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Confusion with electing new chair prompts police board to review bylaws

Moose Jaw’s Board of Police Commissioners plans to review its bylaws and procedures after experiencing confusion during its January meeting electing a new chair and vice-chair.

Moose Jaw’s Board of Police Commissioners plans to review its bylaws and procedures after experiencing confusion during its January meeting electing a new chair and vice-chair.

Commissioners had to elect new leadership because the City of Moose Jaw’s Bylaw No. 5599 — which governs the police board — says since members are appointed for one-year terms, they must select a chair and vice-chair at their first meeting. 

However, the bylaw does not state how either is selected nor what happens during a tie vote. 

After four of five commissioners were sworn in during their January meeting — new commissioner Kim Robinson was absent — they submitted three candidates for chair. 

Commissioner Clive Tolley nominated Commissioner Doug Blanc, Commissioner Darryl Markin nominated Commissioner Mary Lee Booth and Booth nominated Markin. 

A 2-2 tie between Blanc and Booth prompted Destiny Gibney, legal counsel for the Moose Jaw Police Service, to request a 10-minute recess to research what to do. 

Gibney later determined that Robert’s Rules of Order (RRO) was “the standard that should be recognized,” so the chair could not vote unless there were a tie. However, she did not state the section from RRO she used to make her decision. 

Furthermore, Gibney said Tolley, the meeting chair during the vote, should not have cast a ballot. Since the vote had not occurred under RRO, Gibney said a new election was required, with Tolley prohibited from voting unless there was a tie.

Booth was elected chairwoman during the new vote, while Blanc was elected vice-chairman. 

Board discussion

Blanc raised the issue of the inconsistent voting process during the Feb. 9 board meeting. He was OK with how some of the processes occurred but believed changes were required. 

Blanc pointed out that Tolley should not have been chair at the January meeting because he hadn’t been sworn in yet. Instead, the recording secretary should have been interim chair and conducted the vote for chair and vice-chair. She would then turn over the meeting to the chair.

Blanc’s research also indicated that if the chairperson can’t vote in elections, that person can’t vote on anything for the year. 

“And because we’re such a small committee, that’s a little weird,” he said. 

Robert’s Rules of Order says the chair can vote in a group with fewer than 12 people, while there shouldn’t be any ties on the police board since there are five members, Blanc continued. A second vote should have occurred after the tie to see if members had changed their minds. If another tie occurred, an interim chair should have been nominated until February’s meeting. 

“I’m not interested in upsetting the cart and doing anything different. Let’s just carry forward,” added Blanc. 

The police board planned to discuss a similar topic after the public portion concluded, Booth said. She agreed they needed to discuss a governance policy and appreciated Blanc bringing up the information. 

Booth reviewed the board’s bylaws and discovered they are silent about the issues Blanc raised. However, they say the board must appoint a chair at its first meeting. 

While she wasn’t sure what The Police Act, 1990 said about voting, Booth knew the board couldn’t change that document — even if it needs updating — because it is provincial legislation. If the act says a chair is required at the first meeting, the board must determine how to address tie votes. 

The board’s bylaws should supersede Robert’s Rules of Order, while RRO should only take effect when the bylaws are unclear, said Robinson. Meanwhile, he thought the voting process should be corrected, otherwise, the board would set a precedent by letting this issue slip through.

“I don’t know if it’s beyond rectifying that, but I think we should do it per policy or bylaw or whatever is taking precedent,” he added. “And if it requires a re-do, then it requires a re-do.”

The next police board meeting is Thursday, March 9. 

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