June 10, 202010 June 2020
The Ombudsman received a complaint alleging that a quorum of councillors for the Town of Pelham informally met to discuss a possible donation from a cannabis producer on January 9, 2020, contrary to the open meeting rules of the Municipal Act, 2001. The Ombudsman found that the informal discussion did not contravene the Municipal Act’s open meeting requirements as the discussion did not materially advance council business as required by the Municipal Act. However, the Ombudsman found that the Town of Pelham acted without legal authority when it took action following this informal discussion. By failing to act through resolution and confirming by-law passed at a properly constituted council meeting, the municipality tried to shield its decision-making process from public scrutiny. These actions were contrary to law and wrong under section 21(1) of the Ombudsman Act.
June 10, 202010 June 2020
The Ombudsman received a complaint alleging that councillors for the Town of Pelham voted via email on whether they would be in favour of accepting a possible donation. The Ombudsman found that the email exchange did not contravene the Municipal Act’s
open meeting requirements, which typically apply to “meetings” were a quorum of councillors is physically present. However, the Ombudsman found that the Town of Pelham acted without legal authority when it took action following this informal email exchange. By failing to act through resolution and confirming by-law passed at a properly constituted council meeting, the municipality tried to shield its decision-making process from public scrutiny. These actions were contrary to law and wrong under section 21(1) of the Ombudsman Act
December 06, 201806 December 2018
The Ombudsman reviewed two meetings held by council for the Township of Tehkummah. During the meeting, it was alleged that the doors to the municipal building where the meeting was being held were locked and remained locked until the meeting was over. The Ombudsman was not provided with any evidence that could substantiate the allegation that the doors were locked. The Ombudsman noted that in future, the municipality should take steps to develop a clear policy on when the doors to the municipal building are locked and train its staff accordingly.
August 21, 201821 August 2018
The Ombudsman reviewed two information sessions relating to the business of the municipality attended by a quorum of council for the Village of Casselman. The Ombudsman found that the council members did not materially advance the business of the municipality during these information sessions. The council members only received information about ongoing projects in the municipality. There was no discussion among the council members present and no decisions were made. Even though the Ombudsman found that these information sessions did not constitute meetings under the Municipal Act, 2001, in the interests of openness and transparency he encouraged council to receive information and updates of this nature during public meetings.
June 29, 201829 June 2018
The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of The North Shore relying on the personal matters exception to discuss a vacant council seat. During the closed session, council discussed whether to fill the vacancy by appointment or by by-election, and identifiable individuals who could fill the vacancy. The discussion about identifiable individuals involved personal information regarding the individuals’ qualifications and experience. The Ombudsman found that council’s discussion about how to fill the council vacancy did not fit within the personal matters exception. The Ombudsman found that the discussion involving personal information about the identifiable individuals fit within the personal matters exception. However, the Ombudsman noted that in the interests of transparency, discussions relating to filling a council vacancy should be held in open session.
May 22, 201822 May 2018
In anticipation of council considering appointing a closed meeting investigator, the Town of Petrolia added a $250 complaint fee to its fees by-law. The open meeting law enforcement scheme is premised on a willing public coming forward to assist in ensuring that transparency is maintained at the municipal level. Charging a fee for complaining is entirely inconsistent with the primary intent of the open meeting provisions to foster democratic legitimacy at the local level. The Ombudsman encouraged the municipality to continue to permit members of the public to complain about alleged improperly closed meetings without charging a complaint fee.