A few years ago, we published an article where Council turned into a circus. The public was attacking Councillors and Councillors were attacking the public. The public was attacking themselves, the councillors were attacking themselves and it ended with Mayor Joanne Monaghan laying down the law. At that time, the Kitimat Daily reported: “The new council has been in place now for nine months and these months have been filled by increasingly upgrading lack of decorum in the Council Chambers. Granted, this did start before my taking office but it escalated to the point where I as Mayor am making this statement,” said Mayor Monaghan.
She requested from presenters that if no new information was to come forward from a presentation, or if no action by council was required, they let council get on with the business that they are doing. She referred to this type of presentation as ineffective and unproductive for the community of Kitimat.
Referring to it as the rules of engagement, she explained how presenters and councillors should behave and what to expect when they are making presentations. 1: Presenters and councillors are not to attack individuals personally with accusations or insults. She asked them to: “Stick to the issues and avoid personal attacks”. 2: Delegations are not to challenge councillors based on what they do, or demand an immediate answer. “The delegations are not there to debate with council,” said Monaghan.
She added that councillors are not there to debate with delegations. The delegations are supposed to present council with issues or views. Councillors can ask delegations for clarity but that is where it ends.
“Finally, audience participation in the meetings by anything like a push or objection to the views expressed by council or delegations, by cheering, or by booing, or otherwise being disruptive of the deliberations, or delegations is as inappropriate for the members of the audience as it is for the council members. The audience is there to observe and is not a part of the meeting. They are not to try, through antics, to try and influence the outcome of debate and we should establish appropriate behaviour and respectful observation,” said Monaghan.
She generalized everything she had to say as: “Stick to the issue and be respectful.”
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In the months which followed, Council improved. The closure of Eurocan surprisingly brought Council together. While Council still had their ‘outs’ on certain issues, the stage remained clear…
…that is until last night’s meeting of Council.
Curzio Miani got up, and he was visibly upset. He had lost cats to a wolverine and verbally attacked the Conservation Officer who was present. Sergeant Darryl Struthers took it in stride but countered the arguments. The problem is, this is an issue where everyone is right.
The Conservation Officers have their policies and it is a shame when a person loses a pet. However, as Councillor Randy Halyk pointed out, the Council Chambers was not the venue for this argument to take place.
After all, the presentation was not presented to the Council itself, but to the Conservation Officers. The stage shifted from the Council to the corner of the room where all this took place. It also cast a shadow on the presentation made by the Rotary Club, moments before, who were trying to establish Kitimat as a community, mindful of peace.
And Monaghan allowed it, perhaps, encouraged it. After all, she stopped the Conservation Officers from leaving. From where I was sitting, I could hear her say there was an unusual circumstance as the public could not ask questions of a presentation. It looked, from my perspective of the meeting, like the Conservation Officer was being set up.
As Miani’s presentation continued, Council appeared visually upset. Councillor’s Halyk and Scott were whispering among themselves. Councillor Gottschling questioned whether this should be allowed to proceed. Monaghan argued Miani was speaking to an agenda item and she could not halt it.
She also said this was normal behaviour, for the meeting to be put on hold so a member of the audience can get up and vent at another member of the audience.
But this violates the rules she established. The discussion did not feel respectful and it felt like an attack against the individuals. The presentation was not directed at Council but to the Conservation Officer. Miani also called Struthers a liar which Council has been informed in the past is a word not permitted when Council is in session. However, the Parliamentarian, City Manager, Ron Poole, was not present at the meeting to correct this.
The Conservation Officers and the party of Eynon, Miani and Baumbach left the meeting at the same time and continued the conversation out in the hall until the end of the meeting. The door closed but their conversation still carrying into the Council Chambers through the odd raised voice.
When the Rotary Club left the meeting, one of them expressed surprise both parties were still there. While what transpired in the hallway is unknown we have been told they parted on friendly terms.
Monaghan said she did not want people speaking out of turn during her first year as Mayor. She made the rules, and yet, she did not uphold them when it benefited a cause which she supported. If you want to have words with Council while they are in session, the door is now open and Monaghan’s foot is holding it there.
As for the wolverine issue, we probably won’t have to worry about the creature much longer. It is gaining such notoriety that Hollywood will probably soon contact the creature for a movie deal.