A three-member nominating committee consisting of Mayor Barb Clumpus, Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield, and Councillor Shirley Keaveney met on the morning of Monday, January 16 to discuss the applications that had been received for vacant spots on the Meaford Public Library board.
The meeting marked a second attempt to fill vacant library board seats after all five public members of the board resigned in December in the wake of council's decision to bypass the board in an attempt to make an arrangement with Owen Sound's council to continue library services for Sydenham residents for the coming year, and to open membership at the Owen Sound North Grey Union Public Library to all Meaford residents after negotiations between the OSNGUPL board and the Meaford Library board had reached a stalemate.
Meaford's council had held an emergency meeting on December 15, just three days after the mass resignation of the library board members in order to appoint four new public library board members along with the mayor, who had previously not been part of the board. However, as was reported by The Independent on December 15, those appointments contravened the provincial Library Services Act, which requires that library board vacancies be posted publicly, and published in a local newspaper to seek applicants.
When asked at the time why no public notice had been issued seeking applicants for the vacant library board seats as is required by Ontario's Public Libraries Act, which states that “The clerk of the appointing municipality or county or, in the case of a union board, the clerks of the affected municipalities shall give public notice of vacancies on the board by publishing a notice of them, inviting applications, in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality,” Mayor Barb Clumpus told The Independent that in an emergency situation council can bypass that procedure, a claim that turned out to be untrue. Rather than following the process required by the Library Services Act, according to the mayor, council instead contacted members of the community who had previously expressed interest in serving on the board, resulting in the appointment of four new members, all from the rural areas of the municipality, and none from the urban area. Mayor Clumpus told The Independent that none of the urban Meaford residents that council had contacted were interested in serving on the board.
“It was an emergency situation, so there were a number of expressions of interest that had come forward, and that's allowed in the Library Act,” Mayor Clumpus claimed at the time when pressed by The Independent. The following day, however, council and municipal staff acknowledged their contravention of the Library Services Act, and vowed to re-do the board appointment process, this time following the requirements of the Library Services Act.
It is still unclear how council was able to arrive at the council chamber on December 15 with a list of four names ready to appoint to the library board without having had a meeting, teleconference, or email communication between members of council between December 12, when the first library board resignations were submitted and December 15, when council met to make the board appointments.
“Some people came forward after the meeting on Monday (December 12) 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,” informed now former Clerk Rob Tremblay, when asked if council had held a meeting to develop their strategy.
As with all such meetings, due to the fact that identifiable individuals were to be discussed, the nominating committee meeting held on January 16, which lasted nearly two hours, was held in closed session, and there was no indication as to who was under consideration, or who was selected by the committee for recommendation to council.
Before the start of the closed session meeting, Mayor Clumpus told The Independent that 18 applications had been received for consideration by the nominating committee.
After the meeting, Deputy Mayor Greenfield, who has served as a council representative on the library board during this council term, told The Independent that he was pleased with the number and the quality of the applications received.
“I was very, very pleased. We had a great geographic cross-section as far as the municipality is concerned, a very good cross-section as far as demographics are concerned, and we had some very qualified people, very educated people, but also people who have sat on various boards and committees throughout the community and in other communities too,” explained Greenfield, who added that the number and quality of applicants provided the nomination committee with a challenge in order to narrow the field down to the five public board members desired. “It was very, very difficult.”
When asked about the size and composition of the library board going forward, Deputy Mayor Greenfield told The Independent that the board would remain at seven members with five public members and two council representatives.
“We're still looking at continuing with seven members, with two members of council, and five members of the public,” Greenfield told The Independent. When council had made their now nullified board appointments in December, Meaford Mayor Barb Clumpus had been added to the board, which would have meant three council representatives on a seven-member board, however Greenfield confirmed that the mayor will not be part of the newly constituted library board. Councillor Mike Poetker is the second council representative on the library board.
The list of proposed library board nominees will be presented to council at their January 23 meeting, allowing time for those selected to be notified before being publicly presented to council.