Open and transparent…
“That is the debate that goes around the motion, but the motion should stand on its own legs,” she said.
A mover and a second for motions are to be recorded. Most times, any council member who objects to the approval of a motion will ask for the minutes to reflect their vote, she noted. Sometimes their rationale for that objection is noted.
The decision on how much detail is provided falls upon each individual council and its staff. Pollett said most would just provide a record of the decisions made. Particular reports or public documents would be part of the minutes package available for perusal at town halls.
“Every council is a little bit different, but if you were to ask for the document, if it was part of the minutes and approved, it should be available,” Oldford said.
There are details of agenda items or motions that contain sensitive information that must not be made available for public viewing. The recently changed Access to Information Laws now limit that to examples where making it public could do harm to certain people, for example.
Releasing information that could identify a person, or their personal information remains a problematic area, according to Pollett.
“That’s actually been a really difficult thing for a lot of municipalities because they are really not sure now what they can and cannot release,” he said. “As you would expect, they are going to err on the side of caution.”
Oldford encourages all councils to be as open and transparent as possible, recognizing there is a balance with releasing personal or business information that can be detrimental or harmful.
A standard for reporting council minutes across the province would be difficult, she said, particularly because of the sizes and resources of some municipalities.
“The one-size-fits all may not necessarily work,” she said. “Seventy-five per cent of our municipalities have one or fewer employees, which means they probably have a part-time clerk that comes in and scribbles down some minutes and pays some bills.
“You can have some general guidelines of what should be included in your minutes, and we encourage councils to adopt what process they are going to use. That is the biggest thing.”