Combined, the members of this South Dundas council have a total of almost 37 years of experience, sitting at a council table and, as a council, working with regulatory bylaws. Yet this group continues to struggle with its own rules of procedure.
This was particularly apparent at the June 5 public meeting. At that meeting, council chose to completely ignore the rules of procedure to deal with an offer, a very generous offer, but an offer, nonetheless which was not anywhere on the stated agenda. The offer, from a local citizen, promised funds and personal expertise in dealing with a community issue. Certainly such generosity must and should be honoured and pursued – at a later date.
By the rules laid out in council’s own bylaws, that presentation should not have been brought to the table June 5. Further, because this presentation was interjected into proceedings unexpectedly, staff and some members of council itself, were taken completely by surprise. Two councillors had not heard of the offer and had not read the details of the offer in advance. They were, consequently, inadequately prepared to either discuss or respond to that offer.
Having a spontaneous explanation given to them on the spot does not address the fact that permitting this off agenda deputation to speak at all, amounted to a breech of council’s own procedural bylaws.
Some may argue that procedural rules are cumbersome. But rules exist for a reason. The public had been given a posted, official agenda for the June 5 meeting. The deputation – whose generous offer merits thoughtful and informed discussion – was not on that agenda: the public did not know anything about it. Citizens cannot ask questions, or make reasoned comments if they do not know that certain issues will be raised at a meeting. Even more unfortunately, some members of council itself did not know about the offer. How can council make solid decisions regarding important matters in South Dundas if necessary information is not made available to all councillors in a timely manner? That is why agendas exist. That is why rules of procedure exist. That is why we expect our council to follow them.
The offer was eventually deferred to the next meeting’s agenda. According to the rules, this should already have been done. Following the rules of procedure is not some luxury. It is a necessity.