An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THE KAMLOOPS-THOMPSON school board’s view of what should be discussed in secret continues to confound me.
To the board’s credit, it releases minutes of its in-camera meetings in a timely manner but the topics discussed therein often bear little resemblance to the usual definition of in-camera. That definition is, simply, “land, labour and legal.”
But take a look at just one recent in-camera board meeting and the minutes from it that have been released. Keep in mind that some items from in-camera meetings can’t be released right away but a lot of items shouldn’t be behind closed doors at all.
For example, Superintendent Terry Sullivan reported in detail on his first day at the office and his plans for setting up various meetings. There was an update on the school restart plan. There’s even a notation in the minutes that the update was being provided to trustees “to review prior to the regular public meeting.”
Why did they need to review something that was going to be presented at the public meeting?
Then there was a financial report on reserve balances and another one on the need to replace 55 photocopiers. And another on the need for seven new portables.
And a communication update about a letter that was sent to parents.
Portables? Photocopiers? Updates on letters, finances and meeting schedules? Those aren’t the sorts of things that one associates with land, labour and legal.
It’s important for local governing bodies to be transparent. It’s important to discuss matters of interest to the public in an open manner. While releasing in-camera minutes is good, minutes can’t capture the nuances of debate.
It’s very easy to stray into areas that have no business being discussed in secret. The land, labour and legal rule is designed to protect confidentiality on things like sensitive land negotiations, personnel matters and legal advice.
I fear the school board is forgetting that.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.