Bid for board transparency lost
The door for better transparency at the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board peeked open briefly at its last meeting, but was quickly slammed shut again.
Board member David Cooper moved to allow residents to attend the board’s workshops. This was often where a lot of decisions were determined ahead of official business meetings, he said.
‘‘For some time now I have felt very uncomfortable, almost embarrassed, at the fact we have closed door workshops,’’ he said.
A report from the council’s legal department showed concern for some of the board’s practices and gave them the option to allow residents at workshops, but exclude them from confidential matters, he said.
Cooper found it ironic people were excluded when member’s campaign slogans were People and Penlink First or People Over Politics.
‘‘Thousands of people chose us to act in their interests when they voted for us and they have a right to know what we do,’’ Cooper said.
Member Caitlin Watson supported the motion and said constituents have a right to involved in the decision making process. If she was a member of the public, she would be startled at the speed at which some of the board’s business meetings ran, she said.
‘‘Simply because discussions have already taken place behind closed doors in our workshops,’’ Watson said.
But Julia Parfitt and Gary Holmes didn’t agree.
Holmes said decisions weren’t made at workshops, but options were explored and free and frank discussions held.
Parfitt said she wasn’t against acting in a closed way and it was the standard practice of local board and council workshops.
The benefit was a chance to get an understanding of all the options and test and explore ideas without setting expectations for the public, she said.
But Parfitt admitted workshop reports needed more detail so people understood what options were explored.
Board members were split when voting on the motion. Cooper, Caitlin Watson, Vicki Watson and Mike Williamson voted for, while Parfitt, Holmes, Christina Bettany and Janet Fitzgerald voted against. As chairwoman Parfitt made a second casting vote to break the split and voted against the motion a second time.
The board’s decision was split so chairwoman Julia Parfitt’s casting vote against the motion tipped the balance.