Ward 3 Councillor Mike Davis recently asked whether there was a procedural bylaw concerning in-camera documentation, only to be informed by fellow councillors that a policy had existed for almost 15 years. Mayor Rick Bonnette said the policy was written in 1992 during the Town fight against a proposal to put Toronto garbage in the Acton quarry. "The reason why the policy came forth was really to protect councillors from themselves," explained the mayor. "We didn't want information getting out into the public and giving away strategies."
This is the essence behind the policy, he said, in that "an overzealous councillor in trying to get information out and trying to look good, could damage the Town and cost the taxpayers a lot of dollars." The policy was created to maintain confidentiality when dealing with property, personnel and litigation matters involving the Town. Confidential items are always printed on green paper and are distributed separately in a closed envelope just prior to the start of a meeting. At the conclusion of meeting, the Town clerk collects all copies and destroys them.
Bonnette said he also started the practice in 1992 of signing his copy, so that he would never be accused of removing a confidential document from the Civic Centre. Rural Councillor Joan Robson called the policy a common sense one. The Municipal Act also states that town council must go into in-camera meetings on items involving property, personnel and litigation. Davis, who brought the matter up at two recent council meetings, complained that he and the other two new term councillors were never informed of the policy until this year.
But Acton councillors Mike O'Leary and Jon Hurst (the councillors referred to) disagreed, stating the clerk informed them about the policy early on in the new term. Davis also asked for a historical accounting on the town's legal activities. Chief Administrative Officer Dennis Perlin said he would gather that information for the councillor. Davis also asked for the clerk to compile a list of procedural policies that stood alone from the overall procedural bylaw in time for the March 7 meeting.