No notes or comments are required or permitted in council minutes

The passing of minutes from a council meeting is usually a routine item on most agendas, but that was not the case on Monday night when Centre Wellington Council con­sidered April 6 minutes that includ­ed the budget.

There was no argument about the passing of the budget, but councilor Walt Visser wanted his com­ments about the budget included in the minutes. Visser had voted against the budget.

Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj explained that inclusion of his comments is not permitted un­der the Municipal Act.

Clerk Marion Morris agreed and said minutes can include what is decided, but, according to the act, “without note or comment.”

Visser pointed out a speech in favour of the budget was printed verbatim.

Ross-Zuj said councillor Fred Morris’s speech was plac­e­d in the min­utes as a courtesy to the finance committee chair­man. She add­ed that in the fut­ure that will not be permitted.

Councillor Bob Foster said he found the rules governing minutes “bizarre.”

Visser said if the act says no comments are permitted, “It should be a two-way street then.”

Ross-Zuj said if councillors want their remarks recorded in the future, they will have to have them attached to the council agenda as an infor­mation item for the meeting the night the discussion takes place.

Foster pointed out that none of the comments against clos­ing the municipal office at Christmas time were included in the minutes.

Clerk Morris explained the min­utes contain only the reso­­lution and which way the issue was decided, and “not what was said.”

Visser then asked that councillor Mor­ris’s comments be removed.

Ross-Zuj said going back to the rules, they could be attach­ed to an agenda in the future for information.

Visser then moved council follow the Municipal Act re­garding minutes, and remove Fred Morris’s comments.’

Clerk Morris explained some­­times comments can be in­cluded in the minutes if it is provided as new information, such as an item coming to the municipality the day of a meeting after the agenda is prepared. She said that would be included as part of the council de­cision.

Morris then argued his com­ments are “more than sup­port” for the budget, and are actu­ally “an explanation of the budget.”

Ross-Zuj said she had asked him for comments at that meet­ing, and since his were written, they got included completely when they should have been con­densed.

Councillor Morris said it is essential his comments are public because they include facts dealing with the budget.

Visser argued his com­ments, too, include facts.

Morris said he supports the Municipal Act, and asked where he can place his remarks. Ross-Zuj said they can be part of the next council agenda if he wishes.

Morris added that it is the responsibility of the finance com­mittee chairman to explain the budget, and, “It should be available somewhere.”

Ross-Zuj said again the only option, then, is to place them for information in the next council agenda.

Council then voted on Visser’s motion to foll­ow the rules for minutes set down in the Municipal Act.

Council then considered the minutes and Ross-Zuj said Mor­ris’s comments could be removed and placed on the next agenda for information, mak­ing them available legally.

But Foster said, “It has to be all or nothing.”

Morris argued his com­ments are “factual.”

Visser said, “I disagree.”

He added that he has sat on council for over 20 years and he had never seen a lengthy speech such as Morris’s in­cluded in the minutes before. He said, “That’s why I found it strange to see it printed ver­batim. I don’t think they [speech­es] should be.”

Foster pointed out that Hansard (the legislative re­port­ing process for the legislature and parliament) records all speech­es and comments verba­tim, and wondered why muni­cipalities do not offer that service.

Chief Administrative Offi­cer Michael Wood replied that the it likely stems from the first Municipal Act, of 1849, and he added, “I have no explanation for it. It’s the law in Ontario.”

Foster argued the minutes should “reflect the process” of government.

Wood said placing the mo­tion and only the decision is “much easier and cleaner” for staff.

Council then approved the minutes, with Morris’s speech removed.

During question period, Clerk Morris said that there are some people who come to the municipal office and re­quest copies of minutes, parti­cularly if council has dealt with a contentious issue. She added that it costs $0.50 a page, but the staff can also email them to people at no cost.

Deputy-clerk Kerry O’Kane noted that the minutes are also available in the agenda pack­ages on Centre Wellington’s website.