Training workshops for council OK’d

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City councillors have new rules about how they receive training but not all councillors are on the same page.

On Monday, council approved a policy about how they can hold training workshops. The policy means council cannot make decisions or give direction to city staff in workshops and the material presented shouldn’t advance a council motion or city business.

Workshops will not have formal minutes and are designed to “train, educate or issue alerts to council on a specific topic,” according to the policy.

Councillors voted 4-3 in favour of the policy, with Coun. Sheena Hughes, Coun. Natalie Joly and Coun. Ray Watkins voting against it.

Following Monday’s vote, Hughes told the Gazette she felt she couldn’t approve a policy that did not allow the public to attend or have warning about what was discussed at a workshop.

“The amendments I had put forward (at committee), I was serious about those,” she said.

“That’s where I was again thinking, should I say yes to something that has some merit but that also failed to address the need for public availability and disclosure of what’s being discussed?”

Hughes initially pushed for a policy governing workshops in February, and in June put forward a litany of amendments to the policy city staff drew up.

Some of those passed during June’s governance, priorities and finance committee, but others – including having a publicly available briefing on what happened at a workshop and parameters for whether a workshop is public or not – failed.

Coun. Natalie Joly said she voted against the policy because it doesn’t change how council has to do business.

“I’m pleased that it provided clarity, though,” she told the Gazette.

Despite the divided vote on Monday, the policy passed without debate. Councillors also unanimously approved an amendment to the policy to have the city manager post public notice of workshops, instead of advertising workshops in advance.

Coun. Ken MacKay put forward that amendment on behalf of Mayor Cathy Heron.

He said that amendment stemmed from the wording in the minutes of June’s committee meeting and would maintain consistency.

Heron said she felt providing advertising for upcoming training workshops didn’t capture what had been discussed at committee.

“To try to save some money, public notification in whatever way the city manager feels necessary … this is exactly what we’d agreed upon at (committee),” she said.

Coun. Ray Watkins did not respond to a request for comment on his vote.

Correction

An earlier version of this story contained the wrong council vote. The vote was 4-3, not 5-2 as originally stated.

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April Hudson

April is the editor of the St. Albert Gazette