Only in Orangeville could a Code of Conduct be passed, and within minutes have it used as a sarcastic jab by one Councillor to another.

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows my stance on a Code of Conduct – it is necessary and LONG overdue. I had a bit of an emotional rollercoaster on Monday night that started with excitement and relief when the Code of Conduct FINALLY passed after 18 months (only Councillor Garisto and Mayor Williams voted against). It didn’t take long for my emotions to move into feelings of frustration as the phrase “in light of the code of conduct we just passed…” Big Sigh… we go…it would appear that ‘adulting’ is not an easy task. So do we now have to implement a code of conduct on how to properly execute the code of conduct?

And Then Things Got Messy….

Things at council got a little confusing…ok, I might be being too kind with that statement…Things at council got ridiculously out of hand at Council following a motion by Councillor Bradley regarding some “extra” money from OPS. There was a recommendation in the agenda that council approve the movement of a $441,000 surplus from OPS’s operating budget to capital to be used to fund other items such as tasers, portable radios, a new police dog and some other upgrades to the electronic equipment used. Councillor Bradley instead tabled a motion requesting those capital items should be addressed as mandatory items in the 2017 budget and that the money, as a surplus, belongs to the taxpayers of Orangeville. Her frustration was evident as she stated that Council was again out of the loop and had they known, this money could have been used towards the accumulated deficit or to lower the tax burden on tax payers by about 1%. Councillor Wilson seconded her motion.

“I take offence to how we just passed a code of conduct to try to be able to get along and make things happen in this town.” Said Mayor Williams angrily. “I really take exception to some of the things you have said.” He stated that he was “mystified” on how Councillor Bradley could possibly think her idea would be helpful to the taxpayers.

Councillor Campbell, as a member of the Police Services Board (PSB), assured council that everything was done by the PSB in good faith. She explained that some things (in regards to the budget) were not being done correctly in the past, but it an effort to correct the process, they had the acting treasurer, Karen Mills attend the meetings.

Mayor Williams was clearly a little rattled by the conversation and he seemed to lose track of what motion was on the floor. A vote was called for the motion on the floor and it passed unanimously. Recognizing that people had voted in favour who she thought wouldn’t have (such as Mayor Williams himself), the Clerk interrupted to clarify “I just want to clarify – that was Councillor Bradley’s motion that you voted on.” Mayor Williams replied “No.” The clerk said “Yes, that was the motion on the floor.” ” No, that was not the motion on the floor – I did not recognize that as a motion on the floor. I don’t even know what the motion on the floor is.” The motion was then re-read. And that’s when Mayor Williams decided to call a do-over “Well that was not the vote that many members were voting on, so I will call the vote again.” This did not go well. Councillors Wilson and Bradley spoke up to a point of order stating that he couldn’t call another vote on a motion that had already been voted on and passed. An argument ensued from here – shocking, I know, during which…wait for it…Councillor Kidd hollered out “CODE OF CONDUCT”… I felt awful for Councillor Campbell, who at this point just had her head buried in her hands.

“As the chair of this meeting, I am not calling that as the vote for that motion. There was clearly some misunderstanding with most of the members here. The motion on the floor right now is as you’ve moved and seconded. We will vote on it now.” Said Mayor Williams.

The Clerk called the vote again and Councillor Wilson sat silent. To which, Mayor Williams said he would take that vote as a no. Councillor Bradley stated that she refused to vote. Mayor Williams said that would be a no. Councillors Campbell, Kidd and Garisto voted no to the motion. Deputy Mayor Maycock was absent – but I will point out again, that the Mayor was clearly flustered as he voted “yes” to Councillor Bradley’s motion.

There was an attempt to go into closed session at this point…however Mayor Williams refused to recognize it as a motion on the floor. Mayor Williams said several times that they could challenge his ruling, and I’m shocked that no one did. A vote then occurred to adopt the recommendation as it was printed in the agenda, and that motion passed 4-2 (Councillors Wilson and Bradley voted against)

I again walked out of Council Chamber feeling a little dumbfounded. I wasn’t sure if what had happened was even allowed to happen according to the rules outlined in the Municipal Act. So, before I carried on to write this post, I needed some more information – So, I sent this email to the Clerk, Susan Greatrix (bless this woman’s heart for being so unbelievably amazing, btw! I give her kudos for such a job well-done) (My questions are in bold black and her answers are in red)

When Mayor Williams decided to have a “do-over” on the vote after the motion on the floor had actually already passed, is that a proper procedure according to the municipal act?

The Municipal Act and the Town’s Procedure By-Law are silent on a “do-over” vote.

However, s. 4.2 of the Procedure By-law says:

Robert’s Rules of Order

Robert’s Rules of Order shall prevail, where applicable, in all circumstances not covered by this by-law.

… and Robert’s Rules say:

Vote Retaken at Chair’s Initiative

The chair has the responsibility of obtaining a correct expression of the will of the assembly. If he is uncertain of the result of a vote or if he feels that the vote is unrepresentative, the chair can of his own accord take the vote again …

… his ruling that Councillors Wilson and Bradley’s silence indicated a “no” vote.

S. 246(2) of the Municipal Act says:

Failure to vote

(2) A failure to vote under subsection (1) by a member who is present at the meeting at the time of the vote and who is qualified to vote shall be deemed to be a negative vote.

The Town’s Procedure By-Law No. 116-2003 also contains at least 2 sections that say if a member does not vote, it shall be taken as a negative vote:

4.6 Member Declines to Vote

If any member present at a meeting does not vote when a vote is taken on a motion, the member shall be deemed as voting in the negative, except where the member is prohibited from voting by statute or is disqualified by reason of a declaration of interest.

4.9 Recorded Vote

4.9.1 A request by a member for a recorded vote shall be made prior to the commencement of the vote being taken or immediately thereafter. Upon such request, the clerk shall ask each member to announce their vote openly, and shall record such vote and declare the results. A failure to vote by a member who is not disqualified shall be deemed to be a negative vote. The names of those who vote in favour and those who vote against any motion shall be recorded in the minutes of the meeting.

{Thank you Susan Greatrix for answering all of my questions so quickly and efficiently)

I am sure this won’t be the last that we hear of this fiasco. Perhaps in the next 2 week, (before the next Council Meeting), all members of Council will review the Code of Conduct and learn to live by it like adults. One can only hope……

I would love, as always, to get your opinions…what do you think about the new code of conduct? Long overdue? Or political poison? Did you watch the meeting? What did you think about the way the vote on the OPS budget was handled?

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