Lantzville considers releasing in camera documents

NANAIMO – Residents would get access to decision-making previously held behind closed doors.

Lantzville residents could soon get more context to decisions made behind closed doors.

The District of Lantzville is looking into a new policy to reveal in camera documents and votes four times a year as part of a push toward transparency.

The move, an election promise by Mayor Colin Haime, follows on the heels of the City of Nanaimo, which began releasing in-camera documents in 2013.

It’s unknown if the district will backdate the release of closed-meeting information, or how much would be redacted, but Haime said the overall practice will offer a greater understanding of the issues and thought-processes behind decision making.

“More information is better when it comes to the public, less opportunity or inclination from them to suspect that something hasn’t been told to them that possibly should have been,” said Haime, who points out that there’s also an ability for councillors to speak to issues previously held in camera.

“Because something has stayed in camera and has never been released, council members can’t speak to an issue, whereas with this process as things are released, it relieves council of that responsibility.”

Coun. Rod Negrave said he’d like to see as much information as free and available as possible and noted if there’s any hesitation among Lantzville residents about material inappropriately held in camera this would help sway that. Coun. Jennifer Millbank said regular and rigorous reviews about whether to keep items in camera are a good idea but is more interested in seeing input into decision making and diverse committees.

“If people have more of a role in the information flow and in the decision-making process, then I think that would probably be another piece of it,” said Millbank, who adds that without diverse committees most decisions happen at the council table.

“There isn’t really an opportunity for residents to have any kind of input other than showing up and being passive participants at our meetings,” she said.

A report is expected by the district on the in camera release, including a draft policy. District council also opted to talk about public engagement and town-hall meetings in its strategic planning session this January and asked for in camera staff reports to include why issues are being talked about in a closed meeting.