2017

December 5, 2017

5 December, 2017

City of Cornwall

The Ombudsman received a complaint that the City of Cornwall inappropriately met with council for the Township of South Glengarry in closed session on September 19, 2017, to discuss the Cornwall Regional Airport. The complainant alleged that council for the City of Cornwall discussed matters and provided directions to staff that did not fit within the cited “personal matters” closed meeting exception in the Municipal Act, 2001. The Ombudsman found that council’s discussion fit within the cited exception to the Municipal Act’s open meeting requirements, although the resolution to proceed in camera did not state the general nature of the matter to be considered.

December 1, 2017

1 December, 2017

Town of Georgina

The Ombudsman received a complaint that council for the Town of Georgina inappropriately met in camera to discuss an organizational review of certain departments within the town administration as part of a larger service delivery review. The Ombudsman determined that council’s discussion fit within the personal matters and labour relations exceptions to the open meeting rules.

November 30, 2017

30 November, 2017

Township of Russell

We received a complaint that council for the Township of Russell held a meeting that did not comply with the open meeting rules when the public entrance to Town Hall was locked during a portion of a council meeting on July 31, 2017. Although the meeting was intended to be open to the public, a locked exterior public door prevented members of the public from accessing council chambers for the first half of the meeting. As a result, the meeting was closed to the public and the public’s right to observe municipal government in process was frustrated, contrary to the open meeting rules.

November 24, 2017

24 November, 2017

City of Welland

We received a complaint that the City of Welland held an improper vote during a closed session on September 19, 2017, to appoint a new member of council. The Ombudsman found that council for the City of Welland had contravened the Municipal Act, 2001, and the city’s procedure by-law when it discussed voting procedure in closed session under the “personal matters exception”. In addition, the Ombudsman found that council for the City of Welland contravened the Municipal Act and the City’s procedure by-law when it voted in closed session by secret ballot to select a candidate to appoint to the vacant council seat.

November 21, 2017

21 November, 2017

Town of Kirkland Lake

The Ombudsman received a complaint regarding the general meeting practices of the Town of Kirkland Lake’s Recreation Committee. The complaint alleged that the Recreation Committee held closed meetings by not providing proper notice to the public in contravention of the Municipal Act. The Ombudsman determined that the Recreation Committee was a committee of council, and therefore subject to the Act’s open meeting requirements.  The Ombudsman found that the Recreation Committee’s meeting practices contravened these requirements.

October 23, 2017

23 October, 2017

Town of Carleton Place

On March 14, 2017 the Policy Review Committee for the Town of Carleton place met in closed session to discuss a public statement made by the Mayor, citing the “litigation or potential litigation” exception. The Ombudsman received a complaint that this discussion did not fit within the cited exception. The Ombudsman found that there was not a reasonable prospect of litigation at the time of the closed meeting and the discussion did not fit within the “litigation or potential litigation” exception.

October 3, 2017

3 October, 2017

Town of Deep River

The Ombudsman received a complaint alleging that council for the Town of Deep River inappropriately met in camera on May 17 and 18, 2017 to discuss a police service consultation plan. The complainant also alleged that a police service consultation “working group” formed during the May 18 closed meeting should have been classified as a committee of council subject to the Municipal Act’s open meeting requirements. The Ombudsman found that council for the Town of Deep River contravened the Municipal Act when it went in camera to discuss and vote on matters related to the police service consultation plan. The Ombudsman also found that the police service consultation “working group” was not a committee of council and therefore not subject to the open meeting requirements of the Municipal Act.

September 22, 2017

22 September, 2017

City of Hamilton

We received a complaint that the City of Hamilton’s General Issues Committee discussed funding for certain transit routes known as “school bus extras” during a closed session on either March 23 or 24, 2017, contrary to the open meeting rules. The Ombudsman found that the committee technically contravened the open meeting rules when the bus routes issue was raised briefly during a closed meeting on March 24, 2017. Once the committee determined that the issue did not fit within any of the exceptions to the open meeting rules, it ended the discussion. The Ombudsman commended city staff and council members for being mindful of the open meeting rules during the meeting, but recommend the city exercise greater caution when adding items to a closed session agenda in the future, and that the city begin audio or video recording all closed meetings.

August 14, 2017

14 August, 2017

Municipality of Brighton

The Ombudsman received a complaint that members of council for the Municipality of Brighton discussed council business by phone in advance of a special meeting of council on March 15, 2017. The Ombudsman determined that the Mayor called four councillors in a series of phone calls to discuss an opportunity to sell land in the municipality’s industrial park. During the phone calls, members of council discussed specific terms of a proposal that was ultimately sent to a party interested in purchasing the property. The Ombudsman found that the phone calls contravened the Municipal Act.

August 9, 2017

9 August, 2017

City of Elliot Lake

The Ombudsman received two complaints that council for the City of Elliot Lake inappropriately met in camera to discuss a motion to rescind a previous resolution regarding the recruitment of a CAO. The Ombudsman determined that the city did not contravene the Municipal Act, 2001. The discussion fit within the “personal matters about an identifiable individual” closed meeting exception. No recommendations were made. 

July 28, 2017

28 July, 2017

Township of Tehkummah

The Ombudsman received a complaint regarding five closed meetings held by council for the Township of Tehkummah. During our review of the minutes and materials from these meetings, we identified several best practices to enhance the accountability and transparency of Tehkummah’s meetings. These best practices related to the type of information that should be included in meeting minutes and resolutions to proceed in camera, as well as how to share information following council’s return from a closed meeting. We also encouraged the municipality to adopt the best practice of audio or video recording its open and closed meetings. 

July 5, 2017

5 July, 2017

County of Norfolk

On March 14, 2017 council for the County of Norfolk went in closed session to receive a deputation from representatives of the Port Dover Community Health Centre Board and to receive legal advice pertaining to the deputation, citing the “personal matters” and “advice subject to solicitor-client privilege” exceptions. The Ombudsman received a complaint that this discussion did not fit within the cited exceptions. The Ombudsman found that the Board’s deputation did not qualify as personal information and that portion of the closed session meeting did not fit within the “personal matters” exception. The portions of the closed session discussion before and after the deputation fit within the “advice subject to solicitor-client privilege” exception.

June 30, 2017

30 June, 2017

Municipality of St.-Charles

The Ombudsman received a complaint that the General Government Committee for the Municipality of St.-Charles inappropriately met in camera on March 6, 2017, to discuss allegations regarding employee municipal credit card abuse. The Ombudsman determined that the committee’s discuss fit within the “litigation or potential litigation” and the “personal matters about an identifiable individual” closed meeting exceptions. The Ombudsman also recommended that the municipality update its procedure by-law to reflect the closed meeting provisions in the Municipal Act, 2001.

May 19, 2017

19 May, 2017

City of Timmins

The Ombudsman received a complaint that council for the City of Timmins held an illegal meeting on March 30, 2015 when it met in closed session to discuss an open procurement project. The Ombudsman determined that council’s discussion did not fit within the litigation or potential litigation exception or any other exception to the open meeting rules.

May 17, 2017

17 May, 2017

Town of Grimsby

We received two complaints that council for the Town of Grimsby held meetings in its capacity as a shareholder of Niagara Power Inc. without providing notice to the public, contrary to the open meeting rules. The complaints alleged that, on November 11 and December 5, 2016, council failed to provide public notice of meetings and did not make meeting minutes available to the public. The Ombudsman found that Council for the Town of Grimsby contravened the Municipal Act and the municipality’s procedure by-law when it discussed council business in camera on November 11, 2016 without providing notice to the public. The town also violated the Act by failing to pass a resolution to close the meeting. Council for the Town of Grimsby did not contravene the Act when it met informally on December 5, 2016, as this was not a “meeting” for the purposes of the Act.

May 12, 2017

12 May, 2017

City of Niagara Falls

The Ombudsman received a complaint that council for the City of Niagara Falls discussed and voted on the sale of property in camera. The complainant alleged that the discussion was not permitted in closed session because the sale price was established, such that the municipality did not have a bargaining position to protect. The Ombudsman found that the discussion fit with the exception, as no final decision had been made about whether or not to accept the offer. The Ombudsman also found that council did not vote on the matter in camera. A number of best practice recommendations were provided to the municipality, including with respect to the content of minutes and the quality of audio recordings.

May 10, 2017

10 May, 2017

Township of Alfred and Plantagenet

The Ombudsman received a complaint that council for the Township of Alfred and Plantagenet had held illegal closed meetings in 2016 to discuss an organizational study of the municipality. The complaint also alleged that council improperly voted by email to approve funding related to a grant application. The Ombudsman found that the Township contravened the Municipal Act, 2001 and it procedure by-law when it voted during a closed session on April 4, 2016 and when it held three meetings without following any of the procedural requirements for meetings of council. The Ombudsman also found that the Township contravened the Municipal Act, 2001 when it approved funding related to a grant application by email and by telephone.

May 3, 2017

3 May, 2017

Township of Russell

On December 12, 2016 council for the Township of Russell went in closed session to discuss naming rights for a new sports facility, citing the “personal matters” and “litigation or potential litigation” exceptions.  The Ombudsman received a complaint that this discussion did not fit within any of the exceptions to the open meeting requirements under the Municipal Act. The Ombudsman found that the general discussion pertained to fundraising, naming rights and advertising for the sports facility, not to personal matters. There also was no discussion of potential litigation. Accordingly, the meeting was not permitted to be closed to the public.

April 21, 2017

21 April, 2017

City of Timmins

Council for the City of Timmins contravened the Municipal Act on December 19, 2016 when it met in camera with a representative of Northern College to discuss a proposed development agreement with the college. The discussion between council and college’s representative did not fall within the acquisition or disposition of land exception to the Act’s open meeting requirement.

April 3, 2017

3 April, 2017

Town of Fort Erie - Board of Management for the Ridgeway Business Improvement Area

We received a complaint that the Board of Management for the Ridgeway Business Improvement Area (BIA) in the Town of Fort Erie discussed a matter in camera on November 2, 2016 contrary to the open meeting rules. BIA boards are local boards subject to the open meeting rules. The Ombudsman found that the matter discussed by the board in camera fit within the exceptions for personal matters about an identifiable individual, and labour relations or employee negotiations. However, the board committed procedural violations by failing to pass a resolution before going in camera, failing to record meeting minutes, and voting in a closed meeting. The Ombudsman recognized that most of the board members were volunteers who had not received training on the open meeting rules, and recommended that the Town of Fort Erie ensure all members of its local boards receive such training.

March 1, 2017

1 March, 2017

City of London

The Ombudsman received a complaint that the November 1, 2016 meeting of London’s Corporate Services Committee was illegally closed to the public to discuss a general policy matter. The Ombudsman found that, while there is no exception to the open meeting requirements that authorizes general policy discussions to take place behind closed doors, the in camera discussion at this meeting was permitted under the solicitor-client privilege exception.

February 17, 2017

17 February, 2017

City of London

The Ombudsman received complaints that the City of London held illegal closed meetings on May 17 and June 23, 2016, to discuss the appointment of an integrity commissioner, and a recent report of the integrity commissioner. The Ombudsman found that the May 17 Committee of the Whole meeting was permitted to be closed to the public under the solicitor-client privilege and personal matters exceptions, and the June 23 council meeting was permitted to be closed to the public under the solicitor-client privilege exception.

February 13, 2017

13 February, 2017

Municipality of Brockton

We received complaints alleging that the Walkerton Business Improvement Area and the Municipality of Brockton held three improperly closed meetings on June 13, June 20, and September 27, 2016. The Ombudsman determined that the Walkerton Business Improvement Area did not contravene the Municipal Act, 2001 on June 13 because the discussion between three board members was not a “meeting” under the Act and was not subject to the Act’s open meeting requirements. The Ombudsman also determined that council for the Municipality of Brockton did not contravene the Act on June 20, 2016, when it met in camera to discuss matters that were subject to “litigation or potential litigation”. However, on September 27, 2016, the municipality contravened the Act when a quorum of councillors attended an information session related to a Drainage Act petition.

February 9, 2017

9 February, 2017

Municipality of Temagami

The Ombudsman received a complaint that council for the municipality of Temagami held illegal closed sessions on April 28 and August 11, 2016. The Ombudsman found that the discussions held in camera at the April 28 meeting fit within the solicitor-client privilege exception to the open meeting requirements, and the discussions at the August 11 meeting fit within the personal matters exception.

January 24, 2017

24 January, 2017

Township of Laird

We received a complaint that the Laird Fairgrounds Management Board held a meeting that did not comply with the open meeting rules on August 10, 2016.  The board is a committee of the Township of Laird. The committee did not contravene the Municipal Act, 2001 or the Township of Laird’s procedure by-law when it discussed a matter in camera on August 10, 2016. The discussion fit within the exception for personal matters about an identifiable individual.

January 23, 2017

23 January, 2017

City of Timmins

The Ombudsman received a complaint that council for the City of Timmins held two illegal closed session discussions on August 8, 2016 and August 29, 2016, about the City’s Canada Day 150 Celebrations. The Ombudsman determined that council contravened the Municipal Act when it went in camera on August 8, 2016 under the solicitor-client advice exception and that council should not have voted during that closed session. The Ombudsman found that council did not contravene the  Municipal Act when it went in camera on August 29, 2016 under the solicitor-client advice exception.

January 23, 2017

23 January, 2017

City of Timmins

Council for the City of Timmins contravened the Municipal Act on June 27, 2016 when it went in camera to discuss the recruitment process to replace the retiring CAO. The discussion did not fall within the personal matters exception to the Municipal Act’s open meeting requirements. The Ombudsman also found that council should not have voted in closed session to form a hiring committee and voted by way of secret ballot on the membership of council members to that committee. 

January 20, 2017

20 January, 2017

City of Greater Sudbury

The Ombudsman received a complaint that council went in camera to discuss a report regarding contracts between the city and a transit ticket kiosk. The complaint also alleged that council voted while in camera to write off an uncollectible account, prior to voting on the matter in open session on May 31, 2016.

The Ombudsman determined that council did not contravene the Municipal Act when it went in camera to discuss the report on March 2 and March 23, 2016 under the personal matters and solicitor-client privilege exceptions, or on April 26, 2016 under the personal matters exception. The Ombudsman also found that council did not improperly vote on the uncollectible account during a closed meeting.

January 19, 2017

19 January, 2017

Township of Georgian Bay

The Ombudsman received a complaint that council for the Township of Georgian Bay held illegal closed session discussions on October 13, 2015 and January 11, 2016, about a shoreline structure that did not meet the requirements of the zoning by-law. The Ombudsman determined that council did not contravene the Municipal Act when it went in camera at these meetings under the litigation or potential litigation exception. However, council contravened the Act when it voted during its in camera meeting on October 13, 2015.