Maple Ridge city council debates whether Zoom recordings of private meetings should be kept or destroyed. (Special to The News)

Maple Ridge city council debates whether Zoom recordings of private meetings should be kept or destroyed. (Special to The News)

Disciplined Maple Ridge councillor wants Zoom recordings of private meetings kept

Council votes to destroy recordings from closed meetings after six months

A Maple Ridge city councillor who has been the subject of discipline by a majority of his colleagues through private meetings objected to city hall destroying the videos of those meetings.

Coun. Gordy Robson sparked a debate over changes to council’s procedures bylaw at the May 10 meeting. The changes will see council now destroy recordings of all meetings held behind closed doors.

Since COVID-19 moved council meetings from council chambers to online Zoom sessions, there have been recordings of the closed sessions, which are strictly private.

Presumably, there are recordings of disciplinary action that council has taken against Robson, that he responded to with a legal action against the city. He successfully argued for a censure action against him be quashed by the B.C. Supreme Court.

READ ALSO: Councillor takes City of Maple Ridge to court

Both Robson and Coun. Kiersten Duncan were removed from city committees and from the deputy mayor rotation in late 2021. The city offered no public comment about the reasons for these actions.

All discussion about the disciplinary action occurred during these closed meetings, but some information about them was revealed in Robson’s court filings. According to the documents filed, Robson was accused of having disclosed confidential information about the city CAO’s resignation, as well as a controversial development along the Alouette River at 240th Street, known as the McBride development.

In March, soon after the legal action became public knowledge, Robson was restored to his full duties as a councillor. Duncan has not been attending council meetings.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge council reinstates disciplined councillor after court action

Robson objected to the video recordings of these meetings being erased.

“The recordings of closed meetings will be destroyed, and be unable to be retrieved should they be necessary for any investigations or court action in the future, and I see no reason why we would be doing that,” argued Robson during Tuesday’s meeting.

Mayor Mike Morden said there will be motions and minutes maintained from the meetings, but the recordings will be destroyed.

City lawyer Patrick Hlavac-Windsor said the video is meant to support an accurate transcribing of minutes, which will be kept on record.

Robson noted there are limitations to the minutes, and conversations and comments during the meetings will be lost if the recordings are destroyed.

Morden noted the recording process was only introduced with new Zoom meetings.

“We didn’t ever record in the past,” he said, “and part of that was getting onboard with the technology.”

Coun. Ahmed Yousef also objected to the destruction of the recordings. He said recordings improve the system.

“Going back, to me, is like taking the ABS off the car,” he said.

Yousef said the recordings are more important now, with the council conduct bylaw, “where investigations and complaints are to be lodged.

“I think keeping those records is more important now than before.”

Councillors Chelsa Meadus, Judy Dueck and Ryan Svendsen voted in favour of the motion to destroy the recordings. Svendsen said he would be in favour of tabling the motion for two weeks, but there was no such motion made.

Meadus noted council has not historically recorded its closed meetings.

“Eventually I’d like to get rid of Zoom, and we all come in person, and we all conduct ourselves as we did before,” said Meadus.

Morden said if the recordings of closed meetings were kept, they might be accessible, so they should be destroyed.

“Having recordings around somewhere in a data drive poses a risk,” he said.

Robson also object to the procedure bylaw halving the speaking time for councillors from a maximum of 10 minutes to five.

“I know that during the last four years we’ve had maybe one or two instances where someone has exceeded the 10 minute barrier by a minute or two, but it certainly hasn’t been a problem,” he said. “But I notice in this procedure bylaw the amount of time that council is able to talk on a motion or an item has been reduced from 10 minutes to five, and I object to that.”

Morden said he allows leniency on speaking limits during controversial issues.

“I think I’ve been fairly flexible in that regard, and make sure that the conversation flows,” said Morden. “I guess it’s a guideline, and I think our practice has been to be fairly flexible on that.”

READ ALSO: UBCM adopts Maple Ridge resolution about new office of integrity


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