Members of the public will have to sit through until the end of each Maple Ridge council meeting before they can put questions to their elected officials, after local politicians tweaked council’s procedure bylaw, Tuesday.
As well, politicians or anyone attending a meeting, will have to use the titles “councillor” or “mayor” when addressing someone on council, while they also won’t be allowed to speak negatively about the character of a councillor or staffer, or to speak or act aggressively towards a councillor or staffer or question the motives of a councillor or staffer.
The changes are part of several revisions to Maple Ridge council’s procedure bylaw, a document which dates from 2007.
While the change means public question period will be held at the end of the meeting, council has the option of moving it forward at any meeting, if many people want to ask questions, said Laura Benson, director of corporate support.
“We’re going back to how it’s always been before,” Benson said.
Benson said the changes “lay out the expectations a little better and that way nobody is suprised by what the rules are.
“It’s not that we have these problems very often but you can’t hold someone accountable unless you’ve communicated what the expectations are,” Benson said.
Council gave final reading to the bylaw, although Coun. Kiersten Duncan objected to the section which said councillors cannot question the motives of a councillor or city employee. That could mean that charges of conflict of interest couldn’t be made, she pointed out.
“I think that’s really important that residents should be able to say if they think that someone is in a conflict of interest, and so should members of council,” Duncan said.
The Community Charter also deals with conflict of interest.
Other new rules include banning of speaking on a cellphone when another councillor is talking, unless there’s an emergency.
Another new rule, says that people can be removed from a meeting by a peace officer if they don’t leave when ordered, as also noted in the Community Charter.
If someone repeatedly breaks the rules of conduct, council also could take legal action.
A new delegation policy also was approved.