Council Connection – Public Council Meeting

September 9, 2015

After the upheavals and controversies surrounding AUSU Council for the past several months, the inaugural meeting of the newly formed council made two things abundantly clear. First, many of the new faces, including the Executive Director, inspire confidence with their level of preparation and professionalism. Second, it was that very same professionalism that highlighted even more the need for a change in council leadership.

Although the meeting was long, at close to three hours, it ran smoothly thanks in large part to the very capable presence of Sarah Cornett, AUSU’s new Executive Director. It was a welcome change of pace from the last few council meetings, including the AGM, where uncertainty about procedure led to confusion and delays.

Most of the agenda items at the September 9 meeting were straightforward. New councillors were welcomed and two vacant executive positions were filled. Colleen Doucette was elected as Vice-President External and Student Affairs with six votes. If the clear, logical approach of her candidate remarks is anything to go by, student interests are in good hands.

The next executive vote was for the role of Vice-President Finance and Administration. It was a close race between two capable candidates, Tamra Ross and Brandon Simmons, and Brandon was elected the new VP Finance and Admin by one vote.

Other items, including the approval of three months of council reports, passed smoothly. As well, several councillors put their names forward to join the standing committees. Tamra Ross, Philip Kirkbride, Pierre Plamondon, and Laura Zhu are now part of the Finance Committee. Philip and Laura are also on the Awards Committee, while Tamra and Philip have joined the Member Engagement Committee.

One interesting point came up when it was time for item 6 on the agenda. This was the ratification of several email votes that took place before the new councillors came on board. Pierre Plamondon is one of those new councillors, and he raised some important issues.

For example, there were eight email votes to be ratified, but one of those votes (on policy 2.15 Executive Accountability and Compensation) hadn’t been unanimous. At Pierre’s suggestion, council amended the agenda to separate that item from the other seven.

When it came time to ratify that vote, Pierre also noted that there was no email thread presented that showed the item had been open for the required five days for discussion before the email vote took place. Councillor Kim Newsome pointed out that there are typically two separate email threads on items. The first is a motion and discussion thread, while the second is a vote thread.

However, the issue remained that the motion and discussion thread hadn’t been presented to the new council members, so they had no way of being sure that proper procedures were followed for an item they now had to vote on.

It was a civil (and surprisingly interesting) debate, but here’s the real takeaway. Even as a new councillor, Pierre had clearly taken the time to start finding his way around AUSU’s policies and bylaws. He and several other new members were asking relevant, insightful questions. This is exactly the kind of engagement and attention to detail that AUSU, and its members, needs.

Obviously, an inflexible, dogmatic approach to policy doesn’t benefit anyone. The spirit of a policy is just as important. It was pointed out in the meeting that it was an unusual situation that email votes were being ratified by a significantly different group of people and after a fairly lengthy delay, which made their ratification more difficult. But those were the circumstances Council had to deal with and they were dealt with fairly and openly.

Several new councillors have already demonstrated the qualities needed to keep things on track with respect to policy by bringing a professional, diligent approach to the job. And with a general election coming up soon It’s worth keeping their names in mind. Oh, and for the record, the email vote on policy 2.15 was ratified with one councillor opposed.

Which brings us to the final item of note, the question of whether to create an ad hoc Forensic Audit Recommendation Committee. Students have made it clear at the AGM and elsewhere that they have serious questions about the president pay raise as well as the matter of former president Jason Nixon being paid the Executive Director’s wage for a time before he left council. The recommendation to form a committee was passed, and councillors who volunteered were Philip, Brandon, Pierre, and Kim. The committee will also have two members from outside Council, and is tasked with researching the topic of forensic audits and making an informed recommendation to Council to address the Members? motion from the AGM. All councillors voted to approve the terms of reference and the Council appointments.

The next meeting will be scheduled shortly, once the new councillors have had a chance to coordinate their calendars. Watch the AUSU home page for updates, then send an email and dial in.

S.D. Livingston is the author and creator of the Madeline M. Mystery Series for kids, as well as several books for older readers. Visit her website for information on her writing.