Thursday November 30th, 2023 - 02:13:46 AM

Municipal Administration Admits Altering Council Motion
Austin Wright - December 12, 2007

While investigating the legality of some meetings of municipal council, a discrepancy was noted between a motion approved by council and the version appearing in the official minutes.

The meeting in question on October 29, 2007, concerned the results of a compliance audit into mayor Randy Hope's election campaign expenses. Despite being found in contravention of the Municipal Elections Act in the confidential audit findings, auditor Bernard Nayman vindicated Hope in his presentation to council. The full reports were never released to the public.

Council voted to accept the findings, and take no legal action as a result of the information in the report. However, council then proceeded to defame the applicant during a discussion about options to make him pay the audit cost. Eventually they directed administration to bring the matter back at the next meeting.

In order to recover these costs, legal action is the only option sanctioned by the Municipal Elections Act. Council then spent an entire segment in open session ridiculing the reputation of the audit applicant while discussing amounts and means to recover the audit cost. Municipal CAO Gerry Wolting was advised in writing that council had reopened debate in a matter that had already been decided without first approving a motion to reconsider with a 2/3 majority. He refused to respond, but it tipped him off about potential problems.

In hindsight, council's decision to take no legal action must have been problematic enough to merit changes to the minutes. The minutes were already overdue for council approval, but the required revisionism caused further delay. It wasn't until November 26, 2007 that they made their way back to council chambers for approval, and longer yet before the public had access.

However, the version of minutes released to the public had changed the motion wording to exclude the applicant, and thus legitimize the debates to recover compliance audit costs from the applicant.

Municipal clerk Elinor Mifflin was queried about the altered wording:

"The published minutes from Council's October 29th meeting, item 4. (a) contains wording quoting Councillor Fluker's motion that does not reflect my recollection of the actual words said at the meeting and voted on by Council. Specifically, the word "candidates" appears to have been inserted into the wording published in the minutes, which would completely change the nature of that motion. I do not believe that Councillor Fluker included this word when presenting his motion.

"Would you please explain this discrepancy, and describe the procedure used to determine the wording in motions recorded in the minutes."
To which the following reply was provided:
"In reviewing the audio tape of the minutes, yes you are correct that Cl. Fluker did not add the word "candidates" to his motion. In preparing the minutes for approval of Council we do not provide verbatim minutes and in some cases word smithing of a motion may take place so the motion is cohesive. Again the minutes are provided to Council for approval and if Council find that the content or intent of their motion was changed by word smithing then an amendment to the minutes can be proposed prior to being approval by Council and published on the website."

So additional verbiage had to be included to make the motion more coherent. Had this wording remained as voted, one agenda item in the subsequent council meeting would have been illegal. As it happens, the meeting was still unlawful, since the same debate involved council reopening a decision made on July 9, 2007 without the required vote.


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