On “Transparency”

During this 2015 CLA Election, the issue of ‘transparency’ of the Board’s work has been raised.

There are three issues:

  1.  Attendance:  I support readily available data on who has attended meetings.  Based on the Minutes of Meeting available to me for 16 regularly scheduled Board meetings from November 2013 to June of 2015, I have conducted an informal audit of attendance.  Always assuming the “regrets” section of the Minutes is accurate, the track record of Board members in terms of attendance leaves much room for improvement.  44% of Board members missed more than 30% of the meetings (at least 5 of 16) and more than 30% of members missed more than 38% of meetings (at least 6 of 16).  Full Board meetings are not an onerous obligation; most are held by phone for 1 to 1.5 hours at most monthly, with summers off.  I didn’t miss any.  I read all the materials – it takes perhaps an hour or so of additional time.  Granted, there are Committee meetings and emergency or special meetings of the Board and the Executive perhaps hold their own meeting from time to time, plus there are ad-hoc Committees, so it does add up.  That being said, I see no excuse for nearly half the Board’s 39 members to fail to attend nearly a third of 16 Board meetings in a two year term.

2.   Voting Record:  I support, and always have advocated for (initially believing this was the case,) keeping records of how each of us votes at Board meetings on motions (unless in camera.)  Very little of the business of the Association must be kept confidential – those few issues which fall into this category are discussed in camera and the results of those votes may have to be kept confidential as well, including who brought what motion forward – this is understandable.)  Otherwise, issues generally affect the membership and Board members should be able to justify their position to the membership who elected them.   The Board is a regionally representative structure – we are supposed to consult with our constituents and vote in accordance with their wishes, in their interest as we understand their position.  They have the right to know if we in fact did that.  How else do they determine whether they should re-elect incumbents?

3.     Record of or Attendance at Board meetings:  If members have sufficient interest in attending in person Board meetings perhaps via webcast, I certainly would not oppose that.   Most of our meetings are by phone.  If there is a mechanism to allow members to listen to those calls, I support that.  Given what I now understand may be fiscal constraints, if the most reasonable approach is to record Board meetings and make the recording available to members in a members-only section of our website or on demand, I support that.  I would certainly support putting this issue on the agenda at the next meeting to debate the pros and cons of each proposed avenue to permit transparency of our meetings.   But while the mechanism may be up for debate, I don’t think the imperative of transparency of our work on behalf of the Association should or may be compromised.  Minimally, a record should be kept.  I don’t think the knowledge that a record will be kept will interfere with the tenor or flavour or candour of the meetings.  Indeed, it may well have the side-benefit of making us more focused and tempered in our tone, which would only help.


About anitaszigeti

• Called to the Bar (1992) • U of T Law grad (1990) • Sole practitioner (8 years) • Partner in small law firm (Hiltz Szigeti) since 2002 • Mom to two astonishing kids, Scarlett (8) and Sebastian (5) • (Founding) Chair of Mental Health Legal Committee for nine years (1997 to 2006) • Counsel to clients with serious mental health issues before administrative tribunals and on appeals • Former Chair, current member of LAO’s mental health law advisory committee • Educator, lecturer, widely published author (including text book on consent and capacity law) • Fifteen years’ experience as counsel to almost exclusively legally aided clients • Frequently appointed amicus curiae • Fearless advocate • Not entirely humourless
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