Burlington Ward 4 councillor reconsidering decision to step away from city politics
Published April 29, 2022 at 1:15 pm
Burlington councillor Shawna Stolte is still deciding whether or not to run for re-election, backtracking on an announcement she admits was borne out of frustration.
Following a lengthy discussion about closed-door meetings and a five-day pay penalty for breaking privacy rules, Stolte said she didn’t think she could continue to serve as Ward 4 councillor, citing a difference of philosophy with her colleagues.
“Since then, the support I’ve received from the community has been heartwarming and overwhelming,” said Stolte in an exclusive interview with inhalton.com.
“People are telling me they’re worried that if I choose not to run, the conversation around transparency will stop.”
And based on a recent report by the city’s Integrity Commissioner, as well as reports due both next week and later this year, the topic of confidentiality is going to be a hot one.
Stolte admits she pushed the envelope a little too far on the issues that earned her a rebuke, but a good deal of the commissioner’s report supported her claims that the City isn’t being open enough.
“Of course there are topics that need to be discussed behind closed doors,” said Stolte. “But there also need to be updated rules and procedures about how we refer to those topics on agendas, as well as what we share with the public following the closed-door sessions.”
The report took issue with the city’s labelling of items on public agendas, giving the absolute bare minimum of information:
“Simply put, it is insufficient to simply parrot the test of the statutory exception (e.g. ‘acquisition or disposition of land) by re-stating it without adding additional context. On the CSSRA meeting agenda for Jan. 10, there were four 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.”
Stolte said the failure, in her opinion, of her council colleagues to recognize this and pledge to change it is what led to her announcement.
“They keep saying that all the rules are being followed. But they’re our rules. And it’s long past due that we took a look at them and made an effort to follow best practises, the municipal act, and the ombudsman.”
Stolte said she believes council should be looking at ways to be more transparent going forward.
She said councillors need to be more critical when it comes to recommendations from staff about sensitive topics.
“Every item should be given full consideration about whether it needs to be discussed behind closed doors and we should commit to providing as much information as we can to the public.”
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