CBRM Solicitor Says Council Can’t Discuss Pay In Camera

CBRM Regional Solicitor Demetri Kachafanas (Pictured during UARB hearing. Detail from photo by Tom Ayers, CBC)

CBRM Regional Solicitor Demetri Kachafanas (Pictured during UARB hearing. Detail from photo by Tom Ayers, CBC)

If only they’d rung their solicitor.

CBRM regional solicitor Demetri Kachafanas confirmed for the Cape Breton Spectator on Tuesday what a political scientist and a provincial municipal affairs spokesman have both already said: the CBRM council cannot go in camera to discuss its own pay.

In an emailed response sent via CBRM communications and information officer Jillian Moore, Kachafanas said:

No, Council cannot discuss its remuneration behind closed doors and all discussions about its remuneration going forward will be public.

 

CBRM Mayor Cecil ClarkePresumably, he will be communicating the same message to Mayor Cecil Clarke who told the CBC’s Tom Ayers last week that when it comes to council discussing its own pay:

The  standing practice and procedure has been that it was treated as related to the same as an employee.

Meaning, it was a matter that, under the Municipal Government Act (MGA), council was permitted to discuss in camera. But as both Municipal Affairs executive director for planning Mark Peck and CBU political scientist Tom Urbaniak told Ayers, councilors are not CBRM employees, they are elected officials.

Asked if he would champion an end to the practice, Clarke told Ayers it was “longstanding” and that he “inherited from previous CBRM councils, and no one has asked him to change it.” (Actually, that inheritance point is debatable — in fact, the Spectator debates it at some length in this issue). But Clarke continued:

“If there’s a desire to have a broader compensation review, then I’m totally open for that and totally open for it to be in open session,” Clark said.

But it’s not something he would champion himself.

“There’s no desire to change anything, so what’s to champion?”

Um, not breaching governing legislation, as a reader points out elsewhere in the Spectator this week? That might be a good thing for a mayor to champion.

 

John Morgan

John Morgan

In fairness, it didn’t actually occur to me to consult the solicitor until, in the course of researching my Talkin ’bout remuneration” article this week, I ran across an incredible situation from the reign of CBRM Mayor John Morgan in which 12 of 16 councilors had taken to meeting in camera without the mayor or the other four councilors or municipal staff. (I’ll be discussing it in an upcoming installment of the series, you won’t want to miss it.)

Mayor Morgan sought an opinion on the legality of the meetings from then-Municipal Relations Minister Richard Hurlburt, but a spokesman for Hurlburt’s department told the Cape Breton Post that it was “an internal matter for the CBRM’s legal department.”

At which point I thought, “Oh yeah! Ask the solicitor!”

 

But here’s a question: what if Kachafanas attended those in camera sessions?

I asked Municipal Clerk Deborah Campbell-Ryan who told me she couldn’t answer because she is not permitted to discuss the details of in camera meetings (although I find it hard to believe the names of those in attendance must be kept secret).

The first of the relevant in camera meetings took place on 7 December 2016 and I understand in camera minutes become public after 10 years so I guess all I can do is make a note in my calendar to ask this question again on 7 December 2026.

Out of sheer bloody-mindedness, if nothing else.

 

 

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