At the September 6 meeting, Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara submitted a Notice of Motion, which was discussed at Essex County Council’s September 20 meeting. He asked County Council to support that all Notices of Motion brought forward by a member of Essex County Council shall be worded such that County Administration is requested to prepare a report which provides information and recommendations for Essex County Council’s consideration at a future meeting.
This would be to ensure all members of Essex County Council are supportive of utilizing staff resources to respond to requests from individual members of Essex County Council; that all members of County Council are provided with information from County Administration that has been requested by individual members of County Council; and that County Council has an opportunity to receive recommendations from County Administration on all matters raised by members of Essex County Council under the Notices of Motion section of the Agenda.
Deputy Warden and Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Joe Bachetti appreciated what McNamara was trying to achieve in providing information through a Notice of Motion. He wondered if there was a way it could be worded so that a report does not need to be created when they are not necessary.
Mary Birch, Director of Legislative and Community Services/Clerk, does not believe there would be many instances where at least a brief report would be needed.
The whole issue, McNamara said, is the one-off reports that take staff time and to better prepare for County Council so they are well informed.
The report he was requesting on this matter would define exactly what needs to be done, he said.
Warden Hilda MacDonald noted she had many County Councillors inquire to her as to whether or not this would involve Notices of Motion and not conservations with directors.
Essex Mayor Sherry Bondy sees this as something that would bog down County’s Administration in terms of workload and would throw a lot of red tape into the County Council wheelhouse.
She asked what was meant by “one off” reports, as she does not believe she has seen any on the agenda. Direction to staff needs to come from the County Council table, not individual Councillors, Bondy knows.
“Frankly, it feels like a tool to – I don’t know how else to say it – muzzle this Council and put us in little boxes, where I think our Administration and this elected body can make the judgement on [whether] this needs a report or not,” Bondy said.
She asked MacNamara where the idea for his Notice of Motion was coming from, where the problem is, and why he was bringing this issue up now, after he was Warden the previous term.
McNamara said there have been requests for reports through emails. He said that takes Administrative time. It is basically to keep everyone informed of what is happening.
“I think this is the proper way of doing it, it is the proper protocol that is to be put in place,” McNamara said.
Mary Birch, Director of Legislative and Community Services/Clerk, said she does not believe this is meant to stop conversations between Council and Directors. She believes it is meant to address the matter if one Council member was requesting a lot of information – perhaps something all of Council would be interested in knowing, but maybe not a priority for the rest of Council.
It would give direction to Administration as to what they should be spending their time on. By doing a Notice of Motion, it would ensure all of Council gets the same information.
Lakeshore Mayor Tracey Bailey was supportive of McNamara’s request, noting it was about measuring staff time and setting the tone of priority, so there are not so many questions going to Administration behind the scenes.
Speaking to the issue a second time, Bondy again asked about particulars. She asked how many reports in the past nine months were driven by one Councillor. She believes in the Notice of Motion process, but does not believe a report is necessary for every one brought forward.
“It appears to me that if we take the action that is proposed, we are fettering the rights of individual Councillors to interact with staff, and I do not believe we should fetter those rights,” Amherstburg Mayor Michael Prue said after listening to the conversation.
He believes if an individual Councillor is asking for something too large, then it should be sent to the CAO to determine, then the Warden should direct it back as a Notice of Motion.
“I believe every single person around this table has a duty and an obligation to the electors that sent them here to ask the right questions and to get staff to confirm what they need confirmed,” Prue added.
The motion failed with 10 opposed and four in favour: McNamara, MacDonald, Bailey, and Lakeshore Deputy Mayor Kirk Walstedt.
By Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Sep 29, 2023 at 13:07