City council to work on transparency
More description about items presented during closed-door meetings will be released
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.
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.