City coun­cil to work on trans­parency

More de­scrip­tion about items pre­sented dur­ing closed-door meet­ings will be re­leased

StarMetro Calgary - - CALGARY - KEVIN MAIMANN

A re­port that found city coun­cil spent about 14 per cent of its time be­hind closed doors last year is prompt­ing moves to en­sure con­fi­den­tial meet­ings are used prop­erly.

Mem­bers of coun­cil’s pri­or­i­ties and fi­nance com­mit­tee signed off on rec­om­men­da­tions Tues­day to change the way they han­dle dis­cus­sions out of the pub­lic eye. They in­clude giv­ing more de­scrip­tion about items pre­sented dur­ing closed, or in­cam­era, meet­ings and at­tach­ing a spe­cific date for when items dis­cussed in cam­era must be re­viewed and ul­ti­mately re­leased.

Some coun­cil­lors have ques­tioned whether closed­door meet­ings show a lack of open­ness with vot­ers, but Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi said he doesn’t see an is­sue with Cal­gary’s cur­rent ap­proach to con­fi­den­tial items. He ar­gued they’re a re­sult of more in­for­ma­tion be­ing shared with the en­tire coun­cil.

But Nen­shi said a process to make sure in-cam­era re­ports are re­leased when pos­si­ble is a wor­thy cause. “Even though there’s not a prob­lem, you can al­ways im­prove it, and there’s a cou­ple things we’ve been slip­ping on,” he said.

“There are much, much big­ger fish to fry in terms of things go­ing on at the city.”

In Al­berta, most of city coun­cil busi­ness must take place in pub­lic, but the Mu­nic­i­pal Gov­ern­ment Act man­dates that items such as em­ployee eval­u­a­tions, in­for­ma­tion that in­volves le­gal priv­i­leges or ad­vice from of­fi­cials should be kept con­fi­den­tial.

But some coun­cil­lors in Cal­gary have ques­tioned whether elected of­fi­cials are spend­ing a lit­tle too much time in closed ses­sions. Ward 14 Coun­cil­lor Peter De­mong asked ad­min­is­tra­tion in April to look at the way in-cam­era meet­ings are con­ducted, and Ward 11 Coun­cil­lor Jeromy Farkas ar­gued that coun­cil’s use of closed-door meet­ings had in­creased “ex­po­nen­tially” in re­cent years.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­view pre­sented by city clerk Laura Kennedy, coun­cil­lors spent about 76 hours, or 14 per cent, of their meet­ing time be­tween May 2017 and May 2018 in closed ses­sions.

Kennedy said the ma­jor­ity of the items dis­cussed in cam­era were land trans­ac­tions.

The re­port didn’t cap­ture closed-door dis­cus­sions that took place at coun­cil’s Olympic as­sess­ment com­mit­tee.

CHRISTINA RYAN/CAL­GARY STARMETRO

Ac­cord­ing to a re­view coun­cil­lors spent about 76 hours, or 14 per cent, of their meet­ing time be­tween May 2017 and May 2018 in closed ses­sions.

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