A Coquitlam city councillor is continuing to press for special notation in the committee and council minutes about who’s present in the chambers and who’s taking part electronically.
Monday, at the start of the committee meeting, Coun. Bonita Zarrillo repeated her comments about municipal transparency — as she had done at the beginning of the Feb. 8 committee — to call on the city clerk to record who’s in the room and who’s on Zoom.
But when chair Coun. Craig Hodge declined to have her request added to the agenda, as advised by city staff, Zarrillo unsuccessfully put a motion forward to challenge the chair on the province's ministerial order.
Hodge’s move to decline was backed by Mayor Richard Stewart and city clerk Jay Gilbert who suggested, without offering a reason, that the discussion be moved to a closed venue.
And when Hodge’s recommendation that the Feb. 8 committee minutes be put on hold pending a procedural review — a motion backed by councillors Brent Asmundson and Teri Towner, both of whom are attending meetings in-person — Zarrillo opposed the deferral.
Last month, Zarrillo raised concerns about workplace safety when she was in council chambers for the first time in months since the pandemic lockdown. On her Facebook page and during the committee meeting, she wrote that she didn’t “feel safe” despite the Plexiglas barriers between councillors’ cubicles and mask mandate while travelling inside.
At the Feb. 8 committee, Zarrillo asked the city clerk indicate in the minutes who was participating electronically and in-person — similar to what other municipalities are doing.
According to the Emergency Program Act ministerial order 192, signed last June by Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth — B.C.’s minister of public safety and solicitor general — local governments can conduct all or part of a meeting electronically. “A member of council or body who participates in a meeting by means of electronic or other communication facilities under this section is deemed to be present at the meeting,” states Section 7(2).
But a spokesperson for the ministry of municipal affairs told the Tri-City News that making a special note in the minutes about how an official is present is not mandated in the order.
“Ministerial Order 192 gives local governments the authority to hold meetings electronically and how they do that is up to them as long as they continue to be transparent and conduct themselves with honesty and integrity,” the spokesperson emailed. “For example, local governments can make their own decisions concerning the use of audio-video recordings or individual seating arrangements according to their procedure bylaw or policies.”
“We continue to expect all local governments to provide good governance to their community,” the spokesperson wrote.