

Can we expect them to make a responsible and conscientious decision on the basis of this review? The minutes show they were in camera for one hour. Were all councillors given a physical copy? Were they read the contract instead?

Why was it such a big hurry?

Two weeks.  That’s all they were asking.

Two weeks to give some thought and consideration to a multi-million dollar contract that would last for NINE YEARS.

Is that too much to ask?

Is this what open, honest, and transparent governance looks like?

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