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Finance Committee Meeting Stirs Controversy

Agenda Changes Baffle Residents


The ongoing controversy regarding the village Finance Committee erupted again Thursday night as the group met in council chambers. Present at the meeting were Mayor Ken Berry, Councillor Michael Broughton, acting CAO/CFO Ron Miller, acting Municipal Clerk Karen Jeffrey and committee members Bruce McLachlan and David Shore. Works Manager Nai Jaffer was present online. A handful of local residents attended, with three present in person and eight online. Councillors Marcus Reuter and Neville Abbott were also on hand, but both sat in the gallery instead of taking a seat at the table. Neither councillor is a member of the Finance Committee (now identified as the Finance and Audit Committee).


In the public question section of the meeting, Abbott spoke first, thanking staff for changing the agenda to allow the meeting to be open to the public. Ron Miller replied that the meeting was always intended to be open, although observers noted the council agenda posted outside chambers clearly indicated otherwise.


Several local residents expressed uneasiness regarding the multiple changes of agenda prior to the meeting. Village resident Gail Craig outlined her concerns about this to The Watershed.


"I printed out the original agenda on March 15, which had the mayor's name noted at the bottom, and indicated the meeting would be closed. There was no zoom link or option for public questions prior to moving into 'closed' meeting. However, just before the meeting began, I discovered a replacement agenda had been posted online. This one had a zoom link, and the public question section had been added. When my husband and I attended the meeting, after calling the meeting to order, the mayor handed out and the committee adopted what he called a revised agenda, and declared the meeting open. We were never provided this newest agenda and it still doesn't appear to be on the Village website".


Village resident Christine Little echoed Gail's concerns. "The posted agenda said the meeting was closed, and so I didn't try to attend. I would have watched online if I'd known the meeting was open to the public."


In her note to The Watershed, Gail pointed out that according to the Council Procedures Bylaw, the agenda for any meeting of council must be publicly posted 24 hours in advance of that meeting.


Validity of Committee Called Into Question


Over the past several months, Reuter and Abbott have repeatedly expressed their concern regarding material being brought for consideration to a committee before it is presented to council itself.


In the public participation portion of the meeting, Reuter again called into question the legitimacy of the committee, pointing out that council has not approved the terms of reference as required by the Community Charter. He acknowledged the Mayor's right to appoint committee members, but reiterated the importance that the committee seek the direction of council before meeting. "The first rule of procedure is that the committee undertake review into matters as directed by council. I don't think this committee has even approved its own terms of reference, and neither has it sought direction by council."


Mayor Berry said that Reuter has asked this question many times before, noting that they have sought legal council to confirm "it is the Mayor's right to form standing committees."


Resident Penny Nelson, speaking online, said that the committee meeting at this time is "cart before the horse stuff". She added that as an advisory committee, they have no mandate to meet until the budget or parts of it go to council first. With reference to the earlier intent to hold a closed meeting, she noted that the budget is a bylaw, and as such cannot be discussed in camera.


Miller said that the the involvement of the committee is meant to save time and move things along. "I just want to get this moving, and learn if there is any input from the Finance Committee that we should consider in finalizing the budget."


He did not address the procedural issue of presenting information to the Finance Committee without receiving direction from council.



Utility Statements Still Not Delivered


Both former councillor Fred Bain and resident Tamara Leger raised the issue of the late utilities notices, not yet delivered to residents, and the cost to the Village of this tardiness. Fred's initial question went unanswered, but when Tamara repeated the question to acting CAO Ron Miller, he acknowledged that Village utilities fall under the purview of a budget issue. "Everything is about five months behind. Why this wasn't all done in November or December, prior to the year starting, I don't know." He indicated the statements will be forthcoming.


Other topics that came up for discussion during the meeting included volunteer involvement on committees, Accounts Payable reports delivered quarterly, the opportunity to save money by streamlining senior positions, upcoming projects and the potential size of tax increases for residents.


Follow The Watershed for further coverage of these topics, along with the upcoming budget information as it becomes available. We care about your opinion! Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or email The Watershed at: editor@lionsbaywatershed.ca



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Tamara L
Tamara L
Mar 19, 2023

Why is Ron Miller, as CAO and CFO, not working in the office FULL TIME? His work is late (Utilities Bills), with many outstanding admin requests (Q4 AP Report, etc) not provided to Council in a timely fashion, and per his Finance Committee statement his budget is 5 months behind where he thinks it should be.

As CAO under his management watch there has been chaos with serious confidentiality breaches (publication of in-camera minutes), poor basic Agenda procedural controls (the package! The agenda! Contracts to council for ratification) as well as new and untrained staff on-boarding to supervise. This is not an unfair ask. Mayor BERRY’s campaign platform (guided by supporters and affiliates, some of whom sit on committees or…

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Tamara L
Tamara L
Mar 19, 2023

Karen: I heard in the meeting Ron Miller say that Utilities Bills have been ready for some time, but yet are 5 months behind.

Does he mean 2024 Operations Budget (typically due in July) rather than the Water+Garbage=Utilities Bill which Pam did before she left (calculating the mill rate — which needs to come to Council for approval) ? The garbage contract was negotiated and locked-in last year and the new bear-Bylaw doesn’t effect garbage budget per Nai Jaffer, and the water tank upgrades done 2 years ago so we know those numbers, so what more could there be to add / discuss with Finance Committee before ratification at Council. The lost opportunity cost of the delay (at 5% interest/month)…


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Tamara L
Tamara L
Mar 19, 2023

Karen: I have heard that the Finance Committee was talking about (recommending / needing) a 5%-20% taxation increase. IF TRUE, Can you please provide background detail around that discussion and rationale…. Unfortunately I missed that part of the conversation.

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kc dyer
kc dyer
Mar 26, 2023
Replying to

Tamara - no concrete info has been provided yet. I think we wait and see!

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Tamara L
Tamara L
Mar 19, 2023

The Q4 AP (cheque run) Report is important as it will transparently show (all line items) where our money has gone (payouts), and you can see if spending is in alignment with the projected budget, or operating outside of it. Every previous Council has used this tool to demonstrate to citizenry responsible money management and fiscal prudence. Budget management is a basic fundamental and should not be kept secret or hidden: these are public funds, raised through taxation, to be used in a prescribed way. The AP Report is a simple computer print out task that can be compiled and produced in minutes. It’s a head-scratcher why this is taking MONTHS to provide when requested, especially when it is a…

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Norma Rodgers
Norma Rodgers
Mar 19, 2023

Lack of municipal experience results in these procedural mistakes that we are seeing over and over again. Yet the qualifications in the posting for a new CAO don't include municipal training or education. Is the Community Charter just disregarded as unnecessary bureaucracy?

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