A lack of communication erupted around a new communication policy for council.
Council was presented with a draft policy from city staff June 10 on how to deal with formal and informal communication by electronic means, namely, email.
But the policy ignited some disfavour with council, and councillor Kathy Moore quickly made a motion not to adopt the policy, citing several elements of it that contravened how councillors needed to conduct their business.
She thought the policy was to deal with how to handle email from citizens to council, but felt it was derailed from its original intent and was far broader than intended.
“It was a council resolution that we develop a policy,” explained Mayor Greg Granstrom. “And part of that resolution was to come up with a policy on how we interacted with each other. I’m positive that was part of it.”
He said the motion addressed the resolution.
There was some discussion on council as to what was appropriate and inappropriate in email. Councillor Jill Spearn disagreed with the policy in that it “muzzles” councillors.
She noted that, under the draft policy, electronic communication from any member of staff to any member of council was to be copied to all of council and the chief administrative officer, and the reverse was true from council to staff.
In addition, all electronic communication of an informational nature, from one council member to another, were to be copied to all of council.
“To put restrictions around using electronic communications worries me,” Spearn said, noting the only restrictions should be around confidential information or items discussed in camera (behind closed doors in council).
Any discussion amongst council is supposed to be accessible to the public.
Discussions regarding city business, not subject to Section 90 of the Community Charter (meetings that may be closed to the public), should be held in an open and transparent forum at committee or council meetings that are generally open to the public.
“So that is part of the reason this came forward, in my understanding,” said councillor Kathy Wallace.
The motion to not accept the policy was passed.
A sub committee was proposed to take the draft policy and wordsmith it to make it more palatable to council.
Later in the meeting Moore revisited the decision and made a motion that committees dealing with reviewing the procurement and delegation policies take higher priority than the communication policy.
All council directives on policy take staff time, she said.
“If we are allocating staff time and setting priorities, I think we should set them on things that are of higher priority than things that are a lesser priority,” she said, like the communications policy.
“Council made a resolution that we develop a policy,” Granstrom replied. “We are dealing with that.”
“And we set a committee to deal with the delegation bylaw and we have not dealt with that. We set a committee to deal with the procurement situation and we have not done that,” Moore countered.
“I’m just saying those things should be dealt with before we allocate staff time on a communication policy which I see as a soft issue. I see those other things as a little more beef.”
Council saw the communication policy as a priority, Granstrom said, and a committee could tweak the policy in a matter of a few hours.
“I’m saying we need to set our priorities, Greg, and we don’t do it,” Moore pointed out.
“But councillor, this is not a priority setting exercise. We decided by a recommendation of council that we sit down and develop this,” Granstrom argued.
Moore stuck with her point.
“I’m saying sitting down and discussing this should come after some of those other priorities. We said we wanted to address those earlier in the year, therefore they should be handled first, if anything else, but chronologically,” she said.
Spearn jumped back into the fray.
“Where are those other committees and what are they doing? To create more committees is not how the business in the city should be done in my mind,” she added..
But what council was dealing with was an action they gave staff, Granstrom asserted.
Wallace said council needed to make priorities, but this was not the time. Simple questions on where the committees were at would suffice instead of a motion. None of the previous committees that had been struck had met or resolved associated tasks.
The motion to prioritize the committees was defeated.
• All electronic communication of an informational nature, from one council member to another, are to be cc’d to all of council; and do not need to be shared with administration unless agreed upon by either the sender of the majority of council.
• Electronic communication from any member of council to staff is to be sent to the CAO for distribution and cc’d to all of council, unless the deputy CAO is acting in place of the CAO in which case both the CAO and the deputy CAO will be included in the circulation.
• Electronic communication from any member of staff to any member of council is to be cc’d to all of council and the CAO.
• An exception to 2) and 3) can occur when a request is made or a response is required from only certain members of council, on items such as agendas, availability for meetings, or conference bookings and the like. In those circumstances, any cc as required by 2) or 3) above is not necessary.
• Electronic communication to any, or any potential, city consultant(s) or contractor(s), is to be sent by, or at the direction of, the CAO.
• Any external electronic communication to or from any member of council must be cc’d to all of council and to the CAO for record-keeping purposes.
• Any communication that is sensitive in nature should be avoided when using electronic communication.
• Use clear and concise language. If clarification or a lengthier conversation is necessary, use of the phone or a face to face meeting is required.
• Uppercase or bold text should only be used occasionally for emphasis, as it may imply an imperative tone or shouting and may be considered rude.