Nanaimo spends to improve governance

NANAIMO – Consultant’s report outlines areas where councillors need to act more respectfully.

Nanaimo officials could spend upwards of $25,000 to improve governance at city hall.

Nanaimo city council is taking action on recommendations flagged in a $75,000 governance report, including outlining rules of decorum and responsibilities for politicians and rearranging seating in the Shaw Auditorium.

The seating switch-up alone is expected to cost $8,000.

City officials will also hire consultants at a cost of between $17,000 to $20,000 to help implement some of the recommendations made in the governmance report.

Coun. Ted Greves, head of the governance committee, says the expenses will hold value for taxpayers, which will see clearer guidelines and consequences around behavior of their elected officials, better run meetings and less confusion around votes.

“We thought we have to get a handle on this stuff … like the procedure bylaw and who can speak. It all goes to the heart of democracy I guess,” Greves said.

Watson Inc. was hired earlier this year to review governance at city hall as part of Nanaimo’s new strategic direction.

The results revealed that significant tension, name calling and physical altercations among councillors and city staff members could be hurting the city’s ability to make decisions and maintain the respect of other organizations. Watson Inc. suggested 59 recommendations to help improve governance, which city officials prioritized over the fall.

According to Nanaimo city staff members the majority of the governance work will be done in house over the next 12 months.

Expenses will include new seating arrangements, which are proposed to help council debate more among each other. The horseshoe-shaped table will be closed and staff members would sit alongside councillors.

The podium would also be shifted to the front of the Shaw Auditorium.

Consultants will also be hired, including Allison Habkirk who is slated to start work on council’s roles and responsibility and conduct immediately.

Coun. Bill Bestwick did not support the decision to spend money on efforts to outline responsibilities of council and code of conduct when council has “12 months or less between now and next election.”

To burden council and staff with “more of these learning sessions for us to conduct ourselves appropriately and professionally and responsibly, I personally believe we can take that responsibility upon ourselves,” he said.

But Greves said while things have been getting better at city hall after the governance review process, councillors still need clear guidelines of what is appropriate behaviour and repercussions.

“In school it’s contracted out how to behave and individuals read it and sign their name to it and these are the recommendations. We are just big kids now I guess,” he said.