With the first calendar year complete after City Councillors awarded themselves a pay raise in December 2015, BayToday has examined the attendance records for municipal government officials so that taxpayers can see if their favourite candidate from the last election is representing their interests to the fullest.
The Mayor and Deputy Mayor, as well as the nine remaining Councillors, are listed in order from highest to lowest percentage attendance at 67 common meetings. These statistics do not include attendance at operational review committee meetings, CAO recruitment committee meetings, nor agencies, boards and commissions. The study is limited to meetings that all 11 members were required to attend.
Coun. Mac Bain's results are listed below but are marked with a (*) to denote that his absences from many meetings were due to various medical procedures.
2016 CITY COUNCIL ATTENDANCE
Mayor Al McDonald 100% (67/67)
Deputy Mayor Sheldon Forgette 97% (65/67)
Coun. Mark King 97% (65/67)
Coun. George Maroosis 97% (65/67)
Coun. Derek Shogren 96% (64/67)
Coun. Jeff Serran 94% (63/67)
Coun. Chris Mayne 93% (62/67)
Coun. Mike Anthony 93 % (62/67)
Coun. Tanya Vrebosch 88% (59/67)
Coun. Daryl Vaillancourt 84% (56/67)
*Coun. Mac Bain 66% (44/67)
Rankings were compiled using attendance records obtained from City Hall for the 2016 calendar year that included:
- 24 council meetings,
- 22 committee meetings,
- 9 special committee meetings,
- 6 special council meetings, and
- 6 special closed meetings.
See our gallery above for a full breakdown of meeting attendance.
According to the Corporation of the City of North Bay Procedural By-Law 2017-01, Sections 16.1 and 16.1(a):
16.1 It is the duty of Councillors to attend all Meetings of Council, and:
(a) to prepare for Meetings, including reviewing the agenda and background information prior to the meeting
"Every Councillor should come to every meeting, fully prepared. The Council members need to be prepared, they need to read their reports and ask any questions they might have before they make their decisions. We expect all Council members to be here," for the scheduled meetings, said Mayor Al McDonald in an October interview.
Asked if there is any recourse (besides a failed re-election bid) for Council members who have spotty attendance or are not prepared for meetings, McDonald replied, "Nothing. If they're not prepared, there's nothing in our procedural by-law," to remedy those issues, adding "the constituents know who is working hard and who isn't working quite as hard, but there's nothing I can do as Mayor."
There is a precedent for removing a member of Council for absences from meetings in excess of three consecutive months. Exceptions for bereavement or medical leave may be granted.
Medical and family emergencies arise, to be sure. Work commitments cannot be avoided on occasion. Vacations can explain some of the absences. The new bi-weekly schedule should make planning vacations around meetings much easier.bi-weekly schedule should make planning vacations around meetings much easier.
Several of the proposed amendments to the procedural by-law made their way through the committee level of municipal government and were approved by vote at last Monday's regular meeting of Council.
Among the adopted changes was a move to bi-weekly meetings year-roundbi-weekly meetings year-round, with both committee and council meetings held on the same Tuesday night. This is a departure from the alternating weekly schedule that had been in place, except for the summer months when a bi-weekly set-up similar to the new schedule was followed.bi-weekly set-up similar to the new schedule was followed.
City Council members receive their salaries regardless of attendance at committee or council meetings. Under the new system, missing a two-meeting Tuesday night means that a member of Council would go a full four weeks between appearances in chambers.
It stands to reason that the bump in pay could be interpreted in one of two ways. One, the pay hike is a reward for outstanding service to the community. Or two, the extra money is an enticement to draw committed people to public service. It stands to reason that a pay raise would foster a sense of duty to, at the very least, attend meetings regularly.
This Council has had a rocky first two years since its election, with various publicized squabbles across the table, as well as with the public. The October 2015 call by Bain encouraging Council to give themselves raises drew much derision from the citizenry but was ultimately passed by a 7-4 vote.
Message board commenters vowed to remember those Councillors who voted in favour of the pay hike when the 2018 election rolls around. Many were incredulous that Council had the power to approve their own pay raise in the first place.
Councillor talk of holding implementation of the pay raise to the next elected Council, received little support despite the efforts of Councillors Tanya Vrebosch, and Chris Mayne. Vrebosch ultimately voted for the pay increase.
Coun. Anthony stated in September 2015 that "this is absolutely not the time to be discussing pay increases for Council." Councillors King, Anthony, Mayne and Serran voted against the motion in December 2015.
What do you think? Does Council attendance matter? Should there be financial penalties for missing meetings? Use our comments section below to have your say.