This one is for Bryan

A couple of emails have prompted this post, one from Bryan sums them all up – “About a week ago you indicated that you would have further comment about the closed meeting leak.

Well the lack of a post was because that very little information about the situation of a motion to bring the Integrity Commissioner into Town has emerged. Most Councillors are not talking about the leak and what information was disclosed and the Mayor until he had an interview with Robert Washburn of 89.7 was also saying “nowt”. The BR had an email into him asking for comment but we were not so lucky as Rob. Knowing Rob he probably sat outside the Mayor’s office until he spoke to him! Rob’s article can be read here. the quotes in blue are taken from his article and I thank him for them.

“There is certain language and information out there in the populous. And, I am asking the question, after hearing certain conversations, how do you have that conversation or information because that information only shared in closed session?” the mayor said.”

Well after deciphering the unusually stilted language, basically the Mayor had obviously had heard snippets of the secret conversations and he decided to put a stop to them. Apparently this was not the first time that the Mayor had heard about secret conversations being on the street.

So one mystery for me was cleared up, the content of the convos. It made no difference that the info was not of a highly confidential nature it was just info from behind the walls of a closed room. He decided to take action. Emerging from his phone booth he had had enough. “

Mayor Henderson said he chose this path because he wanted to ensure the integrity of the council rather than deal with it in private conversations or issue a warning to councillors.

After the August Council meeting where the motion will be discussed he will be satisfied if the motion is defeated,

“At least, I hope, collectively, I sent a message (about) the importance of closed session,” he said.

We at the BR think that in his own mind the Mayor has rode the issue down the middle. If, as we hear, it is the Staff that is so upset by the leaks, they have been placated by the fact that the Mayor took some action on their behalf. And as for Council they should be chastened by the fact that the process has made them aware of the consequences of ‘leaking’.

The question is – at what cost to the morale and teambuilding of an efficient Council? How will this bring the disparate parts of the members over to his side or, as another Councilwatcher commented to the BR – “the split in Council will not be healed just amplify.”

So, we will have to wait until August 12th to see if this sad saga goes on, at a cost to the taxpayers – Integrity Commissioners don’t come cheap, or if the motion dies in Council.

Stay tuned!

 

A Council watchers delight

Following on with the post from last week the BR is now going to watch carefully for the slow moving train of confusion. We do know that this topic, even if dropped by the Mayor after reading the tea-leaves, will not go silently into the night.

If one goes to the 1hr30.20min mark of the last Council meeting youtube video – click here to open, of the proceedings a couple of unusual things happen. Firstly when the Notice of Motion (to ask the Integrity Commissioner to investigate a leak of information from a closed meeting) is introduced, the Mayor is in the Chair and cannot move the motion, the Deputy Mayor refuses to move it. “I am not comfortable moving this motion”. So Councillor Darling moves it. Two members of Council – the Deputy Mayor and Cllr. Chorley refuse to vote and abstain from the vote. It passes after Cllr Beatty gets an amendment changing the date of the discussion at the next CoW to the combined meeting in August.

So on to August it will be. Cllr Beatty, when asked by the BR why she voted for the motion she replied, “we need a decision!”, she also refused to comment further until after the discussion. When asked if the Mayor had asked her if she leaked she confirmed other reports that made it clear that the Mayor has not asked any member of Council if they leaked, and also stated that she had not heard of a leak; as have others on Council. So where is the evidence?

In another related matter let’s put a rumour to bed – kill it off! The presumed subject of the June 3rd closed meeting, we say “presumed” because the announced hiring of Mr Sarmiento as the “Artistic and Creative Consultant” was announced shortly before the meeting discussed “the hiring of a contract employee” and was rumoured to have been hired at an outrageous salary. So the BR asked the Town for the salary range that this employee was placed in. The answer came in an email from the Town Clerk.However another wrinkle emerged in this. The creation of this position was done completely without direct knowledge of Council. It was deemed to be a “staff hiring” by the CAO, even the Coordinator of the portfolio – Cllr Bureau did not know before the hiring that it was planned. Council was informed by email on May 20th and the press release, announcing the hiring was issued May 21st. The closed meeting took place June 3rd, presumably because some of Council wanted to discuss the hired individual.

As to how the position was going to be covered off in the budget, the salary would be covered by the rest of the year’s budget from an empty position – the former Concert Hall Manager had left his position a couple of months ago (in again rumoured dubious circumstances) and a rejigging of existing funds would allow the hiring of a consultant to review and write a report that would layout the future activities of the Concert Hall. But as Mr Sarmiento has announced a series of Tribute Band concerts, it appears that the mandate may have been expanded.

So as Council watchers where do we go from here? Some members of Council want to clear the air, as Cllr Burchat told the BR “I have nothing to hide, investigate it!” Cllr. Bureau told the BR that he voted for it “So that I can debate it, I have some issues with it!” But more prudent people may not. After all, will the exercise be a prelude to punishment for the leaker which would lead to more acrimony, or should the whole affair be downplayed and become a healing operation. This doesn’t look like the start of a teambuilding exercise.

Monday 8th July:

Some advice in the form of a quote from Simon Jenkins of the “The Guardian” newspaper. He writes about the proposed investigation into the UK’s Ambassador’s remarks about Trump. “Leak inquiries, like that now ordered into the Darroch memorandum, are Whitehall’s most fatuous blood sport. They seldom find culprits and serve merely to magnify the original embarrassment.”

Perhaps Mayor Henderson might heed this advice!