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Closed city meetings to be recorded, kept on file

City council voted unanimously Monday to approve a motion to have all closed municipal meetings electronically recorded with audio/visual equipment.
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City council voted unanimously Monday to approve a motion to have all closed municipal meetings electronically recorded with audio/visual equipment.

The discussion came at a time when it has become common for politicians at all levels of government to speak of increased transparency.

The resolution was moved by Ward 3 Councillor Matthew Shoemaker.

"The (Ontario) Ombudsman finds this efficient," Shoemaker told council.

Shoemaker said he had been in contact with local governments in other municipalities, most recently Oshawa, regarding the practice.

Shoemaker said "the sky had not fallen" as a result of closed meetings being recorded in other communities.

Ward 1 Councillor Steve Butland said he "wouldn't dare say 'no' to increased accountability and transparency."

Ward 6 Councillor Ross Romano said "it holds us to a higher standard, and I think that's important."

Ward 1 Councillor Paul Christian also spoke in favour of the motion, and suggested all board and committee meetings which include the mayor and city councillors should be recorded at a future date.  

As it stands, Ontario citizens have the right to request the Ontario Ombudsman investigate any closed municipal meetings they believe may have violated the Municipal Act of 2001 or municipal bylaws.

That right has been in place since January 1, 2008.

The Ontario Ombudsman has recommended municipalities electronically record closed meetings because, if a request is made for a review of a meeting from a citizen or group of citizens, electronic records are clearer and less open to interpretation if they need to be heard or viewed, as opposed to written minutes taken at closed meetings, or recollections of councillors who were in attendance.

The Ombudsman states reviews of electronic recordings take less time and money and require fewer witnesses to conduct an investigation and would therefore lead to a faster decision on whether a violation of the Municipal Act or city bylaws was made at a closed meeting.

The city will, as a result of Monday’s discussion and vote, start recording closed sessions of council using digital audio-video technology effective March 1, 2015.

Frank Coccimiglio, the city's information technology manager, told council all closed meetings will be recorded with audio and video devices and the recordings kept stored both in a secure area on the city's server and on DVD format.

While the cost is not immediately known, Coccimiglio said there would be an expense involved in finding and maintaining an area where the DVDs would be stored.  

 



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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in TV and Radio, Darren has been a reporter for 15 years.
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