2019

August 15, 2019

15 August, 2019

Municipality of The Nation

The Ombudsman received a complaint alleging that resolutions to proceed in camera passed by council for the Municipality of The Nation at three separate meetings were not sufficiently detailed. The Ombudsman found that the resolutions to proceed in camera on December 17, 2018, January 7, 2019, and January 14, 2019 did not provide sufficient information to allow the public to gauge whether the proposed topics of discussion properly fit within the exceptions permitted under the Municipal Act, 2001. The Ombudsman recommended that council ensure its resolutions to go in camera provide a general description of the issue to be discussed in order to maximise information available to the public, while at the same time not undermining the reason for excluding the public.

August 2, 2019

2 August, 2019

Municipality of Lambton Shores

The Ombudsman received a complaint about a gathering that two council members attended on April 14, 2019, and a special meeting of council held on April 15, 2019, without prior public notice. Council for Lambton Shores is composed of nine council members. The municipality provided public notice for the special meeting held on April 15, 2019, in accordance with its procedure by-law. The Ombudsman shared best practice suggestions with the municipality regarding providing public notice of special meetings.

July 12, 2019

12 July, 2019

Township of Springwater

The Ombudsman received a complaint regarding a closed special meeting held on April 29, 2019. Council closed the meeting to the public to discuss a legal letter.

July 4, 2019

4 July, 2019

City of Hamilton

The Ombudsman received a complaint that the doors to Hamilton city hall were locked during part of a meeting of council on February 14, 2019, and that the doors to  city hall were barricaded during part of a meeting of the city’s Audit, Finance and Administration Committee on April 18, 2019. The city confirmed that the doors were locked and barricaded in error, and that it took prompt action to ensure the doors were open and accessible when the issue was brought to staff’s attention. The city has since adopted a formal procedure that requires security staff to confirm that all public meetings have ended before locking or blocking city hall doors. The city has also taken steps to ensure that security staff are aware of all meetings taking place at city hall outside normal office hours. The Ombudsman commended the city for adopting a formal procedure to ensure public access to all meetings at city hall, and encouraged the city to ensure that all staff are informed of the new procedure.

July 4, 2019

4 July, 2019

City of Hamilton

The Ombudsman received a complaint that a vote by the City of Hamilton’s Selection Committee during a March 1, 2019 closed meeting was not permitted by the open meeting rules. During the closed meeting, the committee voted to direct staff to bring a recommendation forward at a future council meeting. As the vote was a direction to staff, it was permitted by the open meeting rules.

June 28, 2019

28 June, 2019

Township of Wollaston

The Ombudsman received a complaint regarding the attendance of three councillors at an April 30, 2019 public proceeding of the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. The complaint alleged that the councillors’ attendance amounted to a “meeting” under the Municipal Act and was therefore subject to the Act’s open meeting rules. The Ombudsman determined that the councillors did not contravene the Act’s open meeting requirements because they did not do anything that materially advanced the business or decision-making of council.

June 21, 2019

21 June, 2019

City of Hamilton

We received a complaint about a meeting held by the General Issues Committee for the City of Hamilton. The complainant alleged that committee’s two in camera discussions about the city’s contribution to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ bid for the 2020 or 2021 Canadian Football League Grey Cup Championship game did not fit within the open meeting exceptions for “advice subject to solicitor-client privilege”, “information belonging to the municipality”, or “negotiations”. The Ombudsman found that the first in camera discussion fit within the “advice subject to solicitor-client privilege” exception and the second in camera discussion fit within the “negotiations” exception.

May 24, 2019

24 May, 2019

Township of Wollaston

We received a complaint that council for Wollaston Township did not provide enough information to the public before closing meetings on December 3, 2018 and January 7, 2019, and that council should have used the exception for labour relations instead of the exception for personal matters. The Ombudsman found that, while the discussions did fit within the exception for labour relations and employee negotiations, the exception for personal matters also applied. The Ombudsman also found that the township failed to provide, in the resolutions to close the meetings, the general nature of the subject to be discussed. Nonetheless, he commended the township for audio recording its closed meetings and for reporting back to the public after each of the closed sessions.

May 16, 2019

16 May, 2019

Municipality of Temagami

The Ombudsman received a complaint regarding the January 10 and March 28, 2019 closed meetings of council for the Municipality of Temagami. The complaint alleged that the municipality did not provide proper notice for the January 10 and March 28 closed sessions and that council failed to immediately report back regarding its closed session discussion on January 10. The complaint also raised concerns that councillors had informally discussed a matter in private prior to the council meeting. Our review identified administrative issues with the meeting notice provided for the January 10 and March 28, 2019 closed meetings. The municipality acknowledged these errors and has already taken steps to improve its processes. Our review did not find evidence that council contravened the Municipal Act’s open meeting provisions through an informal discussion and did not identify concerns with the municipality’s reporting back practices.

February 22, 2019

22 February, 2019

City of Hamilton

We received a complaint that members of council for the City of Hamilton contravened the open meeting provisions by exchanging emails relating to a vacant council seat in June 2018. The complaint also alleged that the city’s General Issues Committee contravened the rules by discussing and voting on matters related to the vacant seat in camera on July 9, 2018. The Ombudsman found that the city 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. The city’s General Issues Committee also did not contravene the open meeting rules when it discussed advice subject to solicitor-client privilege in camera on July 9, 2018. The committee did not vote regarding the vacant seat in camera on July 9; it did not contravene the voting provisions in the Act.

February 14, 2019

14 February, 2019

City of St. Catharines

The Ombudsman received a complaint about a meeting held by council for the City of St. Catharines in June 2018. The complaint alleged that council’s discussion about a proposed staff position did not fit within the “negotiations” or “labour relations or employee negotiations” exceptions in the Municipal Act, 2001. The Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the open meeting exceptions