City of Nanaimo stops filming of Finance Committee meetings

By Dominic Abassi
December 15, 2017 - 2:11pm

A link for the Dec. 13 meeting video was posted online but it doesn't work.City of Nanaimo

NANAIMO — Public meetings featuring every member of Nanaimo Council discussing the City's finances are no longer being filmed and posted online.

After previously recording and posting archived versions of Finance and Audit Committee meetings, the City's website showed the last meeting posted was Sept. 14.

When asked, chief administrative officer Tracy Samra told NanaimoNewsNOW Council did not provide any direction to record committee meetings when they renewed their operating guidelines. She said in an email a report is coming to Council for them to decide whether to film committee meetings or not.

"In the absence of Council direction, committee meetings will not be recorded."

However, the City's website showed previous Finance and Audit meetings were recorded and posted. Samra did not answer questions about who made the decision to stop filming, when the decision was made or who was made aware of it.

The Finance and Audit Committee, made up of all members of Council, makes spending and financial policy recommendations which then come to regular meetings for final approval. Everything from staff and councillor expenses to the City's overall budget appear in the committee's agendas. At the Nov. 23 Finance meeting it was revealed the roll-out of automated garbage collection was nearly $500,000 over budget, a detail which has yet to be discussed in open council.

While the recommendations appear on regular meeting agendas, often the detailed staff reports and presentations do not.

Coun. Bill Bestwick, chair of the committee, said in an email he is "impartial as to whether or not every single meeting of every single Committee is recorded or not. Practically speaking, I am not sure if it is necessary or warranted."

He said he was not aware the Finance meetings were no longer being filmed but he has yet to receive a direct complaint.

Bestwick noted most committee meetings are not well attended by members of the public.

"Every committee deals with decisions and recommendations that impact the budget. So sure, film them all. And while we are at it, all RDN meetings, school board meetings should be filmed in the interests of transparency," Bestwick's email said.

Coun. Gord Fuller said he would like to see all committee meetings filmed, including closed door in-camera meetings. "We put the money into the SARC building to do that and that's what I would like to see happen," Fuller said during a Nov. 20 Council meeting.

The City said nearly $60,000 was spent on outfitting the boardroom at the Service and Resource Centre — the venue for Finance and Audit Committee meetings — with audio and video equipment to improve the quality of filmed meetings. Samra said it would require an additional union employee to film committee meetings.

Coun. Ian Thorpe said he was also not aware filming of the Finance meetings ended. "I am fine with any committee meetings being filmed. However, I do not see it as important or necessary, as all recommendations and motions from committees come forward to open Council meetings," Thorpe said in an email.

He pointed out no other City committees are filmed at this time.

NanaimoNewsNOW reporter Spencer Sterritt attended the Dec. 13 Finance meeting. A camera on a tripod was in the room and pointed at the table for the first portion of the meeting. However, when Samra arrived she instructed a staff member to turn off the camera, at which point it was turned to face the wall.

A broken link to a video of the meeting is posted on the City's website.


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