City staff drew names from a coffee mug on Tuesday to determine which three councillors would attend a close-door discussion Wednesday at the invitation of KGHM International.
The invitation came on short notice in connection with public forums the Ajax Mine proponent is holding during the week.
Council seemed surprised by the invitation during a regular meeting on Tuesday and wrestled with questions of transparency and public perception.
"I don't know if it's an attempt to extend an olive branch out to us," Mayor Peter Milobar speculated.
"Somehow it looks like we'll be getting information the public can't get," said Coun. Tina Lange.
Any gathering of more than four councillors constitutes a quorum and a meeting under the community charter, which would then require record-keeping and possibly preclude matters to be dealt with a later public meeting.
Consulting the charter and City staff, they listed three options for managing the matter: not to attend; mayor and three councilors randomly chosen to attend; four councilors randomly chosen to attend.
The second option received near-unanimous approval, although every councillor around the room expressed desire to attend the meeting. Only Coun. Donovan Cavers voted against accepting the invitation.
"I really think that, because of the options, we would be wise not to attend," said Cavers, who has repeatedly stated his opposition to the mine.
Ironically, his was one of the names drawn from the mug, along with those of Coun. Nelly Dever and Coun. Arjun Singh.
Milobar noted that the City has tried to accommodate the company at public council meetings to address its lengthy list of concerns over the proposed strip mine. The request to meet privately is not out of the ordinary, but "it constitutes a contentious issue in the public's mind," he added
"I think it's our job to get information," said Coun. Marg Spina.
"Look, for the last three months we've been screaming for information," said Coun. Ken Christian. "This is probably a classic case of an organization failing to provide public information."
"I think they owe it to us to come forward and have a conversation with cameras rolling," said Coun. Arjun Singh.
"Let's face it, there are some on council with very strong ideas on this subject," Milobar concluded. "I think it's better that we go and talk to them. Yes, it's a contentious item, but we must deal with contentious items all the time."
Coun. Pat Wallace wondered whether the company might agree to a second, separate session to accommodate the rest of council.