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Clarity in Council Minutes

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Clarity in Council Minutes

Municipal Affairs Municipal Policy

Municipal Affairs - Municipal Policy

Issue: The minutes of Municipal Council meetings can be difficult to decipher and analyze based on the information provided, as the motions presented do not always clearly indicate the issue or the action being voted upon by Council without the need to reference a committee report or other supporting documented evidence. 

Executive Summary

Extrapolating information from the minutes of Municipal Council meetings is cumbersome and it is difficult to determine the direction of Council based on the information provided. The motions presented often reference committee recommendations or reports (i.e. motion to accept the committee recommendation was carried), rather than outlining the specific issue or the action being voted upon by Council. Currently, without reference of a committee report or other supporting documented evidence, historical reference to Council actions cannot be easily determined. Therefore the Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce is requesting more clearly documented Council actions through motions with clear and descriptive direction as to the intent of the resulting action. 

Background

Resolutions or motions, including their proposal, discussion, amendments, and final passing, are probably the most important tasks undertaken by any municipal council. They are legislated and are the basis for all action exercised by a Council. Direction given without a resolution is without legal validity. 

Additionally, resolutions or motions are usually structured to stand on their own merit and answer the “who, what, where, when and why” questions. As the basis for establishing the actions of the municipality, each resolution should provide administration with a clear direction that can be implemented without having to interpret or guess as to the intent. In order to facilitate the development of clear and complete resolutions, recommendations on decision items that are prepared by administration and included in the council agenda packages should set out or suggest the anticipated resolution. 

Additionally, as is the current practice, every resolution or motion must be followed by a clear indication as to whether it is “carried” or “defeated”.

Analysis

Utilizing municipal best practices when preparing council meeting minutes is an important step in maintaining a reliable and useful document for current day and historical purposes. The resulting minutes will continue to reflect each council’s unique approach to conducting municipal business and is not only a reference for City Council and City administration, but also for the community to track the history and records of Council. 

While there is broad legislative requirements for documenting council minutes, there is also parliamentary procedure and best practices that can be implemented to provide transparency and clarity to Council’s conduct. 

There are various examples of the types of records kept within Council, with recent examples extracted from the September 16, 2013 Council meeting minutes. An example of a motion states: 

“The recommendations in the report were received for adoption and/or information” on the motion of Ald. Kelly – Ald. Pearson. 

This is a sample of the type of ambiguous motion that can be witnessed through minutes. 

Alternately, Alderman Robert Dumanowski made two motions at the same meeting on September 16, 2013. These were clearly defined and recorded.

(a) Flood Mitigation Resolution to City Council
Ald. Dumanowski made the following motion:
WHEREAS, the City of Medicine Hat has endured repeated floods in the past two decades from flooding in the river and creeks.
WHEREAS, the floods have caused substantial property losses followed by long term social and emotional devastation of the community.
WHEREAS, in the past the flood events were considered isolated events and appropriate mitigation measures were not implemented and/or supported by the higher levels of governments.
WHEREAS, in response to the 2013 floods, there are provincial announcements for support to the communities for mitigation measures, however not all of the details are clear at this point.
WHEREAS, the City of Medicine Hat should get support and funding from the Provincial government, and CAO and Commissioner of Development & Infrastructure should continue to work on that.
WHEREAS, the City of Medicine Hat has an obligation to its’ residents to do whatever within its capacity and means possible to protect them from the devastations caused by the flooding.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT:
1. The ‘Flood Mitigation Plan’ presented at the Development & Infrastructure Committee be updated to include flood protection of the residents and critical infrastructure from 1 in 200 year floods in the river and creeks.
2. The updated aforementioned plan be presented to the community at-large, as soon as possible, but no later than December 31, 2013.
3. The Plan should identify mitigation measures that would protect the residents from both surface flooding and sewer backups.
4. Starting immediately, the City will start implementing the flood mitigation measures and will fund it from the Community Capital Reserve and Infrastructure Reserve.
5. Forthwith all the non-committed funds in the Community Capital Reserve are hereby dedicated and committed to the flood mitigation measures, and no other project or initiative will be funded from the reserves until all the flood mitigation initiatives are in place that would provide complete protection to a 1 in 200 year frequency flood level.
6. Any funding received for a flood mitigation initiative from the higher levels of governments will allow the money to be put back in the reserves and that funding should be redirected to other flood mitigation measures.
7. The implementation of Flood Mitigation measures should be the highest priority of the CAO, and the CAO shall provide a quarterly presentation providing updates to the public, the Development & Infrastructure Committee, and City Council on the progress being made.
8. The Development & Infrastructure Committee will lead the implementation of the flood mitigation measures and will review the progress on a monthly basis. 

(b) Second Street Grand Opening Funding Re: – City Centre Development Agency 
Ald. Dumanowski made the following motion:
Consideration of Council to appropriate approximately $15,000 towards the grand opening promotion for the second street development.

There is a mover on the motions and the motions are clear, however there is information that is not recorded as there is no seconder and no direction indicated, which leaves it unclear as to if the motion was accepted or rejected by Council. While we recognize that no seconder is required to be noted on a motion, this is a sample of inconsistency in record keeping. If motions are recorded in a certain manner, it should be consistent throughout.

Council minutes, motions or resolutions and how they are recorded, including the voting responses have been unclear and inconsistent. It is imperative, that Council creates a policy that will clearly and succinctly record Council motions, resolutions and decisions to protect the integrity of council actions and decisions moving into the future. 

A preferred method of documenting a motion is as follows: 

Councillor <name>, seconded by <name>, moved that: 
<insert the motion discussed in its entirety> 
Outcome: carried, defeated, deferred, etc. 
Voting in Favour: list all Councilors voting in favour 
Voting Opposed: list all Councilors voting opposed 

Recommendations

The Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce recommends the City of Medicine Hat:

  1. Create a policy for the development of Council minutes in order to provide clarity of motions or resolutions approved, defeated or deferred. Motions, in their final form, voted on by Council should be fully documented within the minutes such that reviewers are not required to seek supporting documentation for clarity or explanation of the issue at hand. 
  2. Adopt a policy of recording individual Councilor voting records on all matters within the meeting’s minutes. 
  3. Compile and make available a single resource detailing all motions voted on at Open Council meetings. Included in this summary shall be the motion’s mover and the record of voting. An example of such motion was provided in the “Analysis” section of this policy.

Resource

A GUIDE TO THE PREPARATION OF COUNCIL MEETING MINUTES, Municipal Affairs, April 2013 


Date Drafted: January 9, 2014
Date Reviewed: January 15, 2014
Date Approved: January 15, 2014
Date Completed: February 2015

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