Lantzville adopts committee policy

Policy updated to remove language restricting individual committee members’ freedom of speech

The District of Lantzville now has a policy guiding its committees.

Lantzville councillors voted 5-2 in favour of adopting a council committee system policy on Monday night. Councillors Denise Haime and John Coulson voted against the policy.

The policy provides a foundation for how committees sanctioned by the District of Lantzville function. It provides a number of rules and guidelines on various subjects such as voting, conflict of interest, reporting, staff support and appointment.

A portion of the new policy that would have restricted individual committee members from sharing their own views about the activities of their committee on social media or mainstream media was removed by councillors, who had previously expressed concerns about it limiting an individual’s freedom of speech. Staff had made a number of tweaks to the language in the policy following concerns from councillors over the past few weeks.

Speaking to the News Bulletin afterwards, Coulson said he objected to the policy because he felt there were other issues with it. He said a clause that allows council to demand a committee member resign for malfeasance is concerning to him because it could give councillors the power to control committees or go after committee members.

“Even though we modified the language around it, I don’t agree with it,” he said. “It sets up a case where we have to provide justification to that member as to why they are being removed, but that happens in camera and with what I’ve seen over the past three years, I think a retribution against a committee member is possible.”

In order to become a committee member, an individual must be approved by councillors. A section in the newly adopted policy states that potential committee members can be targeted or solicited by the district for possible appointment, depending on the committee’s terms of reference.

RELATED: Lantzville councillors express concerns over proposed committee policy

Coun. Will Geselbracht said he’s glad Lantzville now has a committee policy. He said while it is unfair to silence individuals from expressing their opinions, the newly adopted policy does ensure that any opinion publicly expressed by the committee as a whole is approved by councillors first.

“You can’t muscle people … they can express their personal views but when it comes to the committee expressing their opinion, the committee is a creature of council,” he said. “So, the committee has to seek council’s approval.”

Geselbracht said if a committee member ends up being dismissed it would be for a good and valid reason. He said council is ultimately responsible for what happens when it comes to committees and should have some control over them.

“We have to have some hold over what committees do. I mean, we look to them for advice, but they don’t run council. It’s the other way around. You have to be able to have council be able to hire and fire, basically,” he said.

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