Council motion makes allowance for missed in-person meeting in event of Town tech shortfall

Amendment to Council policy would not penalize councillors who attempt to attend electronically in the event of illness or dual council commitments if the town’s tech not functioning.

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by Colin Smith

When is an absence by a member from a Morinville Town Council meeting not an absence?

When the member attempts to attend electronically but is prevented from doing so by technological glitches.

That is the result of a change to the Council Remuneration Policy approved at council’s regular meeting Tuesday.

According to the policy, the honorarium paid to members is reduced by $100 for each absence from a meeting that has not been approved by council resolution.

But councillors are permitted four unapproved absences per year without financial penalty.

The addition to the policy, moved by Councillor Stephen Dafoe, ensures that in the event a councillor is absent from a meeting and attempts to attend electronically but is unable to because of Town of Morinville technological issues, the absence will not count as one of the four permitted absences annually.

After making the motion, Dafoe described his experience of being unable to physically attend at council because he needed to represent the Town of Morinville’s interests at an out-of-town strategic planning session for a Council-appointed committee.  He planned to attend electronically or by phone but could not because the Town was not able to have two-way communication.

“What I’m suggesting is that if this passes, that would not count as one of the four permitted absences,” he said.

Dafoe noted that the policy of reducing the honorarium for absences had been put in place by a past council, some of whose members frequently missed meetings.

“If you’re only going to come to 60 percent of the meetings, there would be a financial effect to this.”

However, he said, “You shouldn’t be credited with an absence if a problem with the technology is why you are unable to be there.”

Mayor Simon Boersma cautioned that council must be wary of possible abuse of the absence policy.

“We have to watch,” he said. “It can become a slippery slope very easily.”

Reliable technology to allow for attending meetings electronically is very important while Covid remains a concern, believes Councillor Maurice St. Denis.

Town Legislation Officer Melodie Steele said that a technological upgrade of the council chamber now underway is producing difficulties.

“Right now, we are limited by old technology and some technology that is longer functioning,” Steele said.

Deputy Mayor Ray White pointed out that this situation was being experienced by Councillor Rebecca Balanko, who was not at the meeting.

“This is a classic example of what’s happening right now,” he said. “She could make it electronically if the technology was available.”

Following a unanimous vote in favour of the policy change, White moved that Balanko’s absence from the meeting not be counted as one of her four annual permitted absences as she could attend electronically. This also passed unanimously.

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