June 19, 2020

19 June, 2020

Municipality of Callander

The Ombudsman received a complaint that council discussed a matter that was not listed on the agenda during a closed session on November 19, 2019, and that council held an informal gathering on November 18, 2019 during which they made a decision.

June 10, 2020

10 June, 2020

Town of Pelham

The Ombudsman received a complaint alleging that a quorum of councillors for the Town of Pelham informally met to discuss a possible donation from a cannabis producer on January 9, 2020, contrary to the open meeting rules of the Municipal Act, 2001. The complaint also alleged that councillors subsequently voted via email on whether they would be in favour of accepting the possible donation. The Ombudsman found that the informal discussion and subsequent email did not contravene the Municipal Act’s open meeting requirements as these exchanges did not constitute meetings under the Municipal Act. However, the Town of Pelham acted without legal authority when it decided to inform a third-party organization that it was not in favour of accepting a potential donation from a cannabis company. By failing to act through resolution and confirming by-law passed at a properly constituted council meeting, the municipality tried to shield its decision-making process from public scrutiny. These actions were contrary to law and wrong under section 21(1) of the Ombudsman Act.

April 22, 2020

22 April, 2020

Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula

The Ombudsman received a complaint regarding the November 25, 2019 closed meeting of council for the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula. The complaint alleged that council’s discussion did not fit within the Municipal Act’s closed meeting exceptions. The Ombudsman found that council’s discussion was permissible under the “advice subject to solicitor-client privilege” closed meeting exception.

April 17, 2020

17 April, 2020

Township of Russell

The Ombudsman received a complaint about a special meeting held by the Township of Russell on April 2 by electronic participation due to COVID-19. The complaint alleged that the meeting agenda did not provide a link to the website where the meeting would be broadcast. The Ombudsman found that council for the Township did not violate the open meeting rules. The Township provided notice to the public that the meeting would be held via electronic participation and posted a link to the broadcast on its website and on social media prior to holding the meeting.

The Ombudsman commended the Township of Russell for taking additional steps to ensure that information about how to observe and participate in electronic meetings was widely available to the public. The Ombudsman urged all municipalities to do as much as possible to facilitate access by the public to any meetings held electronically during a declaration of emergency. This was the first time the Ombudsman conducted an investigation into a municipal meeting following the passage of the Municipal Emergency Act, 2020, which allows for additional flexibility in holding electronic meetings during an emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 14, 2020

14 April, 2020

City of Niagara Falls

The Ombudsman received complaints regarding a closed session discussion held by council for the City of Niagara Falls on July 29, 2019. The complaints alleged that council’s discussion did not fit within the Municipal Act’s closed meeting exceptions and that council improperly voted while in closed session. The Ombudsman determined that council’s closed session discussion came within the Act’s closed meeting exception for information supplied in confidence by another level of government and did not contravene the Act’s in camera voting prohibition. However, the Ombudsman encouraged the City to ensure its resolutions to enter closed session provide sufficient information about the subject matter of council’s intended discussion.

January 23, 2020

23 January, 2020

City of Welland

The Ombudsman reviewed a meeting of council for the City of Welland held on September 17, 2019. He found that an in camera discussion about appointing candidates to two city committees fit within the “personal matters about an identifiable individual” exception. He also noted that the municipality did not comply with the open meeting rules when it failed to state the general nature of the matters to be considered in camera within the resolution to go into closed session.