The Gabriola Fire Protection Improvement District Board has received the Governance Review report generated by the Advisory Select Committee (ASC).
In that report, the Select Committee focused on nine key areas where there were specific opportunities for improvement. In the introduction to the Report, the Select Committee writes, “The current Board of Trustees have demonstrated in their monthly meetings that the relations amongst board members, employees, firefighters and members of the public are not effective and need to be improved. Although the board can function well, as demonstrated in the hiring committee, there appears to be an observable lack of cohesion and trust amongst the board exists.”
The Select Committee stated it observed several areas of board performance that could benefit from implementing policies, standardizing procedures, having annual training sessions, and engaging in social activities with board members and members of the Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department (GVFD).
1. Board Meeting Agendas and Minutes. In conducting the review, the ASC found that there was a lack of standardization of expectations for the content and timeliness of agendas, minutes, and reports.
To rectify this issue, the Committee recommends agendas be distributed to Trustees at least one week before meetings; agendas be available to the public attending meetings; agendas be standardized to include monthly financial reports, reports from the Fire Chief and Training Officer; and any requests for equipment by the Fire Chief.
As stated by the Committee, “inclusion of the documents will provide trustees time to review the information, requests, financial implications and be prepared for discussion at the meeting.”
The Committee also recommends that all reports to the board should be in written format rather than only provided orally. Furthermore, they should be provided in electronic pdf format so they may be attached to the meeting minutes.
There is also a recommendation that a town hall segment be added to the agenda to allow the public to address matters on the agenda.
2. In Camera meetings. At monthly board meetings, the ASC observed that some trustees demonstrated a lack of awareness of the process and reasons for in-camera meetings.
It is recommended the the board clarify and specify the reasons for having a meeting in camera.
These are: the buying and selling of property of the GFPID; Legal issues – which is understood to include situations where someone is suing the department, or the department is suing someone; Issues involving trustees in the performance of their role in the GFPID; Personnel issues involving the fire chief, the corporate officer, and the firefighters.
3. Board Effectiveness. The ASC observed that the GFPID board of trustees has a mixture of long-serving and new members. The knowledge and awareness of the roles and responsibilities varies significantly. Although the Improvement District Trustee’s Handbook provides overall information on the roles and responsibilities, it is recommended that the board develop policies and procedures for the purpose of evaluating how the board is fulfilling the mandate of the GFPID and supporting the mandate of the GVFD.
4. New Board Member Orientation. The Committee writes, “From both observation and responses to questions posed by the ASC to current and past board members, it was noted that there is not a standardized on-boarding process for new trustees. The importance of providing board members with the tools to fulfil their role cannot be understated.”
Recommendations are made for the on-boarding of all new Trustees, involving the Trustee web site; a meeting with the Chair to review and discuss roles and responsibilities of a Trustee; a tour of facilities with the Fire Chief and an explanation of operational procedures/general operations of GVFD.
Trustees are also to be provided with copies of the Improvement District Handbook; all current by-laws and letters patent of the GFPID; and all current policies of the GFPID. Further – copies of all of these documents should be made available on the Trustee web site.
5. Policies & By-Laws. It is the Select Committee’s understanding that great strides have already been made in updating by-laws and policies, more work is required to eliminate uncertainty around policies and by-laws.
To this, the Committee recommends the board ensures that the GFPID utilizes performance policies and processes that are clear, in writing, and available to all Board members and employees.
The Committee also recommends the complaints policy for the District be redrafted and updated, citing seven specific ways in which the policy should be updated, including an informal resolution process to be used prior to any hearing; and ensuring the confidentiality of deliberations.
The Committee recommends the board conduct a comprehensive review of the current three sets of bylaws for the GFPID and the letters patent with an aim of consolidating bylaws as appropriate, utilising uniform terms and definitions, creating enforcement procedures, and ensuring letters patent are in compliance with provincial legislation.
6. Relationship between the GFPID and the GVFD. In observing the relationship between the GFPID and the GVFD the ASC recommends that the board clearly delineate the responsibilities of the board of trustees of the GFPID and the officers of the GVFD; and the board clearly delineates the responsibilities of the board for governance and oversight and the fire chief for operations.
7. Relationship between the GFPID and the Corporate Officer. It was observed by the ASC that there was a lack of understanding of the role and responsibilities of the corporate officer is, who should assign work to the corporate officer, and what records the corporate officer should be maintaining and/or providing.
8. Website. Both at board meetings, and with the board representative on the ASC, it was brought up that the current process of the GFPID Trustee tab within the GVFD website is not sufficient. To rectify this situation, it is recommended that the trustees have a separate GFPID trustee website that is separate, but linked with the GVFD website.
9. Practices to enhance the Board of Trustees. The Select Committee recommends the Board have an informal dinner once a year to include the fire chief, corporate office, and their partners. And board members endeavor to attend any event they are invited to – such as the Open Houses and dinners.
And that Trustees should serve a maximum of two consecutive three-year terms, with a minimum of one three-year term before being permitted to run for re-election.
The Select Committee was made up of Howard Houle (chair); James Arends; Glenys Bussler; Carol Keane; and Sean Lewis. With the completion of the review, the Select Committee has been dissolved.
The entire review can be found within the Board minutes tab of the GVFD web site, gabriolafire.ca