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Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula

April 21, 202021 April 2020

The Ombudsman received a complaint regarding the November 25, 2019 closed meeting of council for the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula. The complaint alleged that council’s discussion did not fit within the Municipal Act’s closed meeting exceptions. During the meeting, council discussed written legal advice from its solicitor regarding a by-law enforcement matter where litigation had been specifically threatened. Staff also provided a report to council summarizing the matter and providing additional information about several identified individuals. The Ombudsman found that council’s discussion fit within the advice subject to solicitor-client privilege closed meeting exception. 

Township of Lanark Highlands

January 04, 201804 January 2018

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of Lanark Highlands which relied on the exception for solicitor-client privilege to discuss the municipality’s staff-council communication structure. During the closed session, council discussed written legal advice from the municipality’s solicitor that touched upon several matters. The Ombudsman found that council’s discussion generally focused on the legal opinion, however several times council’s discussion went beyond the written legal advice and into other matters. The Ombudsman found that the portion of council’s discussion beyond the written legal advice did not fit within the solicitor-client privilege exception.

Township of Lanark Highlands

January 04, 201804 January 2018

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of Lanark Highlands that relied on the exception for solicitor-client privilege to discuss financial software on a municipal-wide basis. During the closed session, council received written legal advice on several topics. There was no legal advice received on the financial software. The municipality suggested that the discussion about the software was merely incidental to its consideration of legal advice received on another topic. The Ombudsman found that council’s discussion about the financial software was neither brief or incidental to its discussion about the legal advice. Therefore, that portion of council’s discussion did not fit within the solicitor-client privilege 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 Greater Sudbury

January 20, 201720 January 2017

The Ombudsman reviewed two closed meetings held by council for the City of Greater Sudbury that relied on the exception for solicitor-client privilege to discuss transit tickets in the municipality. During the discussion, council received a third-party investigation report that included information about employee negligence and conduct. Council also received written legal advice from the municipality’s solicitor about the report. The Ombudsman found that the discussions fit within the exception for solicitor-client privilege.

Town of Amherstburg

July 06, 201606 July 2016

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Amherstburg to discuss a request for legal fee reimbursement by an identified individual. Council was provided with a confidential staff report on the matter including a copy of written legal advice obtained from external counsel. While council did not rely on the solicitor-client privilege exception, the Ombudsman considered whether it applied to the discussion. The Ombudsman found that council was provided with written legal advice from external counsel as well as legal advice conveyed by staff from the external counsel. Therefore, the discussion fit within the solicitor-client privilege exception.

City of Port Colborne

November 19, 201519 November 2015

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the City of Port Colborne to discuss the conditions of a purchase and sale agreement for a proposed residential development that had lapsed. The meeting was closed under the exception for solicitor-client privilege. Council had received a written memorandum from the municipality’s solicitor that provided legal advice on the matter to be discussed. The Ombudsman found that council’s discussion fit within the exception for solicitor-client privilege because the discussion involved consideration of written legal advice from the municipality’s legal advisor.

Township of Ryerson

January 04, 201304 January 2013

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of Ryerson to discuss a zoning application for a proposed quarry. Towards the end of the meeting, council received and reviewed a written memo from the municipality’s solicitor containing legal advice related to the application. While the municipality did not rely on the exception for solicitor-client privilege, the Ombudsman found that the portion of council’s discussion that considered the legal advice contained in the memorandum fit within that exception.

Town of Amherstburg

July 20, 201220 July 2012

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Amherstburg to discuss a report issued by the Ombudsman, relying on the exception for solicitor-client privilege. Council considered written legal advice from the municipality’s solicitor who was also present during the closed session. The written legal advice had been publicly posted on the municipality’s website in error. The Ombudsman found that in many cases, public disclosure of confidential information is a factor weighing in favour of discussing the information in the open. In this case, the Ombudsman found that the information posted to the municipality’s website was done so in error and was intended to remain confidential. Council did not waive its solicitor-client privilege. Therefore, the discussion fit within the exception for solicitor-client privilege.