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Town of Collingwood

January 21, 202221 January 2022

The Ombudsman reviewed two closed meetings held by council for the Town of Collingwood on February 6 and June 11, 2018. The Ombudsman found that legal fee quotes containing specific information, such as suggested strategy, constitute advice subject to solicitor-client privilege. The Ombudsman found that council did not contravene the Municipal Act, 2001 since both meetings fit under the exception for advice subject to solicitor-client privilege.

Municipality of West Nipissing

September 09, 202109 September 2021

The Ombudsman reviewed complaints about a closed meeting held by council for the Municipality of West Nipissing to discuss the payment of legal fees. Council cited the exception for personal matters about an identifiable individual. The Ombudsman’s review found that council’s discussion about payment of legal fees, which identified why legal advice had been sought and previous instances in which the municipality had incurred legal fees, revealed personal information about identifiable individuals as a matter of necessity. Although all exceptions to the open meeting requirements should be interpreted narrowly and applied prudently, in this case the closed session discussion fit within the parameters of the exception for personal matters.

Norfolk County

May 10, 201610 May 2016

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council-in-committee for Norfolk County to discuss the extension of legal services contracts with two law firms. The committee discussed the hourly rate proposed by each firm. While the municipality did not rely on the exception for solicitor-client privilege, the Ombudsman considered whether it would apply to the discussion. The Ombudsman found that it was unclear from existing jurisprudence whether the hourly rate of a lawyer (as opposed to the total amount of legal fees paid under a retainer) is presumptively sheltered under solicitor-client privilege. However, any presumption would be rebutted because the committee did not directly or indirectly reveal any communication protected by privilege by disclosing the lawyers’ hourly rate. Therefore, the Ombudsman found that the committee’s discussion did not fit within the exception for solicitor-client privilege.

Town of Midland

February 04, 201404 February 2014

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Midland that relied on the exception for solicitor-client privilege to discuss a council member’s request for indemnification of legal fees incurred as a police service board member. The Ombudsman found that the substance of the legal advice provided to the council member was not discussed. The focus of the discussion was on whether the legal bill qualified for reimbursement under the municipality’s policy. The Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit with within the exception for solicitor-client privilege.

Town of Midland

February 04, 201404 February 2014

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Midland to discuss a council member’s request for indemnification for legal fees incurred as a police services board member. The meeting relied on the personal matters exception. The Ombudsman found that council’s discussion did not fit within the personal matters exception because the discussion related to the council member in his official capacity and much of the information was already known to the public.