1 Our Office received two complaints about a meeting held by the OPP Contact Adhoc Committee for the City of Brockville on March 7, 2016. Both complaints alleged that the committee’s meeting with representatives of the Ontario Provincial Police (the OPP) did not come within the closed meeting exception for “education and training” sessions in the Municipal Act, 2001.
2 Under the Municipal Act, 2001, all meetings of council, local boards, and committees of council must be open to the public, unless they fall within prescribed exceptions.
3 As of January 1, 2008, the Actgives citizens the right to request an investigation into whether a municipality has properly closed a meeting to the public. Municipalities may appoint their own investigator or use the services of the Ontario Ombudsman. The Act designates the Ombudsman as the default investigator for municipalities that have not appointed their own.
4 The Ombudsman is the closed meeting investigator for the City of Brockville.
5 When investigating closed meeting complaints, we consider whether the open meeting requirements of the Act and the municipality’s procedure by-law have been observed.
6 On March 17, 2016, we advised council for the City of Brockville of our intent to investigate this complaint.
7 Members of the Open Meeting Law Enforcement Team (OMLET) reviewed relevant portions of the city’s procedure by-law and the Act, as well as the meeting agenda and minutes. They also reviewed a PowerPoint presented by the OPP during the meeting, as well as other meeting handouts. They interviewed the City Manager, Mayor, and each committee member present at the meeting. They also spoke with the city’s Clerk and the Contract Analyst at the OPP Municipal Policing Bureau who arranged the meeting with the committee.
8 We received full co-operation in this matter.
The OPP Contact Adhoc Committee
9 The City of Brockville, like other municipalities in the province, is considering whether to contract with the OPP for its municipal policing needs. Municipalities wishing to contract with the OPP must go through the OPP’s “costing” process to determine how much the OPP will charge the municipality for this service.
10 The City of Brockville established the OPP Contact Adhoc Committee in 2013 to facilitate the costing process. However, in the fall of 2013, before the city’s costing process was complete, the OPP announced a moratorium on costings to allow it to review and revise its system for billing municipalities. The OPP Contact Adhoc Committee agreed to delay further meetings until the costing moratorium was lifted.
11 Following the finalization of OPP billing reform in late 2015, the city corresponded with the OPP about the status of the costing process. Based on the conversation between the city and OPP, a meeting was arranged for March 7, 2016, and the OPP Contact Adhoc Committee was revived. Currently, the committee consists of six members, including the Mayor, four councillors, and the Chair of the Brockville Police Services Board. The Chair of the Brockville Police Services Board is a non-voting committee member. About half of the committee’s current members were on the committee when it was formed in 2013.
12 While the committee manages the flow of information between the OPP and the city, council as a whole will ultimately decide whether to contract with the OPP. During interviews, various committee members stressed that all decision-making related to the costing process will occur in public at council meetings. They further indicated that the committee structure was intended to make the costing process as transparent as possible. They advised that other municipalities may instead rely directly on staff to provide the OPP with the information necessary to complete the costing.
13 The City of Brockville’s procedure by-law has not been updated since 1994. In many important respects, the by-law fails to reflect the current procedural requirements of the Municipal Act. The Clerk told our Office she is aware of these shortcomings and that the city has been slowly working on drafting a new procedure by-law. She indicated that, in practice, the city follows the requirements in the Act when there is a conflict between the by-law and the Act.
14 Section 4 of the by-law provides that regular meetings of council will be held at 7:00 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month unless council, by resolution, directs otherwise. Specific provisions exist for when these dates fall on holidays and during the summer. In addition, the Mayor may call special meetings with 48 hours’ notice to the members of council. However, the by-law makes no provision for providing notice to the public of regular council meetings, special council meetings, or committee meetings. The Clerk indicated that in practice, the city posts all meeting agendas online by 4 p.m. the Friday before each council or committee meeting. The city also maintains an online calendar that contains the dates of upcoming council and committee meetings.
15 Section 8(1) of the by-law states that all meetings shall be open to the public, subject to the listed exceptions. The by-law fails to accurately reproduce the closed meeting exceptions from the Municipal Act. Instead, it contains a list of exceptions that appear to be taken from a 1984 report produced by a working committee tasked with implementing open meeting legislation. The Clerk indicated that, in practice, the city does not use these provisions and instead relies on the closed meeting exceptions from the Municipal Act.
16 In addition, the by-law does not include any provision requiring that, before proceeding in camera, council shall state by resolution the fact of the holding of the closed meeting and the general nature of the matter to be considered. This type of resolution is required under section 239(4) of the Act. Further, section 8(4) of the by-law incorrectly indicates that “[r]esolutions may be passed during meetings closed to the public but must be adopted at a meeting of council”. Under sections 239(5)(6) of the Act, in camera resolutions are limited to procedural matters or directions to staff.
17 The City of Brockville should comprehensively review and amend its procedure by-law to accurately reflect the Municipal Act’s current closed meeting provisions. Specifically, the city should ensure that the amended by-law: