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If this is the face of Cobourg’s future we are in good hands!

This was the scene yesterday afternoon in the Town of Cobourg. Upwards of 700 people marched, and some stayed in Victoria Park, to demonstrate against Police Brutality.

The fact that the majority of marchers appeared to be much much younger than me lifts my soul. Just how many of these wonderful youth will stay in Cobourg we do not know but even if only a few remain they should infect this Town with the energy needed to invigorate the place.

For a fuller report and a video seven minutes long visit “Northumberland Today”. I had a problem with the interview video when the reporter asked twice, of a young woman, “What do you think about the killing of Police Officers?” Hey Pete the demo was about police officers brutalising and killing minorities, easy to see your bias here!

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!

Finally a post: Scandal or embarrassment?

Finally a topic worthy enough to shake the publisher out of his cynicism, apathy, lethargy and general indifference to things political.

At the next Regular Cobourg Council Meeting a notice of motion penned by the Mayor will be put forward and moved into the next CoW meeting. This unusual move has prompted the BR to do a bit of digging and leads to a lot of speculation.

The motion basically says that someone has been blabbing about a closed session meeting that took place on June 3rd 2019, and the Mayor wants do something about it. Read the motion here.

A snippet of the agenda of that June 3rd meeting is shown on the right and it clearly discusses a proposed contract employee/company to be hired to do something for the Town. Presumably, and this is where it gets sticky is that in those discussions there would have been a discussion about how much to pay the proposed contract employee.

Back to the motion, it directs an investigation into the disclosure and the last part reads: “Now therefore be it resolved that a fulsome investigation be initiated on the June 3, 2019 Closed Session of Council by the Town’s Integrity Commissioner to determine the source or sources of the breach of trust and the disclosed Closed Session information, and that those findings as well as recommendations for penalties if warranted of the offender(s) be shared, with Council as well as the Public.”.

So speculation abounds: who was the contract employee/company, who was the blabbermouth, and what was said outside of the meeting about the discussion? Well the Integrity Commissioner has been set on the case, if the motion passes In that case we will have an answer in months and the issue will be forgotten about, until it comes back. When it does come back it will reignite the issue and more discussion, is this what we really want – to wash our dirty laundry in public?

It should be an interesting discussion at Council, on Tuesday evening, if it has proceeded to this stage!

The big question here is why the need for this motion, if the process, as we understand it, was followed, the  information would have been in the public domain by now. If a contract person was hired as a result of a closed session discussion a statement should have been made that a decision was made, after the meeting by the Chair, and a motion made to direct the CAO to complete the hiring process. Public money pays this employee and the public should know how much. Privacy laws prohibit the actual disclosure of employees wages but the public is entitled to know the salary range that is used to pay the wage. Also if the contract is one between a contract Company and the Town how can the Council discuss a contract in secret and then not ratify it in a Council meeting? After all no motions can be made in a closed session, and the signing of a contract would be overstepping the rules when Council directs the CAO to do something that was discussed in a closed session.

It looks as though the motive for the notice of motion is unclear. The disclosure process was not followed and the proper information was not released as it should have been; so why do we need an investigation to see who released the information. Have the Mayor follow procedure and introduce a statement telling us what went on in the closed session.

Hmm so many questions so few answers!

 

Congratulations to all

Ok everybody can settle down; all of the questions posed in the last post have been answered. If the readers will recall the BR took the drafters of the recently released Procedural Bylaw, and the supervisors of such to task for attempting to, as we phrased it, restricting the ability of the public to fully participate at council meetings by limiting the number of delegations to four per meeting.

When looking at the video we were struck by just how long the meeting went on for – over four hours. With a couple of new councillors feeling their way and the Mayor, in his schoolmarm mode explaining various ways of doing things it took an hour to get to the first contentious topic – the Procedural Bylaw (PB), the bylaw that will govern Council for the foreseeable future.

At the 1 hour point of the meeting, it came time to accept for information purposes the draft bylaw. How to do that took fifteen minutes of debate. On one side were the people who wanted to postpone the adoption of the report (Cllr Chorley) until after the Public Meeting and those who wanted the public to discuss both the Councillors’ positions on the draft and the draft itself (Cllr Darling). It appeared the DM wanted to discuss the report line by line and others just wanted to postpone. Finally it got off to discussion but the first line – “Definitions” soon identified just where a couple of members interests lay. Councillor Chorley wanted to introduce the contentious topic of a Question and Answer period in the definitions as any reference to it was absent from the draft. Finally after about five minutes of debating whether such a thing could happen and be discussed it was declared “not to be considered at this time” by the Chair  of the committee – the DM.

Definitions worked through and moving past the question of who decided that amendments to the PB should be decided by a ‘supermajority’ (seems that the Municipal Act says that it does), they were into the first real question of the PB – should they change the time of the Council meetings to 6pm from 4pm. It should be noted that at the start of the debate Councillor Chorley told the assembly that she would have lots to say and about twenty amendments to bring forward so all of the amendments with the exception of one came from her. Surprisingly the rest of the assembly also wanted to change the time of the meeting so the discussion was shorter than expected.

At the fifty-one minute point of the discussion they reached the expected contretemps – the recommendation to limit delegations to only four per meeting. When pressed to explain Mr Larmer, the Municipal Clerk, told all that the number of four was flexible and as the person on Staff who has the responsibility to run ‘efficient’ meetings this was a time control measure not one that restricts the publics’ access to Council. “Besides delegates more than six is a Public Meeting and as such would be governed by different rules” After much discussion and no positions of support all Councillors voted to delete the recommendation. But it passed with the hope that it would be supported by those at the public meeting on the 28th January. Section 15.12 recommended that delegations that spoke at a CoW would not be allowed to speak again at the next Council meeting. This too was deleted by a unanimous decision.

At the one hour fifty seven minute mark the Council got to discuss the topic of “Open Forums” it was recommended to have one every quarter and last for one hour, up jumped Cllr Beattie with her one and only motion of the discussion. She advanced the timid position that the Open Forum occur once a month. This produced a motion to amend the amendment to a Question and Answer period after each Committee of the Whole meetings. After some procedural jousting and a Schoolmarm lesson from the Mayor, about how to get discussion back on track, this was passed; satisfying most of Council and ticking off a huge election promise box. The ‘question and answer’ failed but the ‘open forum’ passed. Finally after two and a quarter hours of discussion the changed draft was sent back to the Municipal Clerk for a tidy-up and an add to future agendas.

A job well done and a learning process assimilated. The end result was that all of our fears about local democracy were satiated. The upshot was that Cllr Chorley will not be taken lightly in the future, she may be slotted into the box that other voluble Councillors have been put in – come on down Ms Mutton and Mrs Loken (names from the past) but we hope not and also hope that some Staff members will not condescend as they have done in the past to those deemed to be ‘uppity’.

Just bear with us for a few moments

A personal note from  the Publisher of the BurdReport:

You may think that I’m being an alarmist but the events of the last few days have been very worrying and disturbing. I refer to the activities of the United States and its  institutions. Specifically the way the enabling Congress has manipulated the rules of procedure to Mr Trump’s advantage and consolidate the power of the Presidency.

With the “manipulated” resignation of Supreme Court Justice Kennedy the President has shifted the power to make decisions to the Conservative side. This Court does not need any more shifting it has done enough damage with its recent decisions about Union Rights, and the Immigration ban.

As you know I have been in Europe for a few days, yesterday was our first full day in Berlin and the first exhibit we visited was the “Topography of Terror”. This exhibit is situated beside a piece of the Berlin Wall and is  a series of panels containing photographs, and quotes from the year 1933. This was the year that Hitler came to power and the panels tell, in a chronology, the way he did.

Realising that any mention of Hitler, on the Internet, invokes “Godwin’s Law” and automatically loses the argument but in this case the comparisons, in my opinion, between the events of 1933 and what is going on in the USA are so stark it has to be mentioned. I was so moved by the images and quotes that i had to share it. If the reader thinks this post is over the top so be it!

Read the text in the pics, think about the way politics is moving in the States and reflect. I do not expect the readers to agree with the BR, but at least the point of view must be considered.

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