Council Discusses Job Cuts

Robert Thomas

Last Thursday night's in-camera Budget Committee meeting was held behind closed doors because the committee discussed potential program and job cuts.

That was revealed at Moose Jaw City Council during the debate finalizing the 2018 operating and capital budgets.

During those discussions, Councilor Dawn Luhning expressed her disatisfaction with the March 8th special Budget Meeting being held in-camera or behind closed doors.

Luhning said she was "not confused as to why that was held in-camera." She proceeded to state that the budget processes were "public meetings, prior to, and then moved behind closed doors."

She spoke about how the in-camera March 8th meeting did nothing to make the budget process accountable and transparent and that "that Thursday night budget meeting was neither of those things."

Councillor Don Mitchell, though, felt holding the meeting in-camera was appropriate because it dealt with potential cuts and was highly speculative and involved potential job cuts.

Mitchell said the meeting discussed "a wide range of possibilities for our staff," adding "It was speculative discussion that shouldn't have been made public."

Acting City Manager Myron Gulka-Tiechko confirmed the March 8th meeting had personnel implications and by holding the meeting in public might cause undue anxiety for City personnel.

Gulka-Tiechko said the meeting was allowed under The Cities Act and was agreed to by the majority of Council.

The relevent legislation is explained as follows:

Legislation to go in-camera is allowed in The Cities Act and The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

Matters discussed in a private council or council committee meeting are to be kept confidential until they are discussed at a meeting held in public, see subsection 65(e) of The Cities Act.

Councils must respect both privacy and the access rights of citizens.  In doing so, council discussions held during in-camera sessions may or may not result in resolutions or actions being brought forward in subsequent public council meetings.  All decisions of council must be made by bylaw or resolution at a duly constituted public meeting of the council.

Subsection 94(2) of The Cities Act provides authority for Councils and council committees to close all or part of their meetings to the public if the matter to be discussed is within one of the exemptions in Part III of The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (LA FOIPP).

Part III Section 16 of LA FOIPP includes advice, proposals, recommendations, analyses or policy options developed by or for the local authority as well as information including proposed plans, policies or projects which could result in disclosure of a pending policy or budgetary decision, among others.

During the budget discussions, Administration provided Budget Committee with a list of potential cuts which could be made that would not harm the operations of the City if made. The list was never revealed to any public in attendance. The only non-Administration and Council member at that meeting was the MJ Independent. 

The MJ Independent attended every budget except for the March 8th in-camera meeting.

MJ Independent will post a full story later of Monday night's City Council's budget discussions.

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