239(2)(e) Litigation or potential litigation

KEY SUMMARIES

City of Timmins

May 09, 201709 May 2017

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the City of Timmins, which relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss an open procurement project. The municipality held the meeting in closed session due to concerns that an unsuccessful bidder might initiate legal proceedings against the municipality. The Ombudsman found that the litigation or potential litigation exception applies in the context of anticipated litigation where there is more than a remote possibility litigation may commence, although the litigation need not be a certainty. While it is not unusual for litigation initiated by unsuccessful bidders to occur at the conclusion of the procurement process, in this case, the municipality’s concern that litigation could occur was speculative. Accordingly, the Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Town of South Bruce Peninsula

October 06, 201506 October 2015

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of South Bruce Peninsula to discuss a contract related to the Wiarton Keppel International Airport. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. Council discussed the potential sale of the airport and a contract for airport fuel tank removal. The Ombudsman found that council did not discuss any litigation in progress or even contemplated litigation with respect to the contract. The prospect of litigation was mere speculation.  Therefore, council’s discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Town of Orangeville

January 24, 201424 January 2014

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Orangeville that relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss the terms of a lease agreement. The owner of the property was present during the meeting. There was a very real likelihood of litigation if the lease negotiations failed. However, the Ombudsman found that the presence of the owner of the property that the municipality was seeking to acquire disqualified the discussion from fitting within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Township of North Dumfries

October 23, 201323 October 2013

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of North Dumfries to discuss matters before the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. Council received an update on the matters from the municipality’s solicitor. The Ombudsman found that the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception because council discussed two active appeals before a tribunal.

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Town of Carleton Place

October 23, 201723 October 2017

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by the Policy Review Committee for the Town of Carleton Place to discuss a statement made by the mayor. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. The municipality believed the mayor’s statement opened up the municipality to possible litigation from an identifiable individual. The Ombudsman considered the broader circumstances of the meeting in determining whether there was a reasonable prospect of litigation at the time of the meeting. The Ombudsman found that the mayor’s statement was contentious but did not justify the municipality’s suspicion that the statement opened up the municipality to liability. Accordingly, the Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Municipality of St.-Charles

June 30, 201730 June 2017

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by the General Government Committee for the Municipality of St.-Charles that relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss allegations regarding employee municipal credit card abuse. During the meeting, the municipality reviewed written legal advice. The discussion included information about ongoing legal proceedings against the municipality and how the municipality’s response to the credit card abuse allegations could affect those proceedings. The Ombudsman found that the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

City of Timmins

May 09, 201709 May 2017

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the City of Timmins, which relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss an open procurement project. The municipality held the meeting in closed session due to concerns that an unsuccessful bidder might initiate legal proceedings against the municipality. The Ombudsman found that the litigation or potential litigation exception applies in the context of anticipated litigation where there is more than a remote possibility litigation may commence, although the litigation need not be a certainty. While it is not unusual for litigation initiated by unsuccessful bidders to occur at the conclusion of the procurement process, in this case, the municipality’s concern that litigation could occur was speculative. Accordingly, the Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Township of Russell

May 03, 201703 May 2017

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of Russell which relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss the naming rights for a new sports facility. The Ombudsman found that there was no evidence to indicate that council was considering ongoing litigation or had realistically contemplated a legal proceeding. It was mere speculation. Accordingly, the Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Municipality of Brockton (Walkerton BIA)

February 13, 201713 February 2017

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Municipality of Brockton to discuss a matter related to the legality of the Walkerton Business Improvement Area’s (BIA) practices and structure. During the meeting, council considered a letter written by the solicitor of a local business owner raising concerns about the BIA and formally requesting that the BIA take corrective action. The Ombudsman found that litigation was a realistic possibility. Accordingly, the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Township of Georgian Bay

January 19, 201719 January 2017

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of Georgian Bay to discuss a shoreline structure that did not meet the requirements of the zoning by-law. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. The municipality had received verbal threats of legal action from neighbouring land owners if the municipality did not enforce the zoning by-law. The Ombudsman found that the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception since legal action was a reasonable prospect.

Town of Grimsby

November 14, 201614 November 2016

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Grimsby to discuss a municipally-controlled corporation, relying on the litigation or potential litigation exception. During the closed session, council discussed a proposal to obtain a business valuation of the corporation. The municipality believed that the business valuation of the corporation was sensitive business information that should remain confidential. The discussion referenced an ongoing arbitration process involving the municipality, however the arbitration was not the focus of the discussion. The Ombudsman found that binding arbitration may be akin to litigation. However, the discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception because there was no evidence that the discussion involved current or pending litigation.

Norfolk County

November 07, 201607 November 2016

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the County of Norfolk that relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss the development of a site-specific zoning by-law. The Ombudsman noted that the municipality was aware that identifiable individuals planned to file an appeal of the enacted site-specific zoning by-law to the Ontario Municipal Board. The Ombudsman found that council’s discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception because there was a reasonable prospect of litigation with respect to the site-specific zoning by-law.

Municipality of Brockton (Walkerton BIA)

August 05, 201605 August 2016

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by the board of directors for the Walkerton Business Improvement Area to discuss a staff report and accompanying legal opinion that responded to issues raised in a letter written by the solicitor of a local business owner. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. The board had reason to believe that the local business owner would initiate legal proceedings if he were unsatisfied with the board’s actions. The Ombudsman found that the board’s discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Norfolk County

June 06, 201606 June 2016

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council-in-committee for the County of Norfolk to discuss an application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. At the time of the meeting, a tentative settlement had been reached in the matter but had not yet been approved by council. The Ombudsman found that the discussion was about an ongoing litigation matter before an administrative tribunal. Therefore, the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Town of Midland

June 03, 201603 June 2016

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Midland to discuss options related to a site plan agreement for a subdivision located in the municipality. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. The site plan agreement had been the subject of complaints by residents. At the time of the meeting there was no specific threat of litigation or pending litigation with respect to the site plan agreement. Council’s discussion focused on matters that theoretically could lead to litigation depending on how council proceeded. The nature of the matter and the tone of communications between the municipality, residents and the developer was contentious. The Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception because litigation or other legal action did not rise above mere speculation.

Township of Bonfield

November 23, 201523 November 2015

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by the Public Works Committee for the Township of Bonfield that relied on on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss the tender process for small equipment. During the discussion the committee considered various courses of action related to the municipality’s tender process in order to mitigate the potential for litigation from an identified source. The Ombudsman found that although there was no litigation ongoing at the time of the meeting, it was a reasonable prospect under consideration and not mere speculation. Therefore, the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Town of South Bruce Peninsula

October 06, 201506 October 2015

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of South Bruce Peninsula to discuss a contract related to the Wiarton Keppel International Airport. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. Council discussed the potential sale of the airport and a contract for airport fuel tank removal. The Ombudsman found that council did not discuss any litigation in progress or even contemplated litigation with respect to the contract. The prospect of litigation was mere speculation.  Therefore, council’s discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Township of Woolwich

August 10, 201510 August 2015

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee for the Township of Woolwich to discuss an opinion received from legal counsel that outlined steps that should be taken prior to pursuing civil action on a particular matter. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. The Ombudsman found that although there was no litigation ongoing at the time of the meeting, there was a reasonable prospect of litigation. Therefore, the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

City of Welland

November 18, 201418 November 2014

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the City of Welland to discuss potential litigation against a party pertaining to the Flatwater Centre, located in the municipality. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. The Ombudsman found that council was genuinely contemplating litigation during the closed session. Therefore, the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Township of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh

April 10, 201410 April 2014

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh to discuss a third party’s discharge of water onto a municipal road allowance. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. The discharge of water caused damage to municipal property. The purpose of the closed session was to discuss the possibility of litigation to address the damage. The Ombudsman found that the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception because there was more than a suspicion or mere speculation that litigation would occur.

City of Timmins

April 09, 201409 April 2014

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the City of Timmins that relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant. Council received an update from staff relating to the upgrade and, based on this information, considered taking legal action against a specific party connected with the project. The Ombudsman found that communications prepared by a prospective litigant, even in the absence of a lawyer, may fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception. The Ombudsman found that council’s discussion fit with in the cited exception because council was not merely speculating about the possibility of future litigation, but contemplated legal action against specific parties.

Town of Orangeville

January 24, 201424 January 2014

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Orangeville that relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss the terms of a lease agreement. The owner of the property was present during the meeting. There was a very real likelihood of litigation if the lease negotiations failed. However, the Ombudsman found that the presence of the owner of the property that the municipality was seeking to acquire disqualified the discussion from fitting within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Town of Carleton Place

January 16, 201416 January 2014

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Carleton Place to discuss litigation filed against the municipality regarding a development/permit dispute. Council met with the municipality’s solicitor and received legal advice about the litigation. The Ombudsman found that the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception, even though it was not relied on by the municipality, because council was discussing a response to active litigation.

Town of Fort Erie

January 09, 201409 January 2014

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Fort Erie to discuss an agreement of purchase and sale for the Crystal Beach Gateway Project. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. The municipality’s solicitor was present during the meeting. At the time of the meeting, there was a pending appeal before the Land Registry Tribunal with respect to absolute title on the property. The Ombudsman found that council’s discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Municipality of Bluewater

December 19, 201319 December 2013

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Municipality of Bluewater that relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss a by-law to address building fees for wind turbines. During the meeting, the municipality’s solicitor gave advice about the resolution of a dispute with various wind turbine companies, and the steps the municipality needed to take to avoid a lawsuit. The Ombudsman found that the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Township of Ryerson

November 08, 201308 November 2013

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of Ryerson that relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss a rezoning application. Council had not yet reached a decision on the rezoning application. The Ombudsman found that since no decision had been reached on the application, and there was no pending litigation or notice of an intent to take specific legal action, there was no reasonable prospect of litigation, and therefore the discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Township of Ryerson

November 08, 201308 November 2013

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of Ryerson to discuss a rezoning application with the applicant. Council and the applicant reviewed details related to a proposed haul route and site plan. Although the municipality did not rely on it, the Ombudsman considered whether the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception. The purpose of the litigation or potential litigation exception is to enable the parties to prepare their positions in private. The presence of the applicant in the closed meeting defeated that purpose. Therefore, the discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Township of Bonfield

October 30, 201330 October 2013

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by the Personnel Committee for the Township of Bonfield to discuss an ongoing hearing before the Ontario Labour Relations Board. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. The committee received legal advice from the municipality’s solicitor regarding the hearing. The Ombudsman found that the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception because the committee was discussing ongoing litigation before a tribunal.

Township of North Dumfries

October 23, 201323 October 2013

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of North Dumfries to discuss matters before the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. Council received an update on the matters from the municipality’s solicitor. The Ombudsman found that the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception because council discussed two active appeals before a tribunal.

Town of South Bruce Peninsula

June 10, 201310 June 2013

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of South Bruce Peninsula that relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss ongoing litigation involving the municipality. The Ombudsman found that the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception because council was receiving updates on active litigation.

Town of Larder Lake

April 16, 201316 April 2013

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Larder Lake that relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss legal correspondence about a building permit infraction. The legal correspondence included a threat of legal action against the municipality. Council considered taking legal action in relation to the matter and provided instructions to legal counsel in order to respond to the letter. The Ombudsman found that the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

City of Greater Sudbury

February 14, 201314 February 2013

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the City of Greater Sudbury to discuss an ongoing appeal before the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. During the meeting, council received information from staff related to the appeal that might affect the municipality’s response to the appeal. The Ombudsman found that the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception because council was discussing an ongoing appeal before a tribunal.

City of Greater Sudbury

February 14, 201314 February 2013

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the City of Greater Sudbury to discuss a pending appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) of a decision of council to deny a severance application. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. During the meeting, council received information from staff relating to the upcoming OMB hearing. Council also received correspondence from a ministry with respect to the ministry’s position on the severance application. The Ombudsman found that the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Town of Midland

February 11, 201311 February 2013

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by the Planning and Development Committee for the Town of Midland that relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss a zoning dispute. The committee was considering a lawyer’s letter that identified specific legal action that would be taken if the zoning matter was not resolved. The Ombudsman found that the committee perceived that there was a real possibility of litigation based on the letter and was considering how to respond to the potential for legal action. Therefore, the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Township of Tiny

February 01, 201301 February 2013

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of Tiny that relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss possible amendments to the zoning by-law. Council’s discussion mentioned the possibility that litigation could arise in the future as a result of the proposed amendments. There was no litigation ongoing or threatened at the time of the meeting. The Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception, and instead involved mere speculation.

Township of Woolwich

January 31, 201331 January 2013

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of Woolwich that relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss a proposed aggregate pit. During the meeting, the municipality’s solicitor provided an update to council on the status of mediation before the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) concerning the aggregate pit, and council reviewed draft minutes of settlement. The Ombudsman found that council’s discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

United Townships of Head, Clara and Maria

September 07, 201207 September 2012

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the United Townships of Head, Clara and Maria to discuss a harassment complaint filed by the clerk. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. The Ombudsman found that the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception because council discussed whether to initiate legal proceedings related to the harassment complaint.

United Townships of Head, Clara and Maria

September 07, 201207 September 2012

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the United Townships of Head, Clara and Maria to discuss a code of conduct complaint made by a member of the public against a member of council. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. The Ombudsman found that there was no evidence of any current or future legal proceeding related to the code of conduct complaint. Mere speculation that litigation may arise is not sufficient to bring the matter within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Township of Tiny

May 24, 201224 May 2012

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by the Committee of the Whole for the Township of Tiny to discuss the community’s reaction to a court decision involving the municipality. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. The court decision related to ownership of a stretch of beach located in the municipality. The Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception because the committee had not discussed current or pending litigation.

City of London

March 19, 201219 March 2012

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by the Committee of the Whole for the City of London to discuss the Occupy London protest. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. The Ombudsman found that the committee discussed potential litigation relating to the protest. Therefore, the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Town of Amherstburg

March 17, 201117 March 2011

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Amherstburg that relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss the naming of a recreation complex located in the municipality. The municipality believed that the naming rights for the complex was a matter that could result in future legal action. However, at the time of the meeting, there was no actual evidence of any current or future legal proceedings related to the matter. The Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception because there was no reasonable prospect of litigation and any discussion relating to potential litigation was mere speculation.

Town of Kearney

January 17, 201117 January 2011

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Kearney that relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss a lawyer’s letter that threatened litigation over road closures. The Ombudsman found that there was a real possibility that litigation over the road closures might occur. Therefore, the discussion fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Town of Kearney

January 17, 201117 January 2011

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Kearney that relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss a rezoning application. As with any rezoning matter, there is the possibility that council’s decision would be appealed. However, the possibility of appeal is not sufficient to bring a matter within the realm of potential litigation. The Ombudsman found that council lacked the degree of certainty necessary to make the potential for litigation a reasonable prospect. Therefore, the matter did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.