The City of Whitehorse could scrap its council and senior management (CASM) policy in favour of briefings that may be closed to the public.
The idea was discussed at a June 13 CASM meeting where Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, put forward the possibility, emphasizing at this point it is only a proposal.
“This is a proposal so it can be discussed and modified,” she said.
CASM meetings are different from formal council meetings.
CASM meetings are held between council and senior staff to look at specific matters city staff are working on that could eventually be brought to a formal council meeting for a vote. CASM sessions typically focus on one (sometimes two) particular topics and allow for a more detailed discussion than there often is at council meetings.
Currently CASM meetings are open to the public.
As Constable explained, over time there have been changes to the format of CASM meetings and the current policy does not conform to the “best practices” of municipal governments.
The current policy should be rescinded, she said, and the city needs to figure out the best alternative.
She said council’s job is to set the vision for the city with administration executing that vision. CASMs were put in place as a venue for discussion between the two.
Under the current policy: “Council and Senior Management (CASM) meetings are designed to ensure that council is kept aware of all major activities being undertaken by administration and are thereby able to provide proactive direction to administration on major city initiatives, projects, programs and services.
“This direction provides administration with the guidance and assurance necessary to carry out City business in accordance with council’s vision and direction.”
The policy was last updated in 2015 after originally being adopted in 2011.
The proposal Constable put forward would be more of a briefing style or round-table session for council and staff who are directly involved with the issue being discussed.
By closing the briefings to the public, Constable said there could be more frank discussions on issues. It was also acknowledged though the city could lose transparency by keeping the public out of the meetings.
Constable said a number of municipalities are wrestling with similar issues.
Because no decisions would be made, a quorum of council members would not be required at the proposed briefings. The sessions would also be chaired by a city staffer rather than a council member.
No decisions have been made on the future of CASMs, but a number of council members spoke in favour of the changes as proposed, noting the need to strike a balance between productive discussions and transparency. Council would continue to vote on matters at the more formal open meetings.
If the city moves forward with the proposal, a vote to rescind the current policy would come forward at a regular council meeting.
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