The Elliot Lake Inquiry has learned the state of the now-collapsed Algo Centre Mall made its way into secret monthly council meetings that happened over a span of three years.
Earlier this week, city agendas from 2004 to 2006 were revealed to the inquiry looking into the June 2012 mall cave-in that killed two people and injured dozens of others.
The documents were found by commission staff on the computer of a former Elliot Lake employee.
None of the meeting dates on the agendas fell on regular, scheduled council meetings — something commission lawyer Peter Doody said is illegal under the Municipal Act.
"[There was] a regular practice of monthly secret meetings — [held] without notice — where subjects [that] the council [was] required by law to discuss only in public were, in fact, discussed secretly, behind closed doors," he said.
On one of the agendas, from June 2005, councillors were set to talk about leaking in the Elliot Lake Public library, which was located in the mall.
Doody said the city didn't withhold this information, but a digital search didn't find it earlier. The commission has yet to find any minutes from the closed-door sessions.
Meetings weren’t secret: former CAO
Former CAO and city councillor Troy Speck said the meetings started at the request of former mayor George Farkouh.
"He felt there wasn't enough opportunity to get updates on what was happening on issues in the community and so he wanted us to meet monthly," Speck testified Thursday.
But he insisted the meetings weren't a secret.
"There seemed to be some general knowledge that they happened," Speck said.
The commission heard that, while these meetings might have been known to the community, the public wasn't invited.
Doody questioned Speck if these extra meetings fostered a secret culture among council.
"And am I correct in assuming that councillors would take advantage of that opportunity to talk about things that they would rather not have the public know about?"
Speck replied, "I'd say that's fair."