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Anonymity concerns Clearview councillors

In Clearview
Sep 1st, 2010

Simcoe.com August 18 2010
STAYNER – Clearview Council members have mixed opinions about the fact a person is sitting anonymously on the Clearview Council compensation committee.

Council struck the ad hoc committee in July and tasked it with looking into what type of remuneration council members should receive.
In approving the committee, elected officials did not set any criteria regarding the structure, leaving the more granular details open to committee chair Bill Mann. 
Last Monday night, the committee presented its findings, which were received as information. No further action was taken due to the late hour.
It’s expected the report will be brought up for more discussion at council’s next meeting on Mon., Sept. 13.
Mayor Ken Ferguson said it’s disturbing one of the four people on the committee wishes to remain anonymous.
“I don’t like that someone is anonymous but at this point I have to accept it,” Ferguson said. “I want us to settle this remuneration issue. I want us to make a decision and move forward.”
The mayor said council has been working since late spring to draft a remuneration policy. He said he wants to see it in place before this term ends in the fall.
Mann said the anonymous committee member is a Stayner business owner. He said the person is concerned about negative feedback if their involvement with the committee is known.
Mann said he thought long and hard about allowing the person to sit anonymously on the committee and came to the conclusion their involvement was essential.
“It’s a very successful business person – someone who would be known and respected by everyone in Stayner,” Mann said. “It (remaining anonymous) had to do with the notoriety that being in this role might present. He’s in a retail type business and if someone took umbrage it might affect his business. I thought long and hard about it but thought what he brought was absolutely essential,” Mann said.
Deputy Mayor Savage is also wrestling with the fact an anonymous person is sitting on a municipal committee.
“The first thing when I saw it [the report] was ‘oh crap, what’s this?'” Savage said. “But I happen to know who it is so that changes my perspective. The principle of having someone be anonymous – I wouldn’t normally support.”
Savage would not disclose how she learned the identity of the member.
Ward 1 councillor Doug Measures is also uncomfortable with an anonymous person on the committee.
“I certainly didn’t know at the outset there’d be an anonymous member,” he said. “I will state that I don’t think it’s unheard of – having someone being involved and being kept confidential – but for this type of purpose I think it’s best the person be known.”
But Measures said he isn’t prepared to push the matter. He said it’s getting late in the term and council has been wrestling with the subject of remuneration for council members since June.
“I think, honestly, in September we need to focus on the work that needs to be done, resolve this issue of remuneration and be clear in the future that anonymity is not favourable,” he said.
Ward 2 councillor Orville Brown made similar comment.
“The anonymous thing does concern me – sure it does,” he said. “But I have no idea who the person is and we need to get this done with. I do know who the other three are so it really doesn’t bother me. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it at my age.”
Ward 3 councillor Marc Royal said he’s pretty “disappointed” an anonymous person is involved in township committee work.
“From a transparency point it really isn’t right,” he said. “I expect this will be talked about in more detail in September.”
Ward 4 councillor Thom Paterson did not share Royal’s concern.
“I think it’s a matter of trust,” he said. “I’m putting my trust in what I know of Bill [Mann’s] community service in the past. I thought it was a bit odd but then he expressed the fact the person wanted to be involved, was competent but didn’t want to be identified. For me it stops there.”
Ward 5 councillor Robert Walker could not be reached for comment.
Roger McGillvray, the councillor for Ward 6, said he too is concerned about someone remaining anonymous on a municipal committee.
He said the whole point of creating the committee was to be fair and transparent.
McGillvray said he can understand a business person worrying about the ramifications from their involvement but said if that’s the case then maybe they shouldn’t volunteer to serve.
He added he’s not comfortable in terms of pressing the person to step forward and reveal their identity.
“Maybe what we’ll have to do is re-strike the committee,” he said.
Ward 7 councillor Shawn Davidson also took issue with a person being anonymous.
“I think it questions their credibility,” he said. “I know they’ve worked hard to provide recommendations to us and I hope this doesn’t undermine the work they’ve done. I learned from another member of council who the person is and because I know the individual I’m ultimately comfortable with them playing a role. But I don’t like what’s happened.”

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