Legitimate need for in camera sessions

In camera sessions are very necessary for town councils to conduct their business,

In camera sessions are very necessary for town councils to conduct their business,  Chief Administrative Officer Betty Osmond told councillors Monday night.

In her CAO report she noted a letter appeared in the Sylvan Lake News and Red Deer Advocate critical of council’s use of in camera sessions.

“Part of my job is to advise if I think you’re using in camera wrongly,” she said. “They’re essential in every municipality to do the business of council.”

The Municipal Government Act is very specific about how they can be used and that councillors cannot make decisions or pass motions during those sessions.

“They’re very legitimate, there’s a very important reason to have in camera sessions. Nothing is withheld from the public that’s in the public’s interest,” she continued.

In her written report, Osmond stated, “The Municipal Government Act specifically provides for in camera sessions where there is a FOIPP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) issue for either council or another person. This is necessary because in many situations where the town’s interest could be jeopardized by a public discussion or we could be liable for damages to others who have a right to privacy. Most of the issues in recent months have been with regard to legal advice, negotiations for land purchase or personnel related.”

The incident criticized in Wayne Saastad’s letter in the June 14 issue of Sylvan Lake News “was in fact an in camera session to provide council with a legal opinion with regard to the options and risks associated with awarding a contract after a significant change in project scope. As contract awards improperly done have land municipalities in court and cost taxpayers significant dollars this was a ‘due diligence’ matter for council and administration.”

Osmond also warned, “the town is growing quickly and we have a number of major initiatives underway. This results in a corresponding increase in the potential number of in camera issues, some of which come forward with short notice.”

“All decisions of Town of Sylvan Lake Council have been made in public by motion of council. Apart from the exceptions allowed under the MGA, all related council discussion has also been in public,” she concluded.

At Monday night’s meeting, the council agenda showed three in camera items, two dealing with ‘land’ and one with ‘legal’.