The City of Whitehorse will keep most sessions between council and senior management open to the public.
Whitehorse city council adopted a new council and administration roundtable policy at its Oct. 15 meeting, replacing the former council and senior management (CASM) meeting process policy which governed meetings between council members and city staff.
Staff had initially proposed a roundtable policy that would have left the public out of the meetings. They argued that would allow for more open and frank discussions between council and staff.
Council deferred adopting the policy in July after some members took issue with the possibility of closed sessions and wanted to explore other sections of the policy.
The new policy states meetings will be open with the exception of those where “sensitive matters” are dealt with. There is no definition for “sensitive matters”.
Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, has said it’s impossible to predict what might come up for council, but this would allow issues deemed as sensitive to be discussed behind closed doors.
Coun. Laura Cabott stood by her earlier arguments that if the CASM policy had been followed as it was written there would be no need for changes.
That said, she also noted a lot of work had gone into the new policy and it has been written to meet the objectives of staff and council while also staying transparent.
The new policy was drafted as staff argued the council and senior management meeting policy did not conform to the territory’s Municipal Act.
The sessions allowed for a more detailed discussion between council and staff before a recommendation came forward at a standard council meeting.
CASMs were open to the public with the exception of cases outlined in the Municipal Act where meetings can be closed for legal matters, personnel issues and other such issues.
Roundtables are expected to be less formal with no quorum required.
The new policy makes it clear roundtables are a place for discussion on matters, and no direction is to be set.
Council adopted the new policy, but Coun. Steve Roddick said he would like to see attendance taken at the roundtable meetings with the information detailed as part of the annual report card of council which includes attendance.
Coun. Samson Hartland, who attended by phone, stated he also wants the reports to include details on council per diems and other such spending.
Acting city manager Valerie Braga said staff can prepare a report and bring it back to council for a vote on additional items to include in the annual report.
No specific timeline for the work was set, though Roddick was clear he wants it dealt with as soon as possible.
“Let’s not delay this too long,” he said.
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