Tocher, Maieron share heated exchange over items being sprung on council

Ongoing agenda alterations at the beginning of council fanned the flames of a heated discussion between Mayor Lou Maieron and councillor Barb Tocher, and resulted in the exchange spilling into the hallway at the end of a meeting last week.

Like a number of recent council meetings, the Dec. 6 session started with a number of unannounced agenda changes, including the withdrawal of Mayor Lou Maieron’s notice of motion to terminate the town’s Settlement Servicing Master Plan (SSMP), and another about planning and growth related matters from that night’s agenda.

The withdrawal came with no explanation, after Maieron made two lengthy notices of motion at the previous council session.

The changes to the agenda included some new information on the long standing issue of local tourism boundaries. Another item added that night was a proposal by Fox television’s Today in America Discover North America series to feature the town of Erin.

Plus, the fire chief’s presentation was moved forward on the agenda. Further, Maieron moved to defer a planner’s report on official plan conformity until after the SSMP report due on Jan. 17.

Councillor Barb Tocher asked Maieron to repeat the changes. “It was very difficult to hear.”

As the meeting drew to a close, under notices of motion, Tocher recommended council no longer alter its agenda at the beginning of the meetings.

“Could we in the future not amend our agenda anymore. It’s getting too confusing,” she said.

Maieron replied he’d wanted to remove his notices of motion until after the SSMP report.

Tocher said in general, the agendas should not be amended without sufficient cause.

Maieron again defended the move, explaining the fire chief had another meeting to attend.

Tocher said that could have been done verbally, by council giving permission for a change in the order of presentations to happen.

“This amending of agendas has gotten to be a catchall,” Tocher said. “We’re throwing anything we want in there.”

Items are being added that do not need to be included at the last minute, Tocher added, citing the example of the Today in America proposal.

“We won’t allow our public to come to us without written documentation in the agenda that we’ve received and read, yet we are throwing stuff at the council at the last minute. It’s just not the way to function properly.”

Maieron replied, “I’ll take your thoughts under consideration. I’m trying not to fall behind on things.”

The mayor said he believed the Today in America issue was timely, since the proposal was received by the municipality the previous week.

Tocher maintained if it happened last week, it could have been placed on the agenda properly, or it could have waited until the following meeting.

Clerk Kathryn Ironmonger suggested that when there are items to be deferred or withdrawn, “Rather than amending the agenda, a resolution could be dealt with by council at that time. It would make it less confusing and more clear what council is doing.”

Tocher cited the example of deferring part of the official plan amendment until mid January, “and we may not know the consequences of that.”

She added there may be instances where instead of deferring a number of issues, each one might need to be dealt with separately.

Maieron argued if it is not dealt with at the beginning of the meeting, someone who attended in regard to that issue  finds out at 10pm that it is being deferred. While he said he understood Tocher’s concern, he did not want to see individuals waiting around.

Tocher argued that until an item is brought to council, its members may not know which direction or approach council should take. She said without that discussion, signing to amend the agenda to defer an item “would be premature … because we haven’t given it thought. We didn’t have time to give it any thought. No one was given any time, and it was thrown at us at tonight’s meeting.

“If we don’t let the public do it, don’t do it to ourselves,” she added.

“We’ll bring this up again,” Maieron said.

A heated discussion between them followed the adjournment.

Maieron suggested “… or you could just tell the mayor to run the agenda”

“I don’t think so,” Tocher said. “You’re the one who adds things all the time.”

As Maieron and Tocher left the chambers, their spirited discussion continued into the hallway.