2017-01-25

Lunenburg councillor sits out private meeting in protest

by Evan Bower

  • <p>EVAN BOWER PHOTO</p><p>Councillor Brian Davis waited for the public meeting to resume in the gallery while council met in private for about 45 minutes.</p>
  • <p>EVAN BOWER PHOTO</p><p>Lunenburg councillor Brian Davis joined about a dozen other attendees in the gallery to protest an in-camera council meeting last night.</p>

As Lunenburg council met for about 45 minutes in a private, in-camera session last night, one member of council refused to take part.

First-time councillor Brian Davis waited out the meeting in protest by taking a seat with the dozen attendees in the gallery. He objected to the rationale for the private meeting, listed as "personnel matters, potential litigation and legal advice" on the meeting agenda, when it was confirmed that he would be a topic of discussion.

Davis believed possible disciplinary action against him was one of the reasons for the meeting, but because it took place in camera, LighthouseNOW can't confirm precisely what was discussed.

"Personnel is staff of the municipality, salaried, a councillor is an elected official on an honorarium. It does not fall under the category of personnel, so for this to go into camera is not permissible," said Davis. "Even if you have a lawyer who says this, the lawyer is wrong."

Davis urged council to have the discussion in public, and when it voted to meet in-camera despite his concerns, he refused to take part.

This is the second time Davis has publicly called out the town's actions. At a council meeting last week, Davis argued the town's in-camera meetings were in violation of Section 22 of the Municipal Government Act.

Mayor Rachel Bailey said last night's discussion was being held in private based on legal advice to the town. While Davis may not be personnel, she insisted the discussion about him would apply to the listed topics.

"May it be that the conduct of a councillor may impact a municipality when it comes to personnel, legal action and solicitor-client advice?" she asked. "I'm not talking about you as a councillor, necessarily, as personnel. I'm talking about personnel, as you describe it, as being a subject of the in-camera discussion."

Council came back from the private session and continued the public meeting just after 5 p.m. with "nothing to report." Within 20 seconds the meeting was adjourned.

After the meeting, Bailey said council went in-camera for "a very important discussion. It affects how we operate as an organization, and serious damage that's been incurred in the functioning of this town."

While she couldn't say what was discussed, she said based on how the discussion went, the subject matter will "probably remain in private for some time."

She called Davis' actions "disappointing," and said the public turn out to the meeting speaks to how they "have called our basic operations, the integrity of our council, and the credibility of the operations of Town Hall into question when there's no basis for question."

She says because Davis didn't take part in the meeting, he doesn't have all the information, and was in no position to decide whether it should take place in public.

"It's very disappointing that people are being swayed by information that seems to have no basis in fact," she said. "I would challenge anyone to find a municipality who has a higher standard than we do."

Bailey says going forward, the town will stay the course.

"If you're doing something right, I don't know how you can do it right-er," she said. "We will continue to conduct the business as we have been conducting it because we've been doing it correctly. I don't know how you convince people that are ignorant to the facts that that is the case, but that is the reality."

Davis told LighthouseNOW that he felt empowered by the public support he received at the meeting.

"I thought it was wonderful. People are starting to be engaged in Lunenburg and in the council," he said, "and I think that that is going to make the changes ... I hope [the town] will start working in a much more transparent way, and being accountable not only to the legislation, but to the people."

He says the stand he took in the meeting won't be his last.

"I just want to be so open to the public," said Davis. "I'm so sorry that the council here just doesn't want to be transparent and open to its citizenship."

For the full story on Davis' objections he made regarding in-camera meetings to council last week, check out this week's LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin.

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