Hamilton’s closed-door review of election-spending complaints broke the rules: Ombudsman (Hamilton S

Hamilton’s closed-door review of election-spending complaints broke the rules: Ombudsman (Hamilton Spectator)

July 20, 2016

20 July, 2016

Provincial Ombudsman Paul Dubé has ruled Hamilton’s election compliance audit committee wrongly deliberated behind closed doors last year.

Matthew Van Dongen
Hamilton Spectator
July 20, 2016

The provincial Ombudsman has ruled Hamilton's election compliance audit committee wrongly deliberated behind closed doors last year.

The committee, which only meets to consider complaints about municipal election candidate expenses, held a private meeting July 15, 2015 to consider an unspecified number of applications seeking audits.

Complaints about the election expenses of six different city councillors were heard in public two days earlier, but the committee of citizen volunteers put off any decisions.

The provincial Ombudsman was asked to investigate the private deliberation and recently posted a decision online, which will also go to city council at its Aug. 8 meeting.

Ombudsman Paul Dubé disagreed with the city's contention the citizen committee doesn't qualify as a local board under the jurisdiction of opening meeting provisions of the Municipal Act.

"Notice of the meeting was not provided, no procedure was followed to close the meeting to the public, and even if this procedure had been followed, the committee's discussion did not fall within any … closed meeting exceptions," he wrote in his decision.

Dubé made procedural recommendations designed to "enhance the transparency of (city) meetings" and ensure the citizen committee follows the law on open meetings.

City solicitor Janice Atwood-Petkovski emailed councillors to say a staff report on "any options available to council" regarding the Ombudsman decision will go to the Aug. 8 meeting.