May 17, 202317 May 2023
The Ombudsman reviewed a complaint alleging that council for the Town of Amherstburg held an illegally closed meeting over dinner on June 13, 2022 in between a scheduled in camera
meeting and a scheduled open meeting. The Ombudsman’s review found that the dinner in question was informal and drop-in style, and that there was no evidence that council business was discussed over dinner or outside of any of the scheduled meetings.
February 24, 202324 February 2023
The Ombudsman received a complaint suggesting members of council for the City of London met outside of a formal council or committee meeting to discuss filling a vacant council seat with a specific individual since members of the public knew to provide letters of support to council on that subject ahead of the City’s Corporate Services Committee meeting on October 12, 2021. The vacancy had been announced publicly in September 2021 and had also been reported in the media around the same time. The Ombudsman found no evidence that the Committee or council met privately to discuss the vacancy in advance of the Committee meeting on October 12, 2021.
August 19, 202219 August 2022
The Ombudsman received a complaint alleging that council for the Municipality of Casselman held a closed session on May 27, 2021, when three members of council participated in a video call pertaining to a development project with a neighbouring municipality. The presence of two members of council was never disclosed to other participants on the video call. The complainant was concerned that this gathering constituted an illegal meeting under the Municipal Act, 2001. The Ombudsman found that the video call did not contravene the Act because the discussions during the call were technical and informational in nature and did not materially advance council business or decision-making. However, the Ombudsman strongly encouraged the Municipality to maximize the transparency of its practices by disclosing the presence of all participants at any virtual gathering.
March 29, 202129 March 2021
The Ombudsman received a complaint alleging that on June 15, 2020, a quorum of councillors for the Town of Hawkesbury discussed council business that they intended to introduce and vote on at a council meeting scheduled for the next day. The complaint alleged that this discussion amounted to a “meeting” and was improperly closed to the public contrary to the Municipal Act, 2001. The Ombudsman’s investigation found that the Mayor individually spoke with three councillors regarding employee terminations in separate discussions. The Ombudsman found that these serial discussions were not a meeting because a quorum of councillors was never present, as required by the definition of “meeting” in the Act.
January 28, 202128 January 2021
The Ombudsman investigated a complaint that a quorum of board members for the Greater Napanee BIA met in a private local business on June 24, 2020, contrary to the Municipal Act’s open meeting requirements. The Ombudsman found that the board members’ discussions related to social matters and how each business owner was coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, this gathering did not materially advance the BIA’s business or decision-making and was not a “meeting” contrary to the Municipal Act’s open meeting requirements.
August 10, 202010 August 2020
The Ombudsman reviewed a complaint that that during an open meeting on February 24, 2020, council for the Town of Saugeen Shores held an illegal meeting by discussing council business during a recess. The Ombudsman found that while a quorum of council was present at the recess, no members of council had any discussions that materially advanced council business and council did not make any decisions. Rather, the Clerk relayed potential next steps to the Mayor, who then relayed this information to council. Council returned to open session to exercise its decision-making authority. As council business was not materially advanced and no decisions were made by council during the recess, these discussions were not a meeting and therefore not subject to the open meeting rules.
June 19, 202019 June 2020
The Ombudsman reviewed a series of emails exchanged by members of council that refers to an informal interaction between members of council on a prior date. Based on the information gathered during interviews, the Ombudsman was satisfied that no informal meeting took place.
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.
August 02, 201902 August 2019
The Ombudsman received a complaint about a gathering that two council members attended on April 14, 2019. Council for Lambton Shores is composed of nine council members. The new definition of "meeting" in the Municipal Act, 2001 requires that a quorum of members be physically present in order for a gathering to be subject to open meeting requirements.
May 16, 201916 May 2019
The Ombudsman received a complaint that councillors had informally discussed a matter in private prior to the council meeting on January 10, 2019, contrary to the Municipal Act. The Ombudsman did not find any evidence that council contravened the Municipal Act’s meeting provisions when the Mayor spoke with a small number of councillors-elect at two gatherings before new councillors were sworn in. However, the Ombudsman cautioned that municipalities should be careful about having councillors-elect meet privately in this manner due to concerns about openness and transparency.
February 22, 201922 February 2019
Members of council for the City of Hamilton did not contravene the open meeting rules in the Municipal Act, 2001 when they exchanged emails regarding a vacant council seat in June 2018. The new definition of “meeting” in the Act requires that a quorum be present, such that an exchange of emails cannot be considered a meeting subject to the open meeting rules. In the interest of openness and transparency, municipal councils should continue to avoid conducting business outside of a formal meeting.
June 29, 201829 June 2018
The Ombudsman reviewed an informal gathering of three council members after a regular council meeting for the Township of Front of Yonge. The Ombudsman found that the three council members may have remained in council chambers after the regular meeting had finished, however, they did not discuss council business. Accordingly, an improper meeting did not occur.
January 17, 201117 January 2011
The Ombudsman found that two informal gatherings of newly elected councillors for the Town of Kearney did not violate the Municipal Act, 2001, as the councillors had not yet been sworn in and there was therefore no quorum of the current council present. However, these gatherings involved discussions of future council business and were therefore inconsistent with the principles of transparency and openness underlying the open meeting requirements.