April 25th, 2024

Council holds curious closed meeting Tuesday

By COLLIN GALLANT on March 20, 2024.

A sign in front of the ornate oak doors leading to city council chambers informs the public that a closed session of council is taking place on Tuesday.--News Photo Collin Gallant

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

What was one of the shortest city council meeting of the term turned into one of the longest in recent memory – more that 24 hours in actual time from start to finish.

That included an adjournment from Monday night until Tuesday afternoon, but included long closed-door sessions, the focus of which isn’t known.

After reconvening at 3:45 p.m on Tuesday, council sat until just after 6 p.m., at which point both the open and closed meetings were adjourned. No action arose from the session.

Municipal councils in Alberta are able to – and often do – use closed sessions to discuss several areas that administrators can argue contain privileged information, sensitive business details or advice from officials.

They must go back into open council, however, to take votes or approve policies, and in a procedural requirement, must lift from in-camera to adjoin the open portion of the meeting.

More than half of the closed session time this week involved no administrative staff and only eight council members who attended the open portion. Coun. Shila Sharps was absent for both open and closed portions on both days.

Sources tell the News that council members met for a standard, regularly scheduled two-hour closed session at 3:45 p.m. on Monday. The open meeting began on time at 6:30 p.m. with a light agenda that concluded at 7:05 p.m.

Moving back into closed session, administrators were dismissed at about 8 p.m. and a notice from the city clerk’s department said the overnight adjournment was approved at about 9 p.m.

While the content of closed meetings is not made public, the general items are typically made available.

Council’s initial list of in-camera matters outlined three items: legal proceedings update, resident concern and information request.

It’s not known if that was amended after council voted to return to closed session on a motion by Coun. Alison Van Dyke and seconded by Coun. Cassi Hider.

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