SCUGOG: Amid recent concerns at the Port Perry Business Improvement Association (BIA), Councillors approved a motion that attempts to improve the organization’s transparency. It was made by Ward 3 Councillor Don Kett.
The motion directs the BIA to; provide the Township with their meeting agenda package at least two days before the actual meeting, for posting on the Township website; as well as to send them their meeting minutes within a maximum of seven days after the meeting.
In addition, Council has appointed Ward 5 Councillor Jennifer Back to act as a second council representative on the board, replacing a regular member’s spot.
Councillor Kett explained to councillors his thought process behind the motion, after he attended a BIA meeting.
“There were just a few things that I was extremely concerned about. One of them was that the current directors didn’t seem to be very respectful of the chair or the staff that was actually there that night. Most of them didn’t show up without even phoning. I thought there must be something wrong there. There wasn’t even a quorum, so it was a waste of time for the chair, Councillors that were there and the few people that did go,” he said. “Secondly, there was some talk there about ‘what is heard in this room, stays in this room’ and that is exactly what transparency isn’t.”
Clerk Nicole Wellsbury also explained to council that the BIA is having trouble with their website, and thus is having trouble posting the agendas and minutes.
Councillor Kett said there were multiple reasons why he nominated Councillor Back for the BIA position.
“Half of the BIA is in her ward, so she is representing her ward,” he said. The Ward 3 Councillor also
explained that Councillor Back’s business expertise makes her the best candidate for the position.
Councillor Back expressed her support with having the agendas and minutes posted on the Township website. “All of the money we spend to have this lovely website, it’s just a way of getting that information out, and if they are having difficulties now getting it out there, the Township has a great page. It is doable, and even in the future, I don’t see why it can’t be on both (websites), seeing that it is an arm of the Township,” she said.
She also said she has been informed there have been some meetings held where some BIA directors have not been informed they are happening.
Ward 4 Councillor Wilma Wotten questioned what member of the BIA will be removed to allow for Councillor Back to have a position on the board.
Councillor Kett responded, stating Councillor Back will take over from a member who has recently resigned.
Councillor Wotten also stated her concern with changing the makeup of the BIA board.
“I don’t know that we’ve received any correspondence or anything from the membership asking that this composition be changed. So, I’m wondering why we would do that,” she said.
Over the past year, there have been rumblings about a divided membership at the BIA. Those concerns were confirmed when Councillor Wotten read the resignation letters from former BIA board members Dana Smith, Lana Crosbie, Teri Venner, Jack Doak and Kenna Kozak.
Words such as unprofessional and gossipy were used in one letter, to describe how the climate at the BIA has become, while another claimed that the majority of council does not see the importance of the local BIA. One other claimed the divide at the BIA became personal.
Regional Councillor Bobbie Drew called it a “sad day” for the BIA and for Scugog Township.
“This wonderful group of volunteers has been under fire from a small group of individuals. These volunteers have done an admirable job in the last number of years,” she said.
Councillor Drew also informed Councillors she would not be supporting the second half of the motion, which dealt with naming a second council representative.
“Why remove a property owner or a business owner from the board of directors to put a Councillor in? They have a vested interest in the BIA,” she said.
However, Ward 2 Councillor and current BIA member Janna Guido said there is a clear need to examine just what is going on with the BIA board.
Councillor Kett wanted to make sure nobody got the wrong idea about his intentions with this motion.
“The motion is all for putting the Municipal Act out in front of everything else. We have a job to do, and one of our jobs is to make sure our committees, no matter how big they are and no matter how small they are, do what is proper,” he said.
Mayor Tom Rowett told The Standard that he hopes everyone can now move forward and the BIA can resume providing excellent services to Scugog. “We want to make sure there is a great relationship between Council and the BIA moving forward and my hope is that we also don’t get distracted by the dramatic hearsay behind the scenes,” Mayor Rowett said.
The mayor also offered his perspective on why the members would want the resignation letters read in a public forum, stating he saw it as a stand to show that they felt they weren’t being appreciated. He also added that adding transparency measures is never a bad idea. “There is a minimum set of transparency, but you can never be too transparent,” he said. “You have to give no reason for people to question the issues.”
A BIA spokesman could not be reached by press time.