Publically reprimanded for his lack of committee involvement, Coun. Lee Atkinson faced critical words during this week’s city council meeting.
“When one isn’t sharing the load, then that indeed is something for discussion as it relates right here and now,” Mayor Jim Scarrow said of Atkinson’s limited committee contributions.
Atkinson faced criticism after expressing opposition to Coun. Ted Zurakowski’s motion to cancel two meetings of council in the weeks prior to the Oct. 24 election date.
“I just think it’s too close to the silly season and I believe this is the long-standing practice and it’s prudent and appropriate to cancel these meetings,” Zurakowski explained.
“I believe that it’s our obligation to fill our term right to the end,” Atkinson responded.
“We’re still being paid, there’s still work to do — I believe we need to continue meeting. The business of this city continues to go on, so I would be against cancelling these council meetings.”
Zurakowski countered Atkinson’s opposition by stating that agendas prior to elections tend to be short anyway and that committee and city work will continue as normal.
It’s at this point that Zurakowski implied hypocrisy in Atkinson’s opposition.
“Coun. Atkinson, when you refuse to sit on any committees and don’t sit on any committees of the public and leave the rest for us to do, I think that argument wreaks hollow,” Zurakowski said.
“I take personal exception to the statement from my colleague from the floor,” Atkinson responded.
“I happen to be on two committees currently, and in my term here I’ve probably been on more committees than anyone in this room, so quite personally, the comment is invalid and I take it as a personal slight.”
I think that it would be prudent for, regardless of the number of terms served that (it) wouldn’t be a precondition to serve less. - Mayor jim Scarrow
Ending the back-and-forth, Scarrow closed the conversation by backing up Zurakowski’s criticism of Atkinson.
“I think that it would be prudent for, regardless of the number of terms served that (it) wouldn’t be a precondition to serve less,” Scarrow said.
“I think that it’s important that the wisdom of these number of terms of office be shared with the committee.”
According the City of Prince Albert’s official online listings of committee appointments, Zurakowski’s specific accusation rings false, but he wasn’t far off.
Of the 20 internal committees city councillors are allowed to serve on, the only two Atkinson serves on are the Budget and Executive Committees, which are mandatory for councillors.
Atkinson is the only councillor to opt out of serving on these optional committees. By comparison, Scarrow leads the pack by opting to join 10 committees. Coun. Greg Dionne’s membership is the second lowest at three, with Atkinson at the bottom with zero. Zurakowski serves on five.
When it comes to external committees, Atkinson serves on two, including the Saskatoon Airport Authority Community Consultative Committee and the North Central Transportation Planning Committee.
Scarrow, Coun. Cheryl Ring and Coun. Martin Ring lead the pack with memberships at five external committees apiece, with Zurakowski trailing in last with one external committee membership.
At the end of Monday’s meeting, Couns. Cheryl Ring, Charlene Miller and Lee Atkinson voted against cancelling two meetings of council in October, with the motion therefore passing.