The new rules for Brownsburg-Chatham’s question periods at town council meetings were put to the test at the March 5 session.
The new rules limit questions to items on the meeting agenda and discourage commentaries. The new policy also allows for questions to be submitted in writing, or for questions requiring a more in-depth answer to not be instantly answered and given a later response by the mayor or staff.
However, Mayor Catherine Trickey took a lenient approach in answering the several written questions she had received and queries from 12 residents who lined up at the podium for the first question period.
One of those residents was former Mayor Georges Dinel, who thanked Trickey for taking time to answer all the questions.
Dinel had been a fierce critic of the new policy when it was first announced, with the intention of maintaining decorum during council meetings.
Most of the questions were related to the basics of municipal services and function. Taxes, property assessments, road maintenance, and garbage collection.
At one point, Councillor Kévin Maurice interjected and invited one of the residents, who lives in his district, to contact him directly with their concerns about road maintenance.
The first question period got tense a couple of times. Former councillor Martin Charron, who routinely asks questions at council meetings, inquired about the circumstances involving the fire department.
He wanted to know if the human resources files of five long-serving firefighters who were terminated late in 2018 were properly reviewed.
Mayor Trickey responded that those details are a confidential, human resources matter and said, “Case closed, next question Mr. Charron.”
Charron attempted to ask again. Trickey refused to answer, and Charron returned to his seat.
Someone shouted expletives from the audience.
Residents who ask questions are required to state their proper name and road address when they approach the podium.
A resident, who identified himself as “Daniel Boone,” attempted to speak. The mayor said that is not his real name and refused to accept his question.
The resident became angry and Trickey told him to leave the building, and he did, shouting back about being a taxpayer as he exited.
After the meeting, Trickey said she knows that “Daniel Boone” is not the real name of the resident and that he has routinely accused her of not paying property taxes.
The second question period of the meeting was much more subdued, with just three residents asking about more routine municipal matters.