"Accountability and Transparency Committee" for September 30, 2013

"Accountability and Transparency Committee" for September 30, 2013

This Article is Superceded by “Hamilton’s new “Lobbyist Registry”, Brought to You By “Accountability and Transparency””

Council’s “Accountability and Transparency” Committee meets Monday. Their agendas are not publicly available and are only released upon formal request.

Livestream starts at 1:30pm

They are neither Accountable or Transparent, they do not post their agendas to the City website and do not hold their meetings in Council Chambers where they can be livestreamed.

Thankfully, we’ve been able to – with the help of Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin’s office – get the committee to provide agendas upon formal request and we livestream the meetings ourselves.

Gag Bylaw

This committee must be monitored closely due to its history of passing bylaws that serve to decrease both accountability and transparency. Last year, the committee past it’s infamous gag bylaw against citizens complainants. The bylaw was only reversed after intense public pressure, with Councillors stating they will revisit the idea of a gag bylaw in the future.

The gag bylaw was not on the agenda when it was created and passed.

Lobbyist Registry

For seven years, the “Accountability and Transparency Committee” has debated what is a lobbyist? Despite numerous other cities and provinces all having similar definitions, Hamilton just can’t come to an agreement.

Instead, after not meeting for months on end, and only meeting after public pressure is placed upon Council, the Committee continues to reset the process of creating a bylaw.

Now that any bylaw cannot be implemented or made retroactive to this term of Council, there is the possibility a version of a “lobbyist registry” will be approved.

Originally scheduled for implementation in 2008, Councillors have delayed implementation until at least January 2015 – after the next election.

The current implementation date is January 26, 2015.

Lobbying of Planning Staff Exempt from Disclosure

The majority of lobbying at City Hall is done by those representing development and directed at the planning department.

The Hamilton lobbyist registry proposal exempts these lobbyists from having to register their lobbying activities when it only involves planning staff.

Only direct lobbying of the General Manager of Planning and Economic Development must be declared and there are numerous exceptions that allow the lobbying of the General Manager without public knowledge.

In effect, the registry is designed to look transparent without actually advancing good governance and transparency.

Penalties for Failing to Disclose

The proposed bylaw includes penalties for lobbyists who fail to register their activities. There is a 30-day suspension for a first contravention, and a 60-day suspension for a second. Third and subsequent contravention penalties will be determined by the Lobbyist Registrar.

During a penalty, a lobbyist will be allowed to continue lobbying staff, including planning staff, as lobbying of staff is not covered by the bylaw.

Full Agenda and Bylaw

The “Accountability and Transparency Committee” agenda is only available by formal request.

A copy of today’s agenda can be downloaded from this website.