How much is being hidden behind closed doors at Penticton city hall?
In the June 12 Western News, the editorial concluded by saying: “We advocate a return to the committee of the whole structure, where councillors have a wider opportunity to publicly debate issues, and there are stricter public limitations on what issues can be debated behind closed doors.”
Incamera proceedings are there to protect the integrity of the action being contemplated by council on our behalf. The only basis for incamera sessions are three issues: land, legal, or labour.
In the case of the recent Munson Mountain land sale, the incamera session was there to protect the integrity of the sale. It was not there to conceal the decision making of individual councillors and the acting mayor; when it was not revealed which councillor voted for or against the sale.
Under former Mayor Dan Ashton, the committee of the whole was discontinued. committees of the whole had open discussion and stricter limits on what issues were debated behind closed doors. Compounding this was the added decision to hold cosy little catered suppers in city hall back rooms before 6 p.m. regular council meetings. What was discussed during these supper meetings?
Are today’s council meetings simply a rerun of what was discussed at supper?
Incamera sessions are hidden from view and the press has little opportunity to question or report on what decisions are made by council. We taxpayer do not know what is on the agenda or how often incamera meetings are held; whether the agenda items being discussed have no ‘incamera validity’ or whether agenda subjects should be publicly disclosed and publicly debated.
Why the secrecy? What are they hiding?
Whilst the decision to change the system was made in a previous term, everyone at the present council table must take responsibility for the present irresponsible obscurity of incamera meetings. These secret meetings leave the public with no alternative but to suspect they are being kept deliberately in the dark as to what city council is doing, saying or what decisions they are making behind closed doors.
The secrecy involved in secret incamera decision making by this council was revealed recently when change in taxation rates was discussed incamera and incorporated within the budget without open public consultation.
It is past time to return to open committees of the whole; the agenda of incamera meetings should be released beforehand; press releases should be issued before and after each incamera meeting detailing the length of the meeting; all items discussed and what decisions resulted.