News / Calgary

Calgary councillor Jeromy Farkas enters the chamber of council secrets

Farkas takes on his first in-camera meeting after pledging to force a recorded vote before heading behind closed doors

Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas fist bumps an audience member as he walks into the official swearing-in ceremony for Calgary city council on Oct. 23, 2017.

ELIZABETH CAMERON / Calgary Freelance

Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas fist bumps an audience member as he walks into the official swearing-in ceremony for Calgary city council on Oct. 23, 2017.

He's no wizard, but Coun. Jeromy Farkas has entered what he considered the chamber of secrets, and he's not too blown away by the decor and design of the private meeting space.

The rookie councillor, who has been critical of council's hundreds of "in-camera" meetings – now called closed meetings – voted in favour of going behind closed doors on Monday for the first time, but he's adamant that this isn't a defeat and he's following through on his campaign promises to keep Calgarians in the loop.

"It's less exciting than you would imagine, it's a circular boardroom table," said Farkas. "A vote to move behind closed doors is very different from any other. I think that there should be a very clear legal reason for moving to a secret session."

Farkas said by asking for a recorded vote, something he has pledged to do each time the meeting moves into a private session, councillors are now being put on the record agreeing or disagreeing that there's a substantive legal reason to shield the talks from public eyes.

In this meeting's case, council went behind closed doors to dissect resumes of public volunteer board applicants.

Coun. Shane Keating stood up in the meeting to underline that fact and voice his support for going in-camera.

"It's my understanding if we're looking at resumes and talking about individuals, is that really something we should be doing in public?" asked Keating.

"Heck no," answered Mayor Naheed Nenshi. Keating continued speaking.

"People should really vote on whether it's proper to go in-camera or not, rather than the fact that we're going in-camera or not ... I think in this case in-camera is absolutely appropriate."

In this case, Farkas voted to go into a closed meeting because he agreed with the legal premise that the applicants' information and discussion of their resumes should be protected and not aired in public.

"I think my request to ask for a recorded vote served its purpose, already the public knows more about what's going on," said Farkas.

More on Metronews.ca