Burlington city manager defends council decisions about closed-door meetings


Published April 27, 2022 at 1:54 pm

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Tim Commisso is stepping down as Burlington's top manager.

Burlington’s city manager Tim Commisso is the latest figure to publicly weigh in on the issues of privacy, transparency and closed-door meetings.

They are topics that have recently seen Ward 4 councillor Shawna Stolte be docked five days pay and then change her mind about seeking re-election in October.

Stolte believes the city goes behind closed doors to discuss topics too frequently and, when they do, doesn’t provide enough information about the topics to the public. And at least on that second point, the city’s independent integrity commissioner seemed to agree.

In the same report that found Stolte had twice breached privacy regulations, it was also noted, “…on the CSSRA meeting agenda for January 10, 2022 there were 4 items identified identically as ‘Confidential Update on a Litigation Matter’, a generic label which failed to provide meaningful information to the public about the general nature of the matter being considered in closed session.”

Commisso, however, defended both the process and results of privacy decisions made by council.

“At the heart of the integrity commissioner report was the perception or a belief that City staff in some cases were inappropriately using closed door sessions to block or obscure information from members of the public. As city manager, I can categorically state that this assertion is not accurate,” said Commisso in a news release.

“Working in collaboration with council and staff, I am committed to sharing as much information as we can with the public. I also support a robust governance and accountability framework which embraces openness and transparency.”

The difference, then, appears to be between what city staff believes they “can” share versus what the integrity commissioner’s report says the Municipal Act “requires” they share.

“The resolution required by section 239 of the Municipal Act to give public notice of the items to be considered in closed session is required to provide as much information as possible about the general nature of the matter, without undermining the reasons for going into closed.”

Commisso said the issue will be discussed again at a committee meeting next week.

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