An important unanswered question in the wake of last week's library board fiasco is just how was council able to prepare a plan after all five volunteer library board members resigned on Monday and Tuesday of last week, execute the plan, then have a bylaw prepared with the names of four people to appoint to the board by Thursday morning, all without any sort of open council meeting?
The CAO says that, “On (Wednesday) December 14, 2016, staff provided our best advice to Council to deal with a very unique and emergency situation regarding the Meaford Public Library.”
When and where was that “best advice” given to council? Certainly not in an open meeting of council.
Meaford's mayor says that between Monday night and Thursday morning's emergency meeting, councillors were tasked with contacting people who had previously expressed interest in joining the library board – who dreamed up this plan, and when were councillors given this task? Certainly not in an open meeting of council.
Four names were selected and ready to go in a bylaw presented at the Thursday, December 15 emergency meeting of council – who directed staff to prepare the bylaw, and where was this direction given? Certainly not in an open meeting of council.
My question about this received a vague answer from the municipal Clerk.
“When was the decision made to round up some board appointees between Monday night and this morning (Thursday) as opposed to following the usual policy of issuing notice?” I asked the municipal Clerk last Thursday afternoon. "Today's meeting was called on Tuesday, I understand that, but how did council come up with their plan for filling these vacant board seats quickly without having met to discuss what they should to?”
To which the Clerk responded, “Some people came forward after the meeting on Monday I am assuming – one of the speakers said he knew of interested people. The mayor likely had a strategy in mind when she called the special meeting.”
Not exactly an answer to my question, so I tried again.
“Interesting. The mayor and deputy mayor told me that members of council had been tasked with phoning people they suspected would be interested in joining the library board, so based on her explanation to me, it sounded like there had been some sort of meeting/teleconference perhaps, or a string of email messages that brought council members to the conclusion that they should be calling people, and to me that sounded like the sort of discussion and decision that should have taken place in open council,” I responded.
“I think this was informal to be honest. I was not copied on any group email. They were approached by people at Monday’s meeting,” was the response from the Clerk.
While I'd like to give our council the benefit of the doubt, forgive me for finding it next to impossible to believe that council and municipal staff came up with a plan for finding new library board members, made phone calls to several people in the community, developed a list of people who expressed interest in sitting on the library board, narrowed that list of people down to the four needed, and had staff prepare a bylaw for Thursday morning's emergency meeting, all without council having met in some form or fashion in order to get all of that done.
Something doesn't smell right here.
Given the murkiness of the waters and the inconsistent enforcement of similar situations with other municipal councils by the province in the past, whether Meaford's council has contravened the Municipal Act by holding some sort of meeting – whether they all gathered in a dark room somewhere, or were setting the phone lines ablaze – is almost irrelevant, but what is important is that our council chose to do all of those things in secrecy, without bothering to hold an open meeting to ask the question, “Well, all of our library board members have resigned, what do we do now? Ideas anyone?”
As far as we know, the mayor simply snapped her fingers and a list of four library board appointees appeared neatly typed into a bylaw ready for council to approve.
Does anyone think that's what happened?