239(2)(k) Plans and instructions for negotiations

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Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands

July 06, 202206 July 2022

The Ombudsman received a complaint alleging that the Committee of the Whole for the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands contravened the Municipal Act, 2001 when it received an update about negotiations with a commercial partner during a closed session. The Ombudsman was satisfied that the negotiations were ongoing at the time of the meeting and found that the matter was permitted to be discussed in closed session under the exception for plans and instructions for negotiations.

Town of Pelham

June 15, 202215 June 2022

The Ombudsman investigated a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Pelham on April 19, 2021, during which council discussed future management and potential development of the local airport. In its resolution to proceed in camera, council cited the exception for plans and instructions for negotiations. The Ombudsman concluded that the in camera discussion did not relate to ongoing or future negotiations and, accordingly, did not meet the requirements of the exception for plans and instructions for negotiations. The Ombudsman found that council contravened the Municipal Act, 2001 when it met in closed session on April 19, 2021.

Saugeen Municipal Airport Commission

June 09, 202209 June 2022

The Ombudsman reviewed a complaint that the Saugeen Municipal Airport Commission contravened the Municipal Act, 2001 when it went in camera during a meeting on September 27, 2021. The Ombudsman found that the Commission’s discussion about an agreement with a client was permissible under paragraph 239(2)(k). However, the Ombudsman found that there was no evidence that the same exception applied to its discussions about an agreement with municipalities and financial information.

Bruce County

May 20, 202220 May 2022

The Ombudsman considered the applicability of the exception for plans and instructions for negotiations to Bruce County Executive Committee’s in camera discussion on January 10, 2019. The Ombudsman found that staff presented a report to the Committee providing details about possible locations, potential next steps in the decision-making process, and recommendations from Bruce Power relating to the Nuclear Innovation Institute. However, based on the documentary evidence and interviews conducted, the Ombudsman found on a balance of probabilities that the Committee did not discuss plans and instructions for negotiations during the closed session.

Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands

April 05, 202205 April 2022

The Ombudsman reviewed a complaint that council for the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands contravened the Municipal Act, 2001 when it went in camera on August 11, 2020. Council’s in camera discussion pertained to a study report and a funding application, both related to an internet broadband project. The Ombudsman found that council’s discussion about the study report was permissible under the exception at s. 239(2)(j), information belonging to the municipality. However, council contravened the Act by discussing the funding application in closed session and by holding a vote by consensus on this matter. The discussion about the funding application was not related to negotiations or future negotiations, as required by s. 239(2)(k). Furthermore, prior to moving in camera, council failed to state in its resolution the general nature of the matter to be considered as required by s. 239(4).

Township of McMurrich/Monteith

March 28, 202228 March 2022

The Ombudsman investigated two closed meetings held by council for the Township of McMurrich/Monteith on June 8 and July 6, 2021. The Ombudsman found that council did not contravene the Municipal Act, 2001 when it held a closed meeting on June 8, 2021 since part of the discussion fit under the exception for solicitor-client privilege and the rest of the discussion fit under the exception for plans or instructions for negotiations. The Ombudsman found that the delegation to council during the closed meeting on July 6, 2021 did not fit under any closed meeting exceptions while council’s subsequent discussion fit under the exception for litigation or potential litigation. Accordingly, the Ombudsman found that council contravened the Municipal Act, 2001 because it would have been possible for council to parse the delegation portion of the meeting from its subsequent discussion.

Township of Russell

December 16, 202116 December 2021

The Ombudsman received a complaint that council for the Township of Russell contravened the Municipal Act, 2001 when it proceeded in camera on November 16, 2020 to discuss an infrastructure project. The Ombudsman concluded that the discussions fit within the exception for plans and instructions for negotiations. The Mayor’s presence at the in camera meeting did not compromise the bargaining position of the Township, despite the fact that the Mayor was also an elected official on the upper-tier council that was carrying out negotiations with the Township for this project.

Township of McKellar

August 24, 202124 August 2021

The Ombudsman received a complaint alleging that council for the Township of McKellar improperly met in closed session on June 24, 2021, to discuss the West Parry Sound Pool and Wellness Centre contrary to the Municipal Act, 2001. The Ombudsman found that council discussed its position regarding ongoing negotiations with six municipalities and two first nation communities relating to a joint pool and wellness centre. Accordingly, this discussion was permissible under section 239(2)(k) of the Municipal Act.

Municipality of Grey Highlands

May 14, 202114 May 2021
The Ombudsman received a complaint about a closed session held by council for the Municipality of Grey Highlands on October 7, 2020. Council discussed plans to proceed with negotiations to enter into a joint venture with a third party and provided staff with directions on a series of matters related to the negotiation. The Ombudsman found that the discussion was permissible under the Act’s closed meeting exception for plans and instructions for negotiations.

City of Hamilton

November 05, 202005 November 2020
The City of Hamilton’s General Issues Committee met in closed session to discuss events that may take place in the city in 2022 or 2023. The committee cited the negotiations exception when it moved in camera. During the discussion the committee reviewed a confidential staff report and staff confirmed that negotiations between the city and other parties were ongoing. The committee also provided staff with direction on how to proceed in negotiations. The Ombudsman found that the four-part test for the exception for negotiations was satisfied because while in camera, the committee formulated a plan and directed staff with respect to the municipality’s ongoing negotiations regarding potential events that may take place in 2022 or 2023.  

City of Pickering

September 28, 202028 September 2020
The Ombudsman received a complaint about a closed meeting held by council for the City of Pickering on August 10, 2020. Our review found that staff provided an update about ongoing negotiations with the province, the Region of Durham and the Town of Ajax related to the Durham Live development and the potential issuance of a Ministerial Zoning Order. The Ombudsman found that this discussion was permissible under section 239(2)(k) of the Municipal Act.  

Town of Saugeen Shores

August 10, 202010 August 2020

The Ombudsman reviewed several closed meetings held by council for the Town of Saugeen Shores where council discuss ongoing lease negotiations for municipal property. In each case, council provided staff with direction on how to proceed with the ongoing lease negotiations. The Ombudsman found that these discussions fit within the closed meeting exception for plans and instructions for negotiations. 

City of Hamilton

June 21, 201921 June 2019

The City of Hamilton’s General Issues Committee met in closed session to discussion the municipality’s contribution to the local Canadian Football League (CFL) team’s bid for the Grey Cup championship game. The committee cited the negotiations exception when it moved in camera. During the discussion the committee reviewed staff’s negotiations with the CFL team up to that point, and discussed whether or not to approve a recommended financial contribution. The committee also provided staff with specific steps on how to proceed in negotiations. The Ombudsman found that the four-part test for the exception for negotiations was satisfied because while in camera, the committee formulated a plan and directed staff with respect to the municipality’s ongoing negotiations with the CFL team.

City of St. Catharines

February 14, 201914 February 2019

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the City of St. Catharines to discuss a proposed staff position, government relations adviser. The meeting was closed under the negotiations exception. During the discussion, there were passing references to municipal projects involving the provincial government that could potentially become part of the new position’s portfolio of responsibilities. The Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the negotiations exception because it focused on determining the role and nature of a new staff position, including employment details, rather than specifically formulating a detailed course of action with respect to current or future negotiations involving municipal-provincial projects. In addition, the discussion did not involve any information that could undermine the city’s bargaining position in future negotiations.