The democratic rights of both councillors and ratepayers in the Township of Perth South have taken serious hits recently. I am personally aware of seven shutdowns in the last while, with a staggering five of those occurring in a span of 11 days between the period of Nov. 14 to Nov. 25.
A couple of months ago, a ratepayer contacted the staff at the Township to book a delegation regarding the 2010 paving contract. He was denied. In September, I tried to book a delegation with the Audit Committee and was denied.
At the Town Hall meeting on Nov. 14, councillor Don Henderson was twice denied the opportunity to speak by the mayor when two different ratepayers asked questions about the Election Audit process. That same evening, the mayor denied the chief administrative officer the opportunity to speak when I asked the CAO to clarify his earlier comments about our procurement policies not currently being up to speed.
The next day, councillor Liz Armstrong was denied the opportunity for further questions by the mayor at the regular council meeting when she was questioning invoices on the list of payables regarding the gravel pit rehabilitation project. At that particular point, she had only asked two questions when her shutdown was forced by the mayor.
On Nov. 25, I requested a delegation to council to speak to the gravel pit project and was shut down by the clerk, denied the right to speak at the Dec. 6 meeting. I had asked for only about 10 minutes; apparently this was somehow inappropriate.
The Township’s procedural bylaw clearly states the rules for requesting a delegation to council. The condensed version is: as long as your subject is not frivolous or that you have been using too much of council’s time by booking delegations repeatedly, then you have the right to be heard.
Therefore, council is obliged not only by bylaw, but by moral reasons, to hear the stakeholders in the community.
The shutdowns at the Town Hall meeting were absolutely deplorable. One would have to think that if it is council’s wish to hold a Town Hall, presumably to help with transparency, then they and staff would be willing to speak freely about the subjects that those who pay their salaries and who have been invited to attend and wish to question about.
I do acknowledge that council is not permitted to speak publicly about closed session matters, but none of these topics fit the criteria.
Regarding the 2010 paving contract, it is my understanding that the Township is now being sued on this issue. Perhaps, if they would have allowed the delegation, this might not have occurred.
Regarding the Election Audit, this issue is not, nor has it ever been, a closed session matter.
Finally, the gravel pit rehabilitation is not a closed session matter either, and I am not aware of any pending potential litigation regarding this subject.
The only controversial issue that someone might try to keep out of the public eye is whether or not the mayor should be declaring conflict of interest on this subject. One minute he does; the next he does not. First, he says his reasoning for declaring is this, and then he changes it to another reason. All I can say about that is ... wow.
It would be my wish that residents of Perth South, or any municipality for that matter, stand up and say enough is enough. The muzzlings of councillors and ratepayers have to stop. The very heart of democracy is at risk here, and it is my intention to keep that heart beating.
(Editor’s note: At the Perth South Town Hall meeting on Nov. 14, the possibility of legal action regarding the paving contract was mentioned. The topic will be discussed by councillors at their next closed session meeting; however, there has, to date, been no public confirmation of legal action.)