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Town of Petrolia

May 22, 201822 May 2018

The Ombudsman reviewed closed meetings held by council for the Town of Petrolia under the labour relations or employee negotiations exception. The Ombudsman found that the municipality was not permitted to receive a presentation about a proposal respecting its community centre in camera simply because the topic might lead to speculation about the impact of the proposal on existing employees. Neither labour-related information nor employees were discussed during the presentation. The exceptions do not extend to discussions about sensitive information, or to information that might lead the public to speculate about otherwise confidential information.

Town of Deep River

May 09, 201809 May 2018

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Deep River relying on the acquisition or disposition of land exception to discuss a development proposal that involved disposition of municipal property. During the meeting, council was provided with the developer’s detailed business plan that identified the financial strategy the developer intended to pursue to ensure the project’s success. At the time of council’s discussion, negotiations with the developer were ongoing. The Ombudsman found that council was entitled to discuss this matter in closed session under the acquisition or disposition of land closed meeting exception.

Town of Fort Erie

April 18, 201818 April 2018

The Ombudsman reviewed several closed meetings held by council for the Town of Fort Erie to discuss a potential partnership with a post-secondary institution. The meetings were closed under the acquisition or disposition of land exception. During the discussions, staff presented information on the basic concept of the partnership, and council discussed the need for the town to rent, lease, or purchase property to house the project, including properties that may be of interest if the partnership moved forward. The Ombudsman found that at the time of the meetings, council was in the early stages of decision-making, had not turned its mind to protecting its bargaining position in property negotiations, and had not taken any practical steps to acquiring land. Therefore, council’s discussions did not fit within the acquisition or disposition of land exception.

Town of Grimsby

November 14, 201614 November 2016

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Grimsby to discuss obtaining a business valuation of Niagara Power Inc., a municipally-controlled corporation. Council also discussed the sensitive nature of obtaining a valuation. Although it did not rely on the acquisition or disposition of land exception, the municipality suggested it might apply to council’s discussion. The Ombudsman found that the acquisition or disposition of land exception would not apply to the discussion since there were no pending or proposed land deals discussed.

Town of Grimsby

November 14, 201614 November 2016

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Grimsby to discuss a municipally-controlled corporation, relying on the litigation or potential litigation exception. During the closed session, council discussed a proposal to obtain a business valuation of the corporation. The municipality believed that the business valuation of the corporation was sensitive business information that should remain confidential. The discussion referenced an ongoing arbitration process involving the municipality, however the arbitration was not the focus of the discussion. The Ombudsman found that binding arbitration may be akin to litigation. However, the discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception because there was no evidence that the discussion involved current or pending litigation.

City of Niagara Falls

November 03, 201603 November 2016

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the City of Niagara Falls to discuss a proposal to develop a university campus in the municipality. The meeting was closed under the acquisition or disposition of land exception. During the discussion, staff provided information on the potential effect of the development on municipally-owned properties, and the possibility of expropriation. The Ombudsman found that at the time of the meeting, there were no land transactions in progress and council was not taking practical steps to dispose of its properties. Rather,  council was primarily concerned about the sensitive nature of the business information discussed. Therefore, council’s discussion did not fit within the acquisition or disposition of land exception.

City of Oshawa

July 19, 201619 July 2016

The Ombudsman reviewed a meeting held by council for the City of Oshawa with representatives from the Oshawa Power and Utilities Corporation (OPUC) to receive information related to a potential merger of OPUC with Veridian Corporation, a shared services provider. The meeting was closed under the education or training exception. The majority of the presentation was intended to inform council about a particular course of action that would likely come before council for a future vote. The municipality believed that the non-disclosure agreement between OPUC and Veridian meant the discussion should be held in closed session. The Ombudsman found that the purpose of the education or training exception is not to protect disclosure of sensitive business information. The Ombudsman found that the information presented and the questions asked materially advanced council’s business and decision-making. Therefore, the discussion did not fit within the education or training exception.

Township of Russell

January 05, 201605 January 2016

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of Russell to discuss a proposed business plan for installing services in a local commercial and industrial area in the municipality. The municipality believed that the discussion involved sensitive business information and therefore closed the meeting. Council reviewed a staff report that included information about the plan and the properties included in the plan’s area. Although not relied upon by the municipality, the Ombudsman found that council’s discussion did not fit within the acquisition or disposition of land exception because the discussion was focused on whether to proceed with the business plan and not on the purchase or sale of land.

Town of Amherstburg

April 13, 201513 April 2015

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Amherstburg that relied on the personal matters exception to discuss bank-signing authorities for the municipality. The municipality suggested that the general tone of the meeting was one of distrust of municipal staff and, accordingly, it rendered the discussion personal in nature. The Ombudsman found that the general tone or concern that a discussion might be sensitive in nature is not sufficient to bring the discussion within the personal matters exception. Therefore, council’s discussion did not fit within the personal matters exception.

City of Niagara Falls

March 05, 201505 March 2015

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the City of Niagara Falls to discuss a consultant’s report on a proposal to develop a university campus in the municipality. The meeting was closed under the acquisition or disposition of land exception. The municipality believed that the consultant’s report contained sensitive business information and should be confidential. The Ombudsman found that public disclosure of council’s discussion might have affected the municipality’s bargaining position with respect to the parcelling of land. However, the discussion did not address how the properties were to be appraised or sold, and there was no discussion of disposing of specific properties. Securing a competitive advantage with respect to attracting municipal development is not a basis for closing a meeting under the acquisition or disposition of land exception. Therefore, the Ombudsman found that council’s discussion did not fit within the acquisition or disposition of land exception.

City of Welland

November 18, 201418 November 2014

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the City of Welland that relied on the acquisition or disposition of land exception to discuss a marketing plan prepared by an economic development consultant. The municipality believed that the marketing plan contained sensitive business information and should be confidential. The Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the acquisition or disposition of land exception because council did not discuss a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality.

City of Welland

November 18, 201418 November 2014

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the City of Welland to receive a presentation from staff regarding the local development corporation’s strategic plan. The meeting was closed under the education or training exception. The strategic plan had been approved by council at an earlier open meeting. During the closed session, council discussed information relating to the municipality that it considered sensitive. The purpose of the education or training exception is not to shield sensitive information from the public. The Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the education or training exception because the discussion did not relate solely to educating council, rather it was intended to inform their decision-making and advance the formulation of the municipality’s economic strategy.