Closed meetings challenge OK
City bid to block ratepayers lost

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 06/96) - The court challenge of closed aldermen's briefing meetings has been given the go ahead.

Deputy Justice Allan Wachowich handed down the decision Friday.

That was one victory in an ongoing action against the city brought by Yellowknife property owners association which wants council matters aired in public.

The city had applied to the court to have the case tossed out.

"We're very happy with the decision," said association lawyer Steven Cooper. "We feel that it vindicates the action launched by the association."

Cooper said the property owners now have two tasks ahead of them.

Because the judge ruled that the association must specify what decisions made in closed meetings it wants nullified, Cooper will be going over transcripts filed in the case.

"The Centre Square Mall development will be front and centre," he said.

Cooper added he will ask the court for permission to call for oral testimony from councillors and administrators during the hearing.

The city argued the property owners do not have a right to bring the action because, among other things, "the association is not a person particularly affected by the decisions (if any) passed by council at the impugned meetings."

Justice Wachowich disagreed, stating that the focal point of the case is the procedure by which the decisions are made, not the decisions themselves.

The judge did grant the city's request that individual councillors names be removed from the action.

The association named councillors in an attempt to prevent informal, unscheduled meetings, should the closed briefings be ruled unlawful.

"This court has no power to compel councillors not to meet and discuss municipal issues outside of the legislative requirements of the Cities, Towns and Villages Act," wrote Wachowich.

"... whether or not the alleged `briefing sessions' are meetings for the purposes of the Act remains to be determined...."

The judge also ruled the association's request that all decisions made at briefing meetings be nullified be limited to six months prior to the launching of the action.