• daniellevaliquette

KEEPING MEETINGS ORGANIZED: THE COUNCIL MEETING AGENDA

Updated: Aug 30

This blog post is part of my series, Civic Citizens Series on Governance. It aims to help Grey Highlands residents learn how local government works.

This blog series includes the following posts:


This post, Keeping Council Organized: The Council Agenda, in which I explore the Council meeting Agenda is actually several posts.


Tuck in, this is a long one. ;-)


 

The Council Meeting Agenda

All meetings have an Agenda or a list of the meeting’s activities from the very beginning with the Call to Order to the last item, the heavenly, Adjournment. T Agenda is prepared by the Clerk( or designate).


Agenda details, for example, when the Agenda becomes public, of the Agenda process is determined in the Procedural By Law. The fact that an Agenda is available is...

“considered as adequate notice of Regular Meetings of Council and its Committees, except for meetings held on a day or at a time other than as provided for by this By-law.”

Council (and Senior Managers) electronically receives the Agenda approximately one week before a regularly scheduled meeting, providing time for the Clerk’s Department to remedy any errors or omissions prior to the Agenda’s final publication.


Between receiving the Agenda and the meeting, is when Council has the opportunity to ask any questions from staff. This is our opportunity to receive clarification from staff, confirm our options, research the topic, and so on.


The complete copy of the published Agenda and Council Information Packages are posted on the Municipal Website...

“for members of the news media and the public not later than two business days preceding the scheduled meeting.”

DID YOU KNOW? For a meeting to proceed, there must be a quorum, which means that  50 percent of the entire council must be present. 

The Agenda always follows the same format though there may not always be all sections present, for example, there is not always a closed session.


DID YOU KNOW? The bold text in an Agenda are suggested resolutions to help move the meeting along efficiently. 

All Regular Council Meetings consisting of the following Headings as required:


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The Council Meeting Agenda's Outline

AGENDA

<DATE and TIME>

CALL TO ORDER

The meeting is called by the chair, which is normally the mayor, but in his or her absence the deputy mayor chairs.


APPROVAL OF THE AGENDA

Even though Council has had the Agenda for a week, it is not technically approved until voted on and passed by Council. If any member of Council wants to add or remove an item from the Agenda, it requires a motion, a seconder, and to be passed with a vote of ⅔.


DID YOU KNOW? For transparency's sake, any additions should be time sensitive or urgent.

OPEN FORUM

After the Agenda is public (two days before meeting), up to five individuals can speak to any item on the Agenda during Open Forum for a maximum of 3 minutes each. No time extensions shall be permitted.


In person registration for Open Forum occurs no sooner than 15 minutes prior to the start of the meeting and will end at the scheduled start time for the meeting for in person speakers, while the virtual registration link is posted on the published Council Agenda and shall end one hour in advance of the meeting time.


Open Forums can be awkward because no motions, decisions or comments shall be made during the Open Forum portion of the meeting and must wait to consider and/or debate the information received during Open Forum during the deliberation of the item when it arises on the regular Council Agenda.


DID YOU KNOW? When you register for Open Forum, you must specify the Agenda item number that you are speaking to.

If it makes you feel any better we feel has awkward as you do.


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DECLARATION OF PECUNIARY INTEREST

Though there have been calls for change, the only type of conflict of interest is a pecuniary or a financial one. A pecuniary interest can be direct or indirect.


A declaration of pecuniary interest can be declared either at this point in the Agenda or when the matter is the subject of consideration. The member discloses his/her interest and the general nature of the conflict then the member steps out of the conversation and does not vote on the matter. Additionally, the member provides this information in writing to the Clerk and the declaration becomes part of the record.


DID YOU KNOW? What happens when a majority of the members have disclosed a pecuniary interest? As long as the remaining number of members constitute a quorum, and it is not less than two, the meeting continues.

The Council Member provides this in writing to the Clerk, who keeps the records.


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APPROVAL OF MINUTES

Unapproved minutes from previous meetings are presented to be approved, adopted and circulated.


Municipal Council Meetings look nothing like the minutes you have seen prepared from your local organizations. At first, I was discourage by the lack of information in Council Minutes, but this is done so that the Clerk (who prepares the Council Minutes) doesn't inadvertently show a bias.


Council Minutes include:

  • Name of Meeting

  • Time of Meeting

  • Date of Meeting

  • Members Present

  • Members Absent

  • Call Time

  • Agenda Item

  • Resolution Number

  • Mover

  • Seconder

  • Resolution

  • CARRIED


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DELEGATIONS/PRESENTATIONS

A Delegation is a presentation (either in-person or virtually) of new information to or a new request of Council while a presentation (either in-person or virtually) is an update, a presentation of a study or information on a project to Council from a consultant or agency.


DID YOU KNOW? Delegations and presentations are governed by the same engagement rules.

According to the Procedural By Law, delegations/presentations are limited to three delegations or 30 minutes per meeting (whichever comes first).


Presenters may have been asked by the Municipality or not to present, and they must give notice to the Clerk no later than seven business days prior to the Regular Meeting of Council. Your registration needs to include an outline of the subject matter, as well as any information you plan to present, for example, you might have a PowerPoint presentation or handouts. This becomes part of the record.


To register to delegate or present, visit greyhighlands.ca/register.


When you delegate/present, you need to keep your remarks to the information contained within your registration application, again, all in the name of transparency. Delegations / presentations are kept to ten minutes in total per person, per group or per organization. If more time is needed, it must be included in the information when you register.


Occasionally, a presentation needs more than 30 minutes, in this case, the presentation will take place in a specifically scheduled special Committee of the Whole meeting. Persons and organizations can only delegate twice in a calendar year on the same subject matter. (This doesn't include presentations requested by Council or staff. )


HOT TIP: As per the Planning Act, you cannot delegate on items that have been the subject of a scheduled public meeting. You will need to present your concerns and opinions at the scheduled public meeting where their comments can be considered along with all other submissions; however, you can speak to an item that has been the subject of a Public Meeting during the Open Forum portion of a Council meeting where the item is included on the Agenda. 

After the delegation, Council cannot respond to your presentation, with the exception of seeking clarification. This means Council will not debate or discuss the subject matter.


Once the questions of clarification are complete, the delegation is:

  • Received for information

  • Received for information with a request for further information from staff.

As Council, we may refuse to hear delegations when, in the opinion of Council, the “subject of the presentation is beyond the jurisdiction of the Municipality”.





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COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE

Committee Of The Whole–or COW–can be a “section” in a Council Meeting or a meeting itself (called by the chair) and allow Council to have a more detailed and fulsome discussion on an item. Either the Mayor or the applicable Council Liaison will chair the Committee of the Whole as appropriate. Does this mean a liaison could chair a meeting?


The Committee of the Whole minutes record all of the recommendations, decisions and other proceedings of the meeting without note or comment. The Minutes of the Committee of the Whole are provided for adoption of the recommendations contained therein to the next subsequent Council meeting.


The Rules of Procedure are the same as Council meetings with the following exceptions:

  • The number of times of speaking on any question is not limited;

  • There are no recorded votes;

  • You cannot “put the question” or force the vote.


NOTE: This section is not always part of the Agenda.  

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ITEMS FOR COUNCIL CONSIDERATION

This section is the meat of the Agenda. Each item is received and discussed individually, and may include alternate considerations, for example, direct staff to bring back a report on the topic.


CONSENT AGENDA

The Consent Agenda lists the Agenda items to be approved with the exception of the items that Council members chose to “pull” or extract for alternate consideration. All of the items are adopted by one motion.


BY-LAWS

One of the strangest things (and there are a few of them) about governments, is how something becomes law. Every by-law must be read three times before it is passed, but all three” readings” can occur at the same meeting.


Like the Consent Agenda, an individual member is able to request that the motion be brought forward (or pulled) and voted on separately immediately following the passage of the by-law motion.



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NOTICE OF MOTION

A Motion–or a Resolution–may be submitted in writing or verbally by any Council member allowing them to introduce a new motion at the next Council meeting to introduce a new matter or change established policy. The giving of notice requires no seconder and is not at that time debatable.


DID YOU KNOW? If the Notice of Motion (NOM) is filed with the Clerk seven business days prior to the Council meeting the NOM is debated at the next Regular Council (unless otherwise noted).

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COUNTY REPORT

A report (usually verbal) from the Mayor or Deputy Mayor on recent County Council meeting(s) and other County business.


COUNCILLOR PRIVILEGE

Councillor privilege is individual members' opportunity to report on, well, pretty much anything. Often, Grey Highlands Council members report on local events or newsworthy items.


CLOSED SESSION


Going into "closed session" means the part of the meeting that is not public. By default, all meetings are open or public except for the following: (This is governed by the Municipal Act.)

  • The security of property

  • Matters that identify someone A proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land Labour relations or employee negotiations Litigation or potential litigation

  • Advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege

  • Information explicitly supplied in confidence Trade secrets Negotiations

  • An ongoing investigation

  • Educational or training sessions

A Resolution is needed to go into Closed. It must:

state the fact that the meeting is closed and the general nature of the matter to be considered at the closed meeting.

However, any vote on procedural matters or gives directions must be done outside of Closed.


There are some unique rules in a Closed meeting:

  • the number of times a Member can speak is not limited

  • no recorded vote is permitted

  • a motion to put the question is not permitted

  • a motion to adjourn is not permitted (unless the Closed meeting is being held apart from regular meetings).

As soon as the Regular Council Meeting reconvenes, the Mayor reports the actions of the Closed Session Meeting. The Closed session minutes (taken by the Clerk or Deputy Clerk) and background reports are uploaded to a secure site for viewing by members of Council.


DID YOU KNOW?  If the Clerk or Deputy Clerk is excused from the closed session portion, the Clerk is required to delegate his/her duties to the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) in writing. 

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ADJOURNMENT

Confirming By-law

In the final section of the Agenda, the proceedings of the Meeting are confirmed by by-law on a regular basis, and at minimum quarterly, so that every decision of the Council at that Meeting and every resolution passed thereafter shall have the same force and effect as if each and every one of them had been the subject matter of a separate by-law duly enacted.


The effective date of the By-Law is the date; it is signed by the Mayor and the Clerk.


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Upcoming Meetings

This section also lists all upcoming Meetings.


Adjourn





DID YOU KNOW: According to the Procedural By-Law Council should adjourn no later than five o'clock p.m. (5:00 p.m.), unless otherwise determined by a resolution (passed by 2/3 of the members present). We almost always require a resolution. ;-)

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A Motion to adjourn cannot be amended, debated, include qualifications nor additional statements.

This post, Keeping Council Organized: The Council Agenda,in which I explore the Council meeting Agenda.


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DISCLAIMER The staff at The Municipality of Grey Highlands are experts in their respective fields. If something here is different than staff's advice, always follow staff's direction. And, then please email me at danivaliquette@gmail.com with what I got wrong.