Significant: Councillors who meet privately likely breaking the rules, says lawyer (by Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun, 23-Sept-2015)

Vision sign across from City HallComment: At last! Mainstream media raises an issue that some people have questioned for years – important public matters being decided in private caucus meetings.

What are the consequences going to be if the ruling regime has been breaking the law? This is serious. The civic party with the Council majority always votes as one bloc — in regular council and committee meetings, rezoning public hearings, policy decisions, contracts, etc. Public decisions are being made in private meetings. Now that mainstream media have at last raised the issue, who will look after the public interest? The provincial government? Who will monitor and enforce the legality of closed caucus meetings? Feigned ignorance by elected officials is unacceptable. Should fines by issued for all violations of the past? Also we hope that the public sees an immediate change in the operation of Vision Vancouver caucus meetings. All public matters should be handled in City Council. How can this be verified independently to public satisfaction?

Concerned citizens might wish to request a provincial review of Vancouver going back perhaps to 2008, including an examination of all civic party caucus meeting agendas. Vancouver (plus Burnaby and Surrey) are among the few B.C. municipalities with a civic party system. Concerned citizens may wish to contact their B.C. MLA to discuss this and make sure the issue is handled properly. It is up to the Provincial government to enforce the integrity of civic governments.


Councillors who meet privately likely breaking the rules, says lawyer: Discussing issues and making decisions ahead of council sessions is not allowed

(By Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun, September 23, 2015)

Excerpts below. Please visit the paper for the full article.

    • The Vision Vancouver majority on council may be violating the province’s open meeting laws by conducting caucus meetings before their regularly-scheduled council sessions, a veteran lawyer familiar with municipal law said Tuesday.
    • Raymond Young said councillors cannot meet together when they have a quorum without holding those meetings in public or under rules that limit in camera closed-door meetings to a narrow list of legitimately confidential issues.
    • In Vancouver, a quorum of the 11-member council is six. Vision Vancouver has seven members, including Mayor Gregor Robertson. Vision councillors regularly caucus in the mayor’s office before council meetings. In council, their votes are virtually unanimous and they tightly whip their caucus around issues, even giving portfolios to councillors.
    • “If they are caucusing, they have a problem. That’s a council meeting,” said Young, one of B.C.’s senior lawyers on municipal law. He was a founding partner of Young Anderson, one of B.C.’s best-known firms specializing in municipal law.
    • Young made the comments following a packed session at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver where he reviewed B.C.’s municipal rules on open meetings.

  • He told the audience many politicians don’t understand the law and the impact when it is broken. In the United States, where such legislation is more rigorously enforced, councillors can be fined for holding “illegal” meetings. ….
  • In an interview later, Young said the law is lax in B.C. and needs to be strengthened…
  • When asked if council caucuses before council meetings could violate the rules if a party holds power and forms quorum, he said yes.
  • “If they are caucusing before each council meeting and they’ve got the agenda out two or three days before the council meeting and they know what the issues will be … all of that is a council meeting, and it is an unlawful meeting,” he said, especially if they decide who will make a motion, second a motion and lead in discussion.
  • …. Young said that even when councillors email, text or call each other serially, or sequentially, they could be considered to be having a meeting. Even informal meetings such as a breakfast at a house can become an illegal meeting if the conversation turns from the weather to a city issue, he said.

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