speculation

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City of Brockville

August 15, 202215 August 2022

The Ombudsman reviewed a complaint that council for the City of Brockville contravened the Municipal Act, 2001 when it went in camera on October 13, 2021. Council’s in camera discussions pertained to an employee’s performance in their role and to the employee’s conduct. The Ombudsman found that council’s in camera discussion on October 13, 2021 was not permissible under the exception at paragraph 239(2)(e), litigation or potential litigation. There was no ongoing litigation at the time of the October 13, 2021 meeting and any concern about litigation was speculative.

Town of Pelham

June 15, 202215 June 2022

The Ombudsman investigated a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Pelham on April 19, 2021, during which council discussed future management and potential development of the local airport. The Ombudsman concluded that the exception for acquisition or disposition of land did not apply since council’s discussion about potential development was speculative and the Town did not have a bargaining position to protect. The Ombudsman found that council contravened the Municipal Act, 2001 when it met in closed session on April 19, 2021.

Bruce County

May 20, 202220 May 2022

Bruce County’s Executive Committee cited the exception for acquisition or disposition of land when it proceeded in camera on September 6, 2018. The Ombudsman found that the Committee’s discussion regarding the development of a County hub did not fit within the exception, as the County owned the land in question and was not seeking to sell it. Even if the Committee had discussed this option, the discussion would have been purely speculative and the County did not have a bargaining position to protect. The Executive Committee’s discussion about acquiring land for another project was also speculative and the County did not have a bargaining position to protect at the time. Accordingly, the exception for acquisition or disposition of land did not apply. 

The Ombudsman also considered the applicability of the exception for acquisition or disposition of land to the Committee’s in camera discussion at a meeting on January 10, 2019. While the closed meeting minutes identify various possible locations for the Nuclear Innovation Institute, the Ombudsman found that no land transaction was pending or had been proposed, and no practical steps had been taken to acquire a property or begin negotiations. Accordingly, the County did not yet have a bargaining position to protect and the exception for acquisition or disposition of land did not apply.

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.

City of Timmins

May 09, 201709 May 2017

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the City of Timmins, which relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss an open procurement project. The municipality held the meeting in closed session due to concerns that an unsuccessful bidder might initiate legal proceedings against the municipality. The Ombudsman found that the litigation or potential litigation exception applies in the context of anticipated litigation where there is more than a remote possibility litigation may commence, although the litigation need not be a certainty. While it is not unusual for litigation initiated by unsuccessful bidders to occur at the conclusion of the procurement process, in this case, the municipality’s concern that litigation could occur was speculative. Accordingly, the Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Township of Russell

May 03, 201703 May 2017

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of Russell which relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss the naming rights for a new sports facility. The Ombudsman found that there was no evidence to indicate that council was considering ongoing litigation or had realistically contemplated a legal proceeding. It was mere speculation. Accordingly, the Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Town of Midland

June 03, 201603 June 2016

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Midland to discuss options related to a site plan agreement for a subdivision located in the municipality. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. The site plan agreement had been the subject of complaints by residents. At the time of the meeting there was no specific threat of litigation or pending litigation with respect to the site plan agreement. Council’s discussion focused on matters that theoretically could lead to litigation depending on how council proceeded. The nature of the matter and the tone of communications between the municipality, residents and the developer was contentious. The Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception because litigation or other legal action did not rise above mere speculation.

Town of South Bruce Peninsula

October 06, 201506 October 2015

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of South Bruce Peninsula to discuss a contract related to the Wiarton Keppel International Airport. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. Council discussed the potential sale of the airport and a contract for airport fuel tank removal. The Ombudsman found that council did not discuss any litigation in progress or even contemplated litigation with respect to the contract. The prospect of litigation was mere speculation.  Therefore, council’s discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Township of Tiny

February 01, 201301 February 2013

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of Tiny that relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss possible amendments to the zoning by-law. Council’s discussion mentioned the possibility that litigation could arise in the future as a result of the proposed amendments. There was no litigation ongoing or threatened at the time of the meeting. The Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception, and instead involved mere speculation.

United Townships of Head, Clara and Maria

September 07, 201207 September 2012

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the United Townships of Head, Clara and Maria to discuss a code of conduct complaint made by a member of the public against a member of council. The meeting was closed under the litigation or potential litigation exception. The Ombudsman found that there was no evidence of any current or future legal proceeding related to the code of conduct complaint. Mere speculation that litigation may arise is not sufficient to bring the matter within the litigation or potential litigation exception.

Town of Amherstburg

March 17, 201117 March 2011

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Amherstburg that relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss the naming of a recreation complex located in the municipality. The municipality believed that the naming rights for the complex was a matter that could result in future legal action. However, at the time of the meeting, there was no actual evidence of any current or future legal proceedings related to the matter. The Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception because there was no reasonable prospect of litigation and any discussion relating to potential litigation was mere speculation.

Town of Kearney

January 17, 201117 January 2011

The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Town of Kearney that relied on the litigation or potential litigation exception to discuss a rezoning application. As with any rezoning matter, there is the possibility that council’s decision would be appealed. However, the possibility of appeal is not sufficient to bring a matter within the realm of potential litigation. The Ombudsman found that council lacked the degree of certainty necessary to make the potential for litigation a reasonable prospect. Therefore, the matter did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception.