New rules cause ruckus at Bay Roberts council
A proposed rules of procedure document produced some heated debate at the Feb. 10 regular council meeting for the Town of Bay Roberts.
Coun. Charlene Dawe-Roach didn’t like a number of points laid out in the document, including those relating to a dress code, councillor decorum, the use of cell phones, the selection of committees and the use of ‘your worship’ when addressing the presiding officer during a motion.
Council later passed a motion to adopt the document, with four votes supporting the motion and two votes against it.
“The standard dress code is … business casual. Not a problem,” said Dawe-Roach. “I have great issue with a description of business casual down to a golf shirt or a polo shirt with a belt. So, if someone comes in without a belt, sir, that’s in contention with the dress code. But, who is going to enforce it?
“I don’t think really a person’s dress code where it’s nice and, yeah, it’s professional, but I don’t think it really reflects what benefit that person may or may not contribute to council.”
Dawe-Roach went on to question the directive that “all cell telephones or other communication devices, with the exception of iPad’s or computer equipment provided for the conduct of meetings, must be turned off prior to the commencement of all meetings.”
“That’s a point that is a grey area with Municipal Affairs,” she said.
Meanwhile, Coun. George Simmons requested council push voting to adopt the document as he “would like more time to sit and discuss it” as a council.
Previously, council requested that chief administrative officer Nigel Black and town clerk Christine Bradbury devise a document outlining a set of rules and regulations for members to abide by during meetings.
In the view of other council members, there were some changes for the good contained in the document. One example highlights by the mayor was the option to meet as a committee of the whole.
Those are meetings where attendance is limited to councillors and at their discretion, the manager/clerk and/or specified staff.
“This is the first time we’ve had this,” said Mayor Philip Wood.
Dawe-Roach felt the majority of the document’s contents were excessive
“I agree that it is repetitive on most points with the Municipalities Act and the things that are in here, but not in legislation are policies that gives the mayor or the presiding officer complete authority to do to things that aren’t stipulated in the Act.”
She took issue with a proposed rule governing how council members would be selected to serve on committees. In the rules of procedure as proposed by the town, “councillors shall be appointed to the committees by the mayor at the first council meeting following a general election and shall be changed by the mayor on or before Dec. 31 of the second year of council’s term of office.”
It adds, “the mayor shall hold all reasonable discourse with councillors prior to their appointment to committees.”
“This is one of the grey areas when it comes to the Municipalties Act,” said Dawe-Roach. “I don’t know if we, as a council, have the authority to give (the mayor) the power to do that.”
According to the Act, “a town council may establish the standing or special committees that it considers desirable to consider and make recommendations on matters referred to them by the council.”
As well as, “a town council may appoint persons to serve on a committee established under subsection (1) and where a council does not appoint persons to a committee, the mayor shall appoint those persons.”
Once Dawe-Roach finished voicing her displeasure with parts of the document, Coun. Dean Franey offered his thoughts.
“In terms of the cell phone, I took that more as don’t play with your phone during meetings,” he said. “Most of these rules, I thought they were in place anyway to be honest.”
Meant to complement
According to Black, the document is meant complement what is laid out in the Municipalities Act. It does not go against it, but attempts to clear up any vague areas of the Act, he said.
“The purpose of our rules is to clarify things that are not stated in the Act,” said Black. “The Municipalities Act is either silent on things or it is ambiguous and generally how that situation is dealt with is that council will set out in their rules of procedure … in terms of how we do things.’
A discussion about possibly amending portions of the document is expected to take place at a future meeting.