St. John’s mayor attends 7.8% of standing committee meetings

Daniel MacEachern
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But system is supposed to work that way at city hall, O’Keefe says

Since the 2013 municipal election, St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe has attended seven out of 90 standing committee meetings.

St. John’s City Hall, where some council members attend more standing committee meetings than others.

According to committee attendance records for meetings up to earlier this month, provided by the city’s communications department, the mayor has attended one planning and development committee meeting (out of 26), and six meetings of the economic development, tourism and public engagement committee (out of 11).

He has not attended any of 20 finance and adminstration committee meetings, 17 community services and housing meetings, 13 public works meetings, or three audit and accountability meetings. The police and traffic committee was only recently elevated to standing status.

The mayor’s 7.8 per cent participation rate is the lowest of the 11 council members, but O’Keefe said that’s the way the system is supposed to work.

“What we have are 10 councillors, and the office of the mayor,” he said. “The practice has been, really, for councillors to handle the committees and the office of the mayor, whoever he or she may be, to handle the duties and responsibilities of the mayor’s office.”

The key is to keep everyone informed on the issues, said O’Keefe, who added councillors can sit on as many committees as they like, and have traditionally been expected to serve on two.

“Some sit on more, and some sit on less,” he said, noting part of his duty as mayor is to chair the meetings of the committee of the whole, which meets for budget discussions.

He said he sits on the economic development committee as part of his duties as chairman of Cruise St. John’s, and he also sits on the Rotary Sunshine Park committee.

“In the run of every day, in terms of carrying out the duties and responsibility of the mayor’s office, my day doesn’t coincide with committee times. My schedule is based on what happens routinely every day,” he said. “So I’m involved with, on a daily basis, engaging with the staff and the public on a variety of issues, meeting with senior executive staff and city manager on issues that come up in the run of the day, a lot of internal and external correspondence, and then a whole variety of outside appearances that involve public contact, that involves speaking engagements and things like that.”

Coun. Bruce Tilley leads council, having missed just six of 90 standing committees meetings, a 93.3 per cent attendance rate, since the election.

Tilley — since last fall chairman of audit and accountability after a stint co-chairing economic development, as well as sitting on several others — said he feels committees are where council work gets done.

“It gives you an overview on what’s going on with the city, and it gives you an overview on how you can help constituents,” he said. “The way I work is I’m not out in the media whatsoever. That’s the way I’ve been all my life. The way I work is hard on committees. I’m a guy who’s behind the scenes, working away.”

Among councillors, Coun. Dave Lane edges out Coun. Art Puddister — with one fewer meeting — for the lowest attendance rate.

But Lane — who has a full-time job that often requires lunch meetings, which is generally when standing committee meetings are held — also serves on several advisory committees, including the heritage committee (his attendance: 94.4 per cent of 18 meetings) and the downtown joint committee (of which he hasn’t missed any of six meetings).

“The thing with standing committees is we get full reports, agendas beforehand. I generally will talk to a councillor about something that seems to impact what I consider to be my portfolio,” he said, citing economic development, tourism and public engagement.

Downtown joint committee meetings have, for the past year and a half, occurred at the same time as finance committee meetings, he said, but have recently been changed, partly because meetings for the 2017 budget are being piggybacked onto the end of finance committee meetings.

“Standing committee meetings are important, but the way I’ve viewed it is they’re led by a committee member who’s under that portfolio, and we discuss them before and after council. So it’s something I have eyes on at all times,” he said. “It’s harder to get eyes on the other (non-standing) committees, so I’ve got Downtown St. John’s — one of the most important files for me is the Water Street (infrastructure) project. So I chair what’s called the liaison committee for the Water Street project, and that’s been a heavy focus for me.”


Overall standing committee attendance

Member            Meetings attended (out of 90)    Percentage

Coun. Bruce Tilley                    84                        93.3%

Coun. Danny Breen                  64                        71.1%

Coun. Tom Hann                       62                        68.9%

Coun. Sandy Hickman              55                         61.1%

Coun. Bernard Davis                47*                        58.0%

Coun. Jonathan Galgay            46                         51.1%

Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth    41                         45.6%

Coun. Wally Collins                   33                         36.7%

Coun. Art Puddister                   29                         32.2%

Coun. Dave Lane                      28                         31.1%

Mayor Dennis O’Keefe                7                           7.8%

*Out of possible 81 before Davis elected to House of Assembly, Twitter: @DanMacEachern

Organizations: Rotary Sunshine Park committee, House of Assemblydmaceachern

Geographic location: Water Street

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Recent comments

  • Disgusted
    March 11, 2016 - 20:11

    Disgusted with such stats is an understatement. When will "Doc" realize that he is not capable or qualified for the position of Mayor? O'Keefe is nothing but a farce and a joke. The people of St. John's need to demand more from their city!

  • JimJam
    March 11, 2016 - 08:33

    M-I-C K E Y M-O-U-S E!

  • Youelectedthem
    March 10, 2016 - 17:47

    Why did you reelect the guy? I was lost at the last election when I saw the results. Please pay close attention to the numbers, the other one that people should be pissed at is Art Puddister, every time you hear something very out there coming from the council you can be sure that he is involved. No wonder it sounds so ridiculous, he's never there either.

  • Joe
    March 10, 2016 - 17:45

    What percentage of his salary will he get as a pension ? I have no beef with a pension ; nor do I have a problem with his salary. BUT he doesn't seem to deserve such a salary based on his record. Be careful what we ask for !!!!!

  • Jimsers
    March 10, 2016 - 16:32

    I'm actually surprised at the 7% figure

  • steve
    March 10, 2016 - 10:59

    And to think we give this man 118000.00 and free trips down south. His worship? What a silly joke being played out in this city hall .Lets get rid of the mayor position all together and stop governing like they did 150 yrs ago.His worship what a joke. Agian everyone sing MICKEY MOUSE .

    • Brad
      March 10, 2016 - 17:19

      Well we've only elected him, what, twice now?

    • roy206
      March 10, 2016 - 18:11

      good point...we are indeed governing like 150 years ago. The very first nl election had only 28 seats and we were travelling by train and boat and horseback. Today we need 40 seats. And think about it 30% of the province can walk to Confederation Bldg from their home

  • Florence
    March 10, 2016 - 09:46

    As a full time mayor he should keep full time duties - if he cannot I think it is time he retired. 7% is way too low - he should be front and center to be involved and informed - other than Florida trips, answer to his antics to the media , perform wedding sot line his pocket - what does he do to deserve this pay?? Lots of people would work harder and earn this money if given the chance --

  • jerome
    March 10, 2016 - 09:23

    Notice he hasn't attended any finance and administration committee meetings, as we see from the cities spending spree, severance packages and the tax increases .

  • George
    March 10, 2016 - 09:21

    Well it's hard to understand why the mayor appears so uninformed all the time. A retiree mayor earning over $100,000 should be expected to have higher attendance than that. To add some anecdotal evidence, I have been to City Hall many times for work and have hardly ever seen a vehicle occupying the mayor's reserved parking space.

  • Bill
    March 10, 2016 - 09:11

    Yet another shameful statistic that I hope taxpayers will remember next year when Doc comes knocking on your door looking for your vote. As Mayor he should be on top of what is going on in his City. If you don't partake in the ground level discussion in Committees you get a very slanted view of the significant underlying factors that are often never raised in the Council chamber.

  • Sparky
    March 10, 2016 - 08:50

    You would think with all the hundreds of thousands of dollars we are paying for Communications Managers at City Hall we would be hearing more of the results of these meeting. Maybe Council should have a meeting with the first item on the agenda being do we really need so many Communications Managers? Mr. O'Keefe should really resign because it seems the only reason he is at City Hall now is to officiate weddings and take his annual trip to Florida.

  • John
    March 10, 2016 - 08:20

    So, basically the mayor gets paid over 100 grand a year to do nothing, that's a pretty sweet gig!!

  • scotty
    March 10, 2016 - 08:15

    Bet the mayor attends 100% of meetings in Florida!

  • Sandra
    March 10, 2016 - 08:11

    And St. John's council makes the news again. It is actually getting embarrassing to say I live in St. John's now. Dennis O'keefe needs to start wring a book of excuses as he has one for everything. he is the major and the mayor should attend finance meeting at least. WOW for the amount of money he is getting paid what has he done. Oh yes he attended a school presentation one day. He looks worst everyday in the eyes of residents. Lets not wait until 2017 lets do a vote now. If he was that sure of himself he would call an early election, now he is just trying to get as much travel in from resident money as possible. This must be the year of dumb decisions for the city.

  • Taxpayer
    March 10, 2016 - 07:19

    If the meetings were held in Florida he would be there with bells on.

  • Bob Hallett
    March 10, 2016 - 07:10

    Like many retirees the Mayor is very busy being very busy. It would be interesting to know how often the 'committee of the whole' met. Isn't that what Council meetings are? And they are famously short and insubstantial and lacking in any debate or discussion. If the Mayor considers that a big deal we are not getting much for our $112,000 a year. And according to rumour the traditional line by line discussion of the budget, which O'Keefe would have organized, never even took place this year.

    • James
      March 10, 2016 - 08:53

      I believe the mayor should be at every meeting of the Finance Committee. And I can't say if it's the way it goes or not but the first item of new business of any monthly council meeting should be the financial update. Also Galgay as chair of that committee batting 50% is a poor showing

    • butch
      March 10, 2016 - 16:13

      re:bob hallett comments .. I wish bob would consider running for mayor. he has so much passion and love for st johns , and would be a great ambassador for hall is no place for retired people who take the pay but not the job seriously

  • The real Calvin
    March 10, 2016 - 07:04

    Only one question needs to be asked here. How many Cruise Ship Conventions has our wonderful mayor dutifully attended in that same time frame? Willing to bet the answer is as high as committee meetings....

  • Political Watcher
    March 10, 2016 - 06:58

    Isn't he being paid as a "Full-tine" Mayor? If so, committee meeting attendance must be part of his duties!

  • Taxpayer
    March 10, 2016 - 04:42

    Mayor considers it important to attend Cruise shows but not tourism standing committee meetings - sounds self-serving to me.

  • Dee
    March 09, 2016 - 21:52

    Pretty good isn't it they can sit back collect their pay cheques from our tax money and even attend meetings.Maybe it's time to put people in that really needs the income not all these pensioners.

    • Thomas J
      March 10, 2016 - 12:38

      How much does the mayor charge to preside over weddings?