Saturday, June 27, 2009

Durham CAS Response to Letter on Transparency

The Foster Care Council of Canada (Council) wrote a letter to the Durham Children's Aid Society (Society) regarding the fact that there is not enough information on their web site to inform members of the public that they can join the Society as a regular member if they so choose without having to apply to be on the Board of Directors and other issues related to transparency and accountability of the Society.

UPDATE: The Council has since learned from http://www.fixcas.com that the Durham CAS does have information on their web site regarding regular memberships, however will still advocate for a link to be provided to the membership information page on their Board of Directors information page for the convenience of readers.

The Society responded with a non-committal letter of acknowledgment simply stating that they received the Council's letter without addressing any of the issues contained within the letter.

The Council then submitted a reply letter seeking a detailed response from the Society which would indicate the Society's position on, and commitment to, addressing the issues of transparency and accountability within their agency.

You can read the correspondence below.

1st Council Letter to the Society
(June 24th Letter here)


Society's Response
(below)

From: Susan.McNeil@durhamcas.ca
To: johndunn@afterfostercare.ca
Date: Fri, 26 Jun 2009 16:30:23 -0400
Subject: RE: Durham CAS Web Site and Memberships

Hello John,

Sorry for the delay in responding to you.

Thank you for your e-mail dated June 24, 2009, regarding issues relating to our website. Our website is an excellent way for us to communicate with the public, and we are always pleased to consider people's comments about the site and its content, and appreciate the feedback.

Once again, thank you for writing to the Durham CAS.


Susan McNeil
Executive Assistant
Durham Children's Aid Society
1320 Airport Blvd
Oshawa, ON L1H 7K4
905-433-1551, ext 2236
susan.mcneil@durhamcas.ca

Council's Reply
(below)

From: John Dunn (johndunn@afterfostercare.ca)
Sent: June 27, 2009 9:05:03 AM
To: Susan McNeilDurhamCAS (susan.mcneil@durhamcas.ca)
Cc: Horwath - QP, Andrea (ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca); Julia Munro (julia.munro@pc.ola.org); claudine.cousins@ontario.ca; Gerard (MCYS) Frenette (gerard.frenette@ontario.ca); Andre Marin (amarin@ombudsman.on.ca); Irwin Elman (irwin.elman@provincialadvocate.on.ca)
Subject: Durham CAS Web Site and Memberships‏

Susan McNeil
Durham Children's Aid Society

NOTE: This letter is CC'd to others for informational purposes only. There is no need for those CC'd to respond.


I appreciate the Society responding to the letter we wrote regarding its web site. As I recall, our letter brought to the Society's attention the fact that:

a) the Society's web site does not provide enough information to members of the community which would inform them of the fact that they can apply to become regular, voting members of the Society, separate and apart from becoming members of the Board of Directors

b) the Society's By-Laws are not shown on the web site

c) Private Members Motion 41 seeks all Societies in Ontario to publish information on their web sites and in their lobbies informing the public that Board meetings are open to the public to attend and/or make presentations


Our letter also encouraged the Society to consider expanding upon "regular memberships" as a separate category under their 'Get to Know Us" link directly above or below the link to the Board of Directors so that members of the community realize they can become regular members without having to become a member of the Board of Directors.

We also encouraged the Society to publish its By-Laws on the web site as a means of both attracting and educating the public of their privileges and obligations in connection with regular memberships in order to work toward increased transparency and accountability.

However, the Society's response only acknowledged their receipt of our letter, and did not in any way indicate the Society's position on any of the content.

I would like to ask the Society if they could answer the following questions.

1. Will the Society do what is required to ensure that their by-laws are made available to anyone through their web site and to anyone who asks for them in person while attending the Society and if not, why not.

2. Will the Society do what is required to ensure that information about regular memberships with the Society is added to their web site in a way which clearly shows people that they can become regular members separate and apart from running to be elected to the Board of Directors of the Society and if not, why not.

3. Will the Society do what is necessary to ensure that information is published on their web site and made available in their lobby which informs members of the community of the fact that they can attend and participate in regular Board meetings during specified agenda items for public presentations and how they can do so and if not, why not.

4. Will the Society do what is necessary to ensure that a continuous monthly archive of Board minutes (including committee minutes) is published on their web site and that information is made available in their lobby which indicates to persons in attendance at the Society who may not have access to the internet that they can request access to the monthly archive of Board and Committee meeting minutes for their review upon request and if not, why not.


Sincerely
John Dunn
Executive Director
The Foster Care Council of Canada
http://www.afterfostercare.ca

The Society has since responded with the following


RE: Durham CAS Web Site and Memberships‏
From: Catherine Hyatt (Catherine.Hyatt@durhamcas.ca)
Sent: June 29, 2009 8:55:27 AM
To: 'John Dunn' (johndunn@afterfostercare.ca
Cc:

Susan McNeil (Susan.McNeil@durhamcas.ca); Shane Vieira (shane.vieira@durhamcas.ca); Andrea Maenza (Andrea.Maenza@durhamcas.ca)

Good morning Mr Dunn,

I am in receipt of your email to Susan and have included staff who look after the content of our website so they may review the requests. I am confident someone will be in touch with you in the near future; however please note staff have commenced vacations so there may be a short delay.

Thank you

Catherine

Catherine Hyatt
Administrative Assistant
Durham Children's Aid Society
1320 Airport Blvd,
Oshawa ON L1H 7K4
905 433 1551 ext 2363


Dunn then wrote the following in response:

From: afterfostercare@hotmail.com [mailto:afterfostercare@hotmail.com] On Behalf Of John Dunn
Sent: Monday, June 29, 2009 10:06 AM
To: Catherine Hyatt
Cc: Susan McNeil; Shane Vieira; Andrea Maenza
Subject: RE: Durham CAS Web Site and Memberships

Thank-you so much for the reply,

I wanted to provide an update or follow-up to those who will respond. We have since learned from http://www.fixcas.com that your agency does in fact have a page regarding regular memberships on their web site, however we would still like to ask if a link to the memberships page, could be added to the end or somewhere on the "Board of Directors" page so that people who only check in that section are also made aware of regular memberships.

The memberships page is located separately under "How Can You Help" which is good, and logically placed, however I feel it could also be linked to under the "Get to Know Us" category or under the Board of Directors page.



Sincerely
John Dunn
Executive Director
The Foster Care Council of Canada
http://www.afterfostercare.ca


The Society responded with the following:

Hello John,

Thank you for your e-mails dated June 27 and 29, 2009.

You had requested that the Society's by-laws be posted on the agency website.

Our By-laws clearly state that Society Members may, during normal business hours, inspect or make abstracts from, or copy the Society's By-laws, at the Member's expense.

As you are aware, information (including criteria) about becoming a member of the Society is posted on our website.

Thank you for your suggestions about additional content and layout relating to the Society's website. We are continually updating our website to ensure the information is accurate and timely, and useful to members of the public and the community we serve. We will take your comments into consideration, as we do with any suggestions we receive, when we complete the next round of updates to the website.

Susan McNeil, Executive Assistant

Susan McNeil
Executive Assistant
Durham Children's Aid Society
1320 Airport Blvd
Oshawa, ON L1H 7K4
905-433-1551, ext 2236
susan.mcneil@durhamcas.ca

Dunn then responded with the following

Susan,

Thank-you for your reply. Also thank-you for taking the suggestions regarding the links into consideration during the next web site update.

However, I understand from what you said that the By-Laws state that members can make copies at their expense. This leaves me with a couple of questions if you don't mind having answered for me.

1. If a member wants copies do they ask the Society to make copies at the Society and pay the Society or do they obtain the originals, take them off-site, photo-copy them, then return the originals? How would a member make copies of the By-Laws and who would they pay.

2. Does the Society require these copying fees to sustain itself, or, in the best interests of its members, would the Society simply make it easier for members to download the By-Laws from the Society web site so they can print them off at home.

3. Does the Society have any concerns as to why they should not make the By-Laws available to the members via download from the site

4. Does the Society have any concerns as to why they should not make the By-Laws available to the public to assist them to determine if they want to become a member. Many organizations will distribute the By-Laws to people when they simply inquire about memberships. Why can't the Society make their By-Laws available for download to the general public?

I appreciate the time you are taking to answer these questions or to have them answered for me. The Society's response will be shared with the public as part of an awareness campaign regarding Society memberships just so you are aware.



Sincerely
John Dunn
Executive Director
The Foster Care Council of Canada
http://www.afterfostercare.ca

No comments:

Post a Comment