Council’s Procedural Bylaw stalled over procedure regarding closed sessions and CAO

by Colin Smith

Could a small number of Morinville Council members take advantage of procedural rules to fire the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer?

Councillor Stephen Dafoe raised the question during debate on a proposed new Procedure Bylaw that received first reading at Council’s regular meeting Tuesday.

The draft bylaw had previously been presented to Council at its February 23 Committee of the Whole meeting.

The bylaw was given First Reading, and Deputy Mayor Nicole Boutestein then moved Second Reading.

Following discussion, unanimous approval was given to an amendment by Dafoe that in the bylaw clauses requiring a two-thirds majority vote in favour for a certain action to be valid, it should be specified whether that was two-thirds of the members of Council “as a whole” or those “present.”

“The intention here is to provide clarity throughout the document with regards to the two-thirds majority,” he said.

Dafoe then moved to a discussion of clause 18.3, which would enable Council to exclude the Chief Administrative Officer from closed meetings through a two-thirds majority vote, suggesting that the basis on which the CAO would be excluded should be considered.

He argued that the way the bylaw presently stands, coming out of a closed meeting that only had the quorum of four Council members, three members – constituting a two-thirds majority – could carry a motion for drastic action such as firing the CAO.

“That’s why I’m so concerned throughout this document about the two-thirds majority,” he said.

CAO Stephane Labonne, in attendance at the meeting, professed concern about the issue.

“I’m at a point where I’m a bit uncomfortable right now,” he said. “I’m trying to quickly review my employment contract to see exactly what it says in relation to termination with cause as opposed to termination without cause.

“Councillor Dafoe you’ve raised a very interesting point. I think there might even be a need for us to get some legal advice in relation to this.”

A motion by Councillor Scott Richardson to refer the matter to Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting for a wider discussion was then passed.

The initial prompt that led to the new procedure bylaw draft came in January with a motion by Dafoe to amend the current bylaw. At that point, he was seeking to have provisions that applied to bringing up failed motions and rescinding or amending previously adopted measures also cover bylaws.

At its January 12 meeting Council decided to refer Dafoe’s motion to the Committee of the Whole meeting and have Administration bring forward the Procedures Bylaw for discussion and consideration of the changes recommended at a parliamentary procedure workshop presented by Todd Brand Consulting on December 7.

The draft bylaw presented to Council allows a motion to be reintroduced if a two-thirds majority of Council favours that.

A two-thirds majority of Councillors present at the meeting would also be required for a motion to rescind or amend a measure previously passed, in emergent situations where the usually required written notice was not practical.

“Including a two-thirds majority support requirement moves us in the right direction,” Dafoe said following the Committee of the Whole meeting. “It satisfies much of what I’m looking to achieve by providing majority control instead of a potential small clique control.”

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