Public money, public decision

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Should county councillors be able to keep their laptops, tablets or other electronic devices once their terms are over?

That is the question we asked ourselves after the last County of Barrhead meeting when councillors approved a policy change that gives them $500 to purchase the electronic device of their choice, whether it be a laptop or a tablet. If the device is over $500, the councillor will be responsible for the difference.

You see, the county has switched from a VPN system to Google Docs and as a result, it opens the door for its employees to use a larger variety of electronic devices.

Despite that change, we believe the answer to this question is no; councillors should continue to be assigned county-owned equipment, not to buy their own.

Certainly, there are some advantages to giving councillors a choice of what device they would like to use, the first being familiarity. If they know how to use their tablet, laptop or iPad, they will be able to use it more effectively. It will also mean administration will have to provide less technical support.

From an individual councillor prospective, ownership of the device means they could use it for purposes unrelated to government, whether it is taking a picture of their grandchildren or installing a game.

The problem with this is it opens up the door for the creation of technical issues that could make the device unusable. In theory, it would be up to councillor to resolve, but if they didn’t or couldn’t, administration would have to take responsibility in the end, because if they didn’t, it would mean the councillor wouldn’t be able to fulfill their duties to the utmost.

We also wonder who would be responsible for replacing the device if it was damaged during a councillor’s term.

However, our biggest issue with the policy is that the device goes with the councillor as soon as they’re done serving.

Yes, all electronic devices have a finite life and often organizations have a set policy where they retire devices and take them off the books. But in many cases, these retired electronic devices end up going to a charity. After all, just because a device is ‘evergreened’ does not mean it isn’t useful.

We know of many cases where retired radio and computer equipment from the RCMP has been donated to search and rescue groups, amateur radio clubs, among others. But if  the RCMP had to buy their own devices with some cash from their detachment, none of these groups would have benefited.

Public money means it should be a public decision. We hope council revisits the issue, but we fear that it is too late, as by the next meeting some councillors will have already purchased their own device.

Should county councillors be able to keep their laptops, tablets or other electronic devices once their terms are over?

That is the question we asked ourselves after the last County of Barrhead meeting when councillors approved a policy change that gives them $500 to purchase the electronic device of their choice, whether it be a laptop or a tablet. If the device is over $500, the councillor will be responsible for the difference.

You see, the county has switched from a VPN system to Google Docs and as a result, it opens the door for its employees to use a larger variety of electronic devices.

Despite that change, we believe the answer to this question is no; councillors should continue to be assigned county-owned equipment, not to buy their own.

Certainly, there are some advantages to giving councillors a choice of what device they would like to use, the first being familiarity. If they know how to use their tablet, laptop or iPad, they will be able to use it more effectively. It will also mean administration will have to provide less technical support.

From an individual councillor prospective, ownership of the device means they could use it for purposes unrelated to government, whether it is taking a picture of their grandchildren or installing a game.

The problem with this is it opens up the door for the creation of technical issues that could make the device unusable. In theory, it would be up to councillor to resolve, but if they didn’t or couldn’t, administration would have to take responsibility in the end, because if they didn’t, it would mean the councillor wouldn’t be able to fulfill their duties to the utmost.

We also wonder who would be responsible for replacing the device if it was damaged during a councillor’s term.

However, our biggest issue with the policy is that the device goes with the councillor as soon as they’re done serving.

Yes, all electronic devices have a finite life and often organizations have a set policy where they retire devices and take them off the books. But in many cases, these retired electronic devices end up going to a charity. After all, just because a device is ‘evergreened’ does not mean it isn’t useful.

We know of many cases where retired radio and computer equipment from the RCMP has been donated to search and rescue groups, amateur radio clubs, among others. But if  the RCMP had to buy their own devices with some cash from their detachment, none of these groups would have benefited.

Public money means it should be a public decision. We hope council revisits the issue, but we fear that it is too late, as by the next meeting some councillors will have already purchased their own device.

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