Council gets help from parliamentarian on procedural bylaw changes

by Colin Smith

Morinville Town Council has taken another step toward adopting a revised set of rules to govern its meetings.

At its Apr. 20 Committee of the Whole meeting Council considered an amended draft of a new Procedure Bylaw.

The new draft was presented to Council by Legislative Services Supervisor Melodie Steele.

Steele said it was prepared following a review of the proposed bylaw by Todd Brand, a professional consultant on parliamentary procedure certified by the National Association of Parliamentarians. Brand took part in Council’s video meeting.

Notable among his recommendations is the inclusion of special resolutions in the amended bylaw.

Brand recommends that a special resolution, which would require a two-thirds majority of all council members to pass, be required in the case of motions to suspend the rules, all changes to council meetings, including date, time, location or cancellation, and amending the Procedure Bylaw.

A special resolution would be required to add new or additional items to the agenda while a meeting of Council is underway.

Steele said it would also particularly apply in the case of votes to exclude the Chief Administrative Officer from closed meetings, for example, when the CAO’s salary was being discussed.

This reflects a change from the current Procedure Bylaw, adopted in May 2020, which provides for the exclusion of the CAO from meetings only in the case of improper behaviour.

When the draft Procedure Bylaw was last discussed by Council at its March 9 meeting Councillor Stephen Dafoe expressed concern that the bylaw would enable two-thirds of those in attendance at such a meeting, and not an actual council majority, to take drastic action such as firing the CAO.

Steele said that in fact, the Municipal Government Act states that dismissal of a CAO requires a two-thirds majority of the entire council.
Following Council questions and discussion of the draft bylaw, Steele thanked Brand for joining the meeting.

“His advice and assistance in this matter has been absolutely invaluable,” she told Council. “I am, as the recording secretary for council and parliamentarian — when he is not present — very much looking forward to having a sound, solid procedure bylaw to direct the business of Council.”
Mayor Barry Turner also thanked Brand, noting this is the third time the Procedure Bylaw has been reviewed during this Council term.

“Certainly I think the deep dive has been valuable in ironing out some of the wording things and so on and so forth in there,” he said. “I appreciate too that it takes a lot of work to come up with a bylaw that empowers Council to conduct its business and doesn’t put Council in the position where it can’t act where it should.

“It’s a very fine line, and I certainly appreciate your support and Administration’s support in getting to this point.”

The process of revising the Procedure Bylaw was kicked off in January by 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 February 16 Committee of the Whole meeting, at which Administration presented a draft bylaw that went back to the March 9 regular meeting.

At the meeting, Council made amendments to the bylaw before it was referred to the Committee of the Whole. The present draft developed following that meeting does not include all of those amendments.

On a motion by Dafoe, the draft Procedure Bylaw was referred to Council’s May 9 regular meeting.

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