Tudor and Cashel Finance Committee in stasis

·6 min read

Tudor and Cashel Township council voted to rescind the bylaw establishing the Finance and Asset Management committee pending a legal review of the bylaw requested by Mayor Libby Clarke at their Feb. 2 council meeting. This was in response to the committee’s request for bylaw clarification at their Jan. 25 meeting, so they could better understand and articulate their duties and responsibilities going forward. There was also a scheduling conflict between Councillor Noreen Reilly and the other eight members of the committee. The bylaw and its proposed revisions were still with the township lawyer as of the March 2 council meeting. Once council gets the legal advice back, they can draft and pass a new bylaw incorporating the revisions. At that point, the FAMC will likely continue on with its mandate.

The committee arose from a motion at the Oct. 6 council meeting to draft a procedural bylaw to create the committee and solicit volunteers for it. At the next council meeting on Nov. 3, the bylaw to establish the committee and the procedures to govern its proceedings was passed as bylaw 2020-40. The township sees the move as a cost saving measure, which would also use the financial acumen of some of its residents to move forward with its financial and asset management plans.

The committee had its first meeting on Jan. 25, but there were issues that needed to be addressed.

One was some revisions that the committee wanted to the procedural bylaw that governs their mandate and responsibilities. The other were scheduling conflicts between the council member on the committee, Councillor Noreen Reilly, and the other committee members.

Reilly, the council member on the committee, was available on Mondays and on every evening through the week. Meanwhile, after looking at their schedules, the other members of the committee were only available on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. A resolution to this scheduling conflict would be necessary for the committee to move ahead with its work, even when the new revised bylaw is passed by council.

Upon seeing the revisions requested by the FAMC at their Jan. 25 meeting at the Feb. 2 council meeting, Clarke thought it best to send the bylaw out to get it looked at by the township lawyers so that the revised bylaw would be worded appropriately and without confusion.

“The issue is that the committee has requested changes to the bylaw that council has already put into force, for specific clarification around their mandate. I understand that, so I want to get advice on these advisory committees and their functions, and it will set the playing field so we’ll have success with this committee,” she says.

Clarke went on to say this it was her fiduciary responsibility as mayor to make sure she exercises the duties she’s been given, one of them being to take care of the fiduciary responsibilities of the township. Soon after the council meeting, the bylaw was forwarded to their lawyer, and the township is still waiting to hear back from its legal team.

As of the March 2 council meeting, the revised bylaw was still in the hands of the lawyer. Nancy Carrol, the clerk and treasurer, could not be sure when the lawyer will get back to the township with the requested advice.

“In dealing with legal representation over the past year, the timeframe for responses seems to have been negatively affected by COVID-19. I am not sure when the next FAMC meeting will take place,” she says.

After a vigorous exchange between Clarke and Councillor Bob Bridger about the revisions to the bylaw and whether legal advice was needed, and about the scheduling issues around the committee, it was decided by the majority of council that legal advice was required, and they would wait to hear back from the lawyer to revise the bylaw properly. A motion was proposed by Councillor Roy Reeds and seconded by Deputy Mayor Ron Carroll to rescind the bylaw until the revised bylaw can be passed. This motion was passed, with Councillor Bob Bridger being opposed.

While the committee is currently in limbo, Carrol pointed out to council that Clarke can call a meeting at any time to pass the revised FAMC bylaw, and that it needn’t wait until the April council meeting.

Bridger was upset by the turn of events on Feb. 2 and that there had been no resolution as of March 2. He has been pushing for a number of years for council to reach out to residents with financial expertise to assist the township, and with this delay, the FAMC missed its Feb. 16 scheduled meeting.

“Being that the auditors have just finished doing their work and we are to receive their work shortly, and being that budget discussions are about to start, I am troubled that the township doesn’t have a FAMC available to give us input and their insight going forward,” he says.

The chair of the temporarily shelved committee, Jerry Chadwick, says that since the bylaw was rescinded on Feb. 2, they are awaiting further action and directions from council.

Chadwick reveals the clarifications the committee wanted to the bylaw. They wanted it stipulated that voting would be done by recorded vote (section 3.1), that the treasurer or staff representative on the committee would be a non-voting member (section 4.1), to say that the chair position should be a committee member chosen by majority vote by the committee (section 5.2, as Councillor Reilly apparently didn’t want to be chair), and that it should be stated that the chair would only vote in a tie breaking situation (section 6.1). He says they also wanted clarification around the committee’s role in section 3.1, which stated that the committee would “champion the long-term asset management and financial plan for the municipality” and to “draft policies to guide council in their decision-making process with regard to finances.” They wanted clarification and definition around “financial plan” and “finances.” For example, review of annual operating budget and municipal mill rate determination, review of capital plan spending proposals, development of an investment strategy, review of all debt financing proposals and the review of draft audited financial statements. Chadwick says he has been in contact with Clarke about when the lawyer gets back to the township with the revised bylaw suggestions, and that should hopefully be sooner rather than later.

Chadwick says that the volunteers met twice via Zoom before the first meeting to get acquainted and to understand each other’s expertise and reasons for volunteering. They also shared documents and links so they were prepared to proceed with their job when it started.

Chadwick says that assuming a bylaw is passed to re-form the committee after getting legal advice, they will be resuming regular meetings. The drawback Chadwick sees in this delay is that by the time the new bylaw can be passed, the 2020 financial statements may already be approved and the annual budget meeting completed. He also hopes that all eight volunteers still want to continue when the FAMC resumes, and he thinks the delay showed a lack of respect to these volunteers.

When the committee does reform and continue with its work, Chadwick says their agenda would depend on where they are on the annual financial calendar.

“I know one of our top priorities was to determine the status of the April 2019 Asset Management report by Greer Galloway,” he says. “A thorough read of that document raised many questions and the committee hoped to interview the authors of that report for clarification.”

Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times