CBRM councillor apologizes for discussing own pay behind closed doors

Coun. Amanda McDougall says council 'should have known better' than to discuss their compensation privately.

Minutes of 4 in-camera meetings could be released to the public

Amanda McDougall apologized to her constituents for council's decision to discuss their compensation privately instead of before the public at an open meeting. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

News that elected officials with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality have been meeting behind closed doors to discuss their own pay has prompted one councillor to apologize to her constituents.

The municipality is also considering publicly releasing the minutes from the four in-camera meetings that were held over the last two years.

Coun. Amanda McDougall posted an apology to constituents Thursday on Facebook, not long after CBC News reported on the closed-door dealings.

"We did wrong and you all deserve an apology," McDougall wrote.

"By not looking into things further and demanding our conversations around salary go to public session, I am just as culpable as any other in this situation."

Municipal Government Act not followed

Councillors voted in an open meeting this week to give themselves a raise to counter the loss of a federal tax benefit. 

The reason cited for excluding the public during those in-camera meetings was "personnel matters."

But a political scientist and the Department of Municipal Affairs say that's not allowed under the Municipal Government Act.

'We should have known better'

McDougall said in an interview she and other elected officials should have known they aren't personnel.

Council members receive a salary and some benefits, but don't qualify for employment insurance.

"There could have been a misunderstanding in the minds of council saying, 'We could be considered the same as employees in terms of going in camera to discuss about salaries and personnel,'" she said.

"But we're not employees and we know that and we should have known better, and I apologize for not looking deeper into this and fulfilling my role as a councillor and following the [Municipal Government Act]."

Minutes could become public

McDougall said there is a move to make the minutes of those meetings public.

"The mayor has been communicating with us, too, and making sure that the solicitor is involved so we can all work together somehow to rectify this," McDougall said. "Everybody reacted."

It's not yet clear whether the minutes can be released or if the matter would have to go to a vote of council first.

A spokesperson for the municipality confirmed staff are working on plans to make the minutes public, but no details were available late Thursday.

Corrections

  • While the discussion about council salaries happened in private, the actual vote to raise salaries was at an open meeting this week. Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story wrongly said the vote happened in private.
    Nov 09, 2018 7:10 AM AT

About the Author

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 32 years. He has spent the last 14 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.