Closed session standing items no more, as Morinville Council approves procedural bylaw

by Colin Smith

Morinville has a new procedure bylaw.

The amended Procedure Bylaw, which sets out the rules governing Town Council proceedings, was adopted at its regular meeting Tuesday, May 11.

The move comes at the end of a series of discussions of the existing Procedure Bylaw that stretch back to January.

The final change to the draft bylaw came at the meeting when Councillor Stephen Dafoe proposed an amendment allowing any Council member to add an agenda item to be discussed in a Council meeting closed session.

This addition could be done through Council’s Agenda Development Committee or in the case of an emergent item at the beginning or end of the meeting, before going into closed session.

This procedure replaces the closed session standing agenda items CAO Dialogue and Council Dialogue. Because these discussions are not made public, they are seen in some quarters as unduly secretive.

“Where we have a stading [closed session] item, as legitimate as it may be, the optics in the public and the media are not good,” said Dafoe. “I think this [amendment] gives us what we need and removes that accusation of secrecy because we’re coming out and saying ‘I want to add this item.'”

The amendment passed in a unanimous vote.

Other amendments to the Procedure Bylaw include provision for special resolutions, which would require a two-thirds majority of all council members to pass.

These would be required in the case of motions to suspend the rules, and for changes to council meetings, including date, time, location or cancellation, and amending the Procedure Bylaw.

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According to Legislative Services Supervisor Melodie Steele, 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 former Procedure Bylaw, adopted in May 2020, which provided for the exclusion of the CAO from meetings only in the case of improper behaviour.

Council gave second and third readings to the Procedure Bylaw as amended, which carried unanimously.

Several councillors praised Steele for her work on drafting the bylaw.

Revising the Procedure Bylaw began January 12 following 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.

Council subsequently discussed the issue at regular and committee of the whole meetings, and advice was sought from Todd Brand, a professional consultant on parliamentary procedure certified by the National Association of Parliamentarians.

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